Before the MyPhone A919i Duo came out, it had been a long while since the pioneering local phone brand had come out with anything droolworthy, their last Android smartphone before that being the respectable A888 Duo. That’s why it’s a good thing MyPhone didn’t disappoint, coming out with a budget-minded quad core Android phone that their fans had been clamoring for. However at Php9,590, the A919i Duo is in the upper limits of the price range that price-sensitive Pinoys are willing to pay for since at that price point, it only makes sense to start considering options from more established international brands. Is this new quad core offering worth that much moolah and does it live up to expectations? Find out here in my full review.
What’s in the Box?
The A919i Duo comes in the same green retail box we have come to expect from MyPhone. It’s nice and sturdy and comes with all the basics you would expect from an Android smartphone retail package, plus a little extra.
- headset with mic
- USB transfer cable
- A919i Duo quickstart guide
- Pinoy guide (Pinoy-themed content guide)
The hardware accessories all have a nice and durable feel to them. The headset is especially nice because of its surprisingly loud output, despite not having plug-type earpieces. The USB cable is also strong and sturdy.
Build Quality and Design
Since it’s MyPhone’s new flagship, you would expect that it’s build quality would be a notch better than the typical budget smartphone. Unfortunately, this is a key area of scrutiny where the MyPhone A919i Duo disappoints a bit. The A919i Duo comes in both black and pearl white variants. The battery cover of the white variant has a matte finish while the black variant has a glossy one. I went with the white variant because it looks better as eye candy, although I should point out that the display will look better against a black bezel.
This being a touchscreen device, the front is dominated by the 5 inch display. The bezels are a bit wide, but then this is a budget-minded device after all that puts a lot of emphasis on performance. Toward the top is the earpiece for taking calls, light sensor, proximity sensor, front-facing camera and LED notification light. The positioning of the notification light is a bit weird because it’s right under the earpiece on the right side, but this is something that HTC has done in the past on some of their own phones. Below the touchscreen are the capacitive navigation keys: menu, home and back.
It isn’t exactly the slimmest smartphone out there. In fact, far from it. It measures 10.7mm at its thickest point, although it appears to be slimmer than it is because of how it tapers towards the edges where it is only about 4mm thick at its thinnest point. It also helps that there is a silver accent strip that runs along all four edges of the phone, making it appear even slimmer.
On the right side of the A919i Duo, you’ll find the power/lock button while on the left is the volume rocker. Those are the only hardware buttons you’ll find on this phone.
Up top is the 3.5mm jack for your headset and a micro USB port that doubles as a charging port.
The microphone pinhole is the only thing of note on the bottom of the device.
At the back, you’ll find the 8mp rear-facing camera, LED flash, noise-cancelling mic pinhole and the loudspeaker toward the bottom. Of course, since this is a MyPhone product, there’s the proprietary MyPhone branding and the map of the Philippines smack dab in the middle that has become synonymous with the MyPhone brand.
The MyPhone A919i Duo appears deceptively thin despite being 10.7mm thick because of how it actually tapers toward the edges, and to its credit, it is also quite light. The plastic of the battery cover however is especially thin, which contributes nothing to a premium feel. The end result is a lack of satisfying heft while handling the phone. Still, I’ll let it slide since the A919i Duo puts much more emphasis on performance.
The Chipset: Budget Quad Core Workhorse
The MyPhone A919i Duo is powered by the 1.2GHz MediaTek MT6589 quad core processor coupled with a PowerVR SGX544 GPU for graphics rendering. The PowerVR SGX544 is the same GPU series that’s found on the Samsung Galaxy S4, albeit a single core as opposed to a multi-core variant, while the MT6589 is a significant upgrade over the Qualcomm MSM8225Q in terms of performance. Of course, actual performance in games is influenced by more things than just the CPU, but just the fact that the MyPhone A919i Duo comes with a flagship-class GPU has me all giddy.
Still, we have to stay objective around here and I did find it a bit weird that the processor was set to a minimum clock of 497MHz when most of the locally-branded phones I’ve handled as of late were set to a minimum frequency of 250MHz or even lower. So I put the MyPhone A919i Duo through some of my favorite benchmarking tools. Antutu and Quadrant both measure things like CPU, I/O and graphics performance while Nenamark 2 tests OpenGL and ES 2.0 performance by running the phone through different scenes and effects. Check out the results below.
As you can see, the A919i Duo scores quite well in Quadrant and Antutu, with both benchmarks giving it scores similar to that of the ASUS Transformer Prime 201. Nenamark results were more modest though, ranking it somewhere between the Samsung Galaxy S2 and LG Optimus 2x in terms of graphics performance.
While I realize that benchmarks aren’t the most reliable way to measure a device’s performance, they can still give us a general idea as to how well it performs against other devices. If the MyPhone A919i Duo’s benchmark scores are anything to go by, you’re obviously getting a lot of bang for buck. To put things in perspective, you’re getting the best chipset available on a locally branded phone, one that compares favorably with devices from more established international manufacturers that can cost around three times as much money.
The Screen: Sharp and Vibrant
Aside from the quad core processor, the other key selling point of the MyPhone A919i Duo is its 5 inch HD IPS display. It has a resolution of 720 x 1280 and a clarity of 294ppi, putting it squarely in phablet territory. Such a large screen brings some benefits that make the user experience that much better. A spacious screen means more content that can fit onscreen, and because of its high pixel density, even smaller fonts will still look sharp and readable on the A919i Duo.
Also, being an IPS display, the MyPhone A919i Duo’s screen is capable of some excellent color reproduction and wide viewing angles. I initially thought it was a bit dark because of the default wallpaper and icon set, but once you switch to a different wallpaper, it’s like breathing new life to your A919i Duo. And you’ll especially enjoy the vivid clarity once you start browsing through images or watching HD movies.
To put things into perspective, this is one of the best screens that you can get on any locally branded smartphone in the market today. At the moment, there are only two other locally branded phones that have screens of the same caliber, and they are severely underpowered compared to the MyPhone A919i Duo.
The Software and UI: Pinoy-flavored Jeally Bean
For the most part, you’re getting a close to vanilla Jelly Bean 4.1.2 experience on the MyPhone A919i Duo. It doesn’t feature a heavy skin the way a lot of international phone brands like to do on their own phones. It does however feature hard to ignore MyPhone themed UI elements, such as the stock wallpapers and icon set. Thankfully, there are some non-branded wallpapers thrown in if the branded ones aren’t your thing, but you’ll have to install a third party launcher if the stock icon set doesn’t appeal to you.
You get five homescreens, which you can’t add to or remove. Long-pressing on a blank space on any of them only brings up the option to change the wallpaper and that’s it. Pressing the menu button from here likewise gives you the option to change the wallpaper, along with quick access to manage apps and system settings.
The app drawer has a separate tab for apps and one for widgets, as well as quick access to the Play Store via the icon in the upper right corner.
The notification area will allow you to view notifications (duh), quick toggles and gain quick access to the settings. Probably the only noticeable difference between the MyPhone A919i Duo’s UI and that of stock Jelly Bean 4.1 is the camera interface, which we’ll get to a bit later.
With the UI being virtually unchanged, you would think that there would be less room to screw it up, however the A919i software has an annoying oversight I would like to point out. There is no way to DIRECTLY INSTALL an app’s data files to your micro SD card without rooting. Yes, you can move it to your external storage once the app has been fully installed so this might not be a problem for most apps, but if you try installing games like NOVA 3, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, all of which either require more than the available 1.77Gb of phone storage or will ONLY save their data to the micro SD card, you’re in for a bad time.
This oversight isn’t the kind you can easily ignore because it limits the selection of games you can play, but since this is a software problem, hopefully MyPhone will be able to release a fix for it soon. In the meantime, you’ll just have to live with them.
Telephony and Network Connectivity: HSPA+ on the Cheap!
When you get a smartphone, you expect it to function as a phone while allowing you to do so much more. In this respect, the MyPhone A919i Duo performs as expected. Texting is comfortable because of the large screen and despite being considered a phablet, the phone doesn’t feel overly large in the hand because of how its curved surface fits nicely in your palm. The texting app even comes with some built in emoticons, for those who like to be a bit more expressive in their texts. It also helps that the phone is quite light, which I guess is a plus.
The A919i Duo’s dialer app might look different from the stock app from Jelly Bean, but really, it’s just the same thing hiding underneath a different skin. The layout is still the same and you’ll get access to the dialer screen, call logs and contacts. The earpiece is adequately loud for taking calls, but not especially so. There’s the speakerphone for that if you want to dial the volume up anyway.
WiFi pick up is quite strong on the MyPhone A919i Duo and is at par with the LG Optimus G that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. I took it to a tiled room in our home, one floor down from the router is at, where some of my devices have had trouble picking up the signal. While the signal appeared to be a weak -80dbm on the A919i Duo compared to the typical -30dbm 2 feet away from the router in my room, the connection was good enough that I could browse the internet and download apps from the Play Store uninterrupted.
Finally, there’s HSPA+, which is probably the gem of the MyPhone A919i Duo’s connectivity features. You can get faux 4G speeds wherever there’s good coverage and it was nice to be able to download at these speeds again.
One weird thing about the MyPhone A919i Duo’s connectivity features is when trying to make a call from within a conversation in the messaging app. Usually, when you press that phone icon in the upper right, it initiates a call right away, however on the A919i Duo, it takes you to the dialer instead where you have to press send again to initiate the call. Yeah, it’s just one extra keypress, but it’s still worth pointing out.
Imaging: Capable Point and Shoot Replacement
The MyPhone A919i Duo is equipped with an 8mp autofocus rear-facing camera and a 2mp front camera. Surprisingly they’re not the best you can get from a locally-branded phone these days, but they produce some respectable shots.
The interface is a bit different from stock Jelly Bean 4.1, and while it doesn’t look as good, I think the ease of access to the most popular features is better. For example, rather than switching modes between capturing still images or video, the virtual shutter buttons for both modes are already there so there’s no delay in capturing the shot or video you want after firing up the camera app.
HDR, portrait and normal shooting modes can quickly be accessed with a single click within the camera app and you can switch between the rear and front camera from there too. If you want finer controls over your shots, just hit settings to bring up more options.
8mp Rear-facing Autofocus Camera
Shots from the 8mp autofocus shooter are quite nice in good to bright lighting. Color reproduction is accurate and there is a fair amount of detail too. Take a look at some of the sample shots below from around my neighborhood.
You can see that the leaves on the trees are nicely resolved and you can easily make out the grid pattern on the steel grill around the basketball court.
I also tested the 8mp shooter’s action mode by taking multiple shots of my dogs. Yeah, they’re just askals or aspins or what have you. Anyway, they rarely sit around long enough for a decent shot so this was the perfect opportunity to see if the shutter was fast enough to produce a decent image.
As you can see, the images are decent, although the details look smoothed out this time around. Of course, that’s normal for any decent point-and-shoot when capturing an active subject.
Finally, I tested the camera in low light, both with and without flash. The good news is that the flash isn’t just for show. There was a good amount of illumination, resulting in some decent shots. However, it was a different story when the lights were turned off.
2mp Front-facing Fixed-focus Camera
The MyPhone A919i Duo’s 2mp camera won’t wow anyone with its stills, but it’s decent enough for selfies and video calls. Still images produced from the front-facing shooter appear to be a bit soft to compensate for a lack of detail. Here’s a self shot of sorts under a fluorescent bulb.
Being a quad core phone with a near top-of-the-line GPU, it would come as a surprise if the MyPhone A919i Duo wasn’t capable of recording Full HD movies. Thankfully, it can, and the videos themselves are quite good, although the detail doesn’t justify the need for Full HD. 720p would have been more like it, but to be fair, it’s above average for a locally-branded phone. And it’s not like there are many locally-branded phones with better imaging capabilities (I can count the number of such phones on exactly two fingers).
One thing I don’t like is that it doesn’t actually use the full sensor to capture the videos. Instead, it basically crops the frame to achieve a 16:9 aspect ratio, thereby utilizing only a portion of the sensor. It’s also worth pointing out that the videos have a resolution of 1920 x 1088 (standard Full HD is 1920 x 1080) and are saved in 3GP format.
Entertainment: Multimedia Powerhouse
Most locally-branded phones make use of the stock entertainment apps of whatever version of Android they’re stuck on, and for the most part, the MyPhone A919i Duo is no different. The A919i Duo comes with a slightly modified version of the Jelly Bean FM Radio app while all the other entertainment apps such as the Gallery, Music and Video Player apps are all just the stock Jelly Bean apps with different icons.
Coupled with a high capacity micro SD, the MyPhone A919i Duo can easily become a multimedia powerhouse. The gorgeous screen will allow you to appreciate your HD movie collection and the A919i Duo’s built-in audio enhancement processing gives your headphones a boost so you can better enjoy your music library.
My only gripe is that CTIA compliant headsets don’t work on the A919i Duo. This is true of just about any locally-branded phone out there. My Sennheisers continue to languish in a box on my desk ever since I sold my Galaxy Note a few months ago, and that isn’t likely to change with my continued use of locally-branded phones like MyPhone. Thankfully, I have a pair of inexpensive Awei ES-Q3 earphones that produce surprisingly good audio output, but I’m sure a lot of people will be disappointed when they find their Colouds, Urbanears or AKGs don’t work with this or any other locally-branded phone.
It’s typically hard to find a headset with built in mic or volume controls that will work with locally-branded phones, so just stick to the basic ones that have no controls or mic whatsoever. Make sure that the 3.5mm jack has two stripes, not three, as these stripes will make better contact with the contacts on the inside of the 3.5mm port on your locally-branded phone.
Otherwise, the sound output has good power and clarity. Better than average in fact, although there are still a few locally-branded phones that have notched better sound than the A919i, at least, in my opinion. This phone certainly won’t disappoint if you have a ton of media you want to enjoy on the go. Just choose your headset wisely.
Gaming: All That Untapped Power 🙁
I’ll be honest. This was the part that I was really eager to test. After all, you’re getting the same GPU that’s on the Exynos version of the Galaxy S4. And for a while I wasn’t disappointed. I quickly installed Temple Run 2, which is one of the most easily accessible yet surprisingly system-heavy games that you can download from the Play Store. I set the graphics quality to high and happily enjoyed playing, experiencing only a barely perceptible split-second of lag. Setting the graphics quality back to normal almost completely eliminated that lag.
Then I downloaded Dead Trigger, which is a significantly bigger download compared to Temple Run 2 but still small enough to download in less than an hour on my 1.5Mbps connection. I once again cranked the graphic setting to maximum and was blown away by the effects. And the great thing is that the MyPhone A919i Duo chugged happily along, with only a barely perceptible millisecond of lag. Once again, dialing the graphics quality back down to normal almost eliminated the perceptible lag completely.
I also managed to install Real Racing 3 with what space I had left in the phone. Here, the A919i Duo struggled a bit to maintain steady frame rates. After all, Real Racing 3 is one of the most system-heavy games available on the Play Store today. While the game was playable, frame rates would stutter a bit, which affected my ability to make controlled turns. Still, the game was beautifully rendered, but since there is no way to turn down the graphics quality in the game, I had to tolerate the lag. I should point out that you need to keep the data files on Phone storage, otherwise, the game will freeze if you try to launch it while the data files are in your external SD card.
Finally, I was able to install NBA 2K13, one of the few other graphically heavy games aside from Real Racing 3 that could be installed on the A919i Duo. Gameplay was smooth, which really surprised me, because NBA 2K13 gave my old Galaxy Note a few fits back before I sold it.
Now, I say that the gaming power is wasted on the phone because it is very difficult to install some of the larger apps and games on the A919i Duo. There is only 1.77Gb of user accessible storage, a 300-400mb chunk of it already being used up by the few apps I had already installed. And for some weird reason, you can’t force the phone to install the data files directly to the SD card without rooting it, and most users won’t know how to do that. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was because I was very eager to test the PowerVR SGX544 GPU out on NOVA3, The Dark Knight Rises and some others.
Yes, I know there are ways to push the data files to get these games to work properly, and I’ll try to download them from another phone then transfer them over, but unless I’m able to get these games to work using a legit workaround, the verdict stands. Anyway, I’ll be resetting the phone to factory settings and trying again from scratch and will update this review accordingly.
Battery Life: Good Enough to Last the Day
The MyPhone A919i Duo comes with a user removable 2,000mAh battery. Now, you might think that to be on the low side since this is a quad core phone, but the Cortex-A7 MediaTek chipset is actually very power efficient. However, the minimum clock frequency has also been set to 497MHz, as opposed to 250MHz or lower that is typical of many of the locally branded phones that I’ve handled in recent past.
Anyway, my usage over the last three days has been pretty high, which is typical since I just got the phone and any user would be prone to playing around with their phones more often in the first week. During that time I was constantly connected to WiFi and downloading RSS, Facebook and Twitter feeds every hour with the occasional text and call, except for one day when I was out on an errand and checking out my location on GPS and using up mobile data every now and then.
I used an app called Battery Drain Analyzer to monitor power consumption and provide me with the best estimate of battery life on the MyPhone A919i Duo. On the days when I was primarily on WiFi, battery life was estimated to last about 17-18 hours while on that one day where I was using GPS and mobile data, battery life was only rated at 13 hours.
In my opinion, my main criterion for recommending a phone based on battery life is if it can last you a whole day at school or work, plus the commute. That’s usually 9 hours daily at school or work, plus anywhere from 2 to 4 hours back and forth on commutes for most people. Based on that, I would say that the battery life of the A919i Duo should satisfy most users, but I will be updating this section of the review with a week’s worth of data once my usage patterns have normalized.
So is the MyPhone A919i Duo Everything It’s Been Hyped to be?
The MyPhone A919i Duo took its sweet time coming here and it was certainly worth the wait. The gorgeous 5 inch HD IPS screen alone is worth the price of admission, and yet MyPhone has been generous enough to gift us with the most powerful quad core SoC that you can get on a locally-branded Android phone as well. There is almost not a single thing you can throw at the A919i Duo that it won’t be able to handle.
Even where it isn’t the best, it still performs adequately. The 8mp autofocus rear-facing camera is perfectly serviceable, taking shots that are good enough to completely replace your dedicated point-and-shoot. It’s even a capable video recorder, producing decent videos at Full HD resolution.
It does lose points in the build quality and design department though. For what’s supposed to be MyPhone’s flagship, it doesn’t give off a premium feel. And it’s 10.7mm thick!
The inability to install apps on the SD card is also a drawback. This only affects those who want to install the largest games, but it’s still not an issue that can be ignored nonetheless. The A919i Duo has the specs to be a great gaming phone, but what’s the point if you can’t play the most graphically intensive games?
Overall, the MyPhone A919i Duo is a great buy. It’s the most powerful locally branded phone you can get in the market, capable of matching the performance of phones that cost twice the price. Not being able to install directly to the external SD card will be a drawback for some gamers, but if you can get over it, then I wouldn’t have problems recommending the MyPhone A919i Duo over anything else out there at the moment.
MyPhone A919i Duo Specifications
- 1.2GHz quad core MediaTek MT6589 CPU
- Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
- PowerVR SGX 544 GPU
- 5 inch HD IPS display (720 x 1280, 294ppi)
- 1Gb RAM
- 8mp autofocus rear-facing camera, 2mp front-facing camera
- 3G HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 11 Mbps, HSPA+
- 4Gb ROM (.99Gb internal storage, 1.77Gb user accessible mass storage)
- expandable storage up to 32Gb via MicroSD
- WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 3.5mm audio port
- Micro USB 2.0 port
- Dual SIM, Dual Standby
- 2,000mAh Li-Ion battery
- Price: Php9,590