Aldi’s $279 Bauhn Sphere smartphone reviewed

100% human

Another issue rears its head quickly, and it’s a confusing one: storage, or lack thereof.

In the features, we’re told that the Bauhn Sphere comes with a generous supply of storage, 32GB in fact, as well as a microSD, but Android just has problems seeing it.

Despite the storage system seeing it, and seeing how little is taken up, it’s next to impossible to install apps on the phone, and we’re not talking about a large number.

When we tried to install the basic apps we normally use for our phone test — TripView, Google Play Books, Instagram — we hit a brick wall, with the phone telling us that we had an “insufficient space on the device,” despite there being over 25GB available.

Just… wow, Bauhn.

So what can you use the phone’s generous storage for? Photos, music, and videos, it seems, and there’s a microSD slot using the old “T” badge for Transflash waiting for you in the wings in case you want to expand it more.

Bauhn has even included some apps for you that you cannot get rid of.

Yes, bloatware is here, but it’s the sort of bloatware we’re genuinely surprised at, because while it could be useful to some, we didn’t want it around, and if you don’t, tough luck, because it cannot be removed.

As such, Aldi is hoping you like — and find useful — catch-up TV apps such as ABC iView, Seven’s Plus7, SBS On Demand, and TenPlay, because they’re here and there’s nothing you can do about it. Can’t uninstall them, can’t remove them from the device; they are part of the Aldi experience.

It’s the same with some news and current affairs apps, too, with the Financial Review, SBS World News, CNN, BBC News and BBC Sport, all apps including on the phone and, well, stuck here, even though we can’t install TripView to check out bus times in Sydney.

Nice work with that, Aldi.

You can also expect Aldi’s catalogue and specials app to be installed and unable to be removed from the Bauhn Sphere, as well as an app for Aldi Mobile, which the company hopes you use for a 3G service.

We’re just amazed that this sort of bloatware is included and isn’t able to be uninstalled.

We get it: Aldi’s phone is meant to be ideal for people who shop at Aldi, and that’s why you get Aldi apps on it. Fine. What about the forced news and catch-up TV apps, and why does the generous storage stop you from installing apps?

Seriously, these are bugs that should not be on a phone available in stores. Just no.

Mobile speeds weren’t terrible, but weren’t great either, operating outside of NextG’s 3.5G and providing speeds ranging from 3Mbps to 6Mbps. It’s not a lot of speed, but if you don’t need much, you’ll be fine.

But the battery isn’t exactly going to win people over with barely a day of life operating with one SIM.

Our battery dropped quite quickly in testing, and that was doing the regular shtick of making phone calls, sending texts, social networking, listening to music, surfing the web, taking photos, and using the product.

That was with one SIM, though, and we have severe doubts over what the battery life would be like with two. Severe doubts.

Beyond these concerns, we’ve had issues with the 3G refusing to kick in to let us browse mobile data, headphone issues where the on-board sound system would send music to the speaker instead of the headphones that were plugged in, swiping down on the notification menu that would jump home screens, the physical power button is hard to click in when you want push it, and some noticeable speed issues when we hit the power button to bring the phone back from standby.

There’s also a rather unusual feature on the back just under the camera lens, and it’s another touch sensor.

Don’t think of this as a fingerprint sensor, because it’s not. Think of it rather as a small touchscreen for taking photos by tapping it with your forefinger, or helping you to flick through the gallery, or pausing and playing songs.

Think of it for these things because that’s all it can do, and it won’t even do it timely, as the phone’s lacklustre performance gets in the way, delaying every action and delivering your rear press in nothing close to real time.

We hate sighing in reviews, but this one demands it. So… *sigh*

To say this phone is a shocker is an understatement: there are so many bugs, we are just astounded Bauhn even boxed it up and sells it on the shelves of a major supermarket.

If it feels like we haven’t touched on the positives of the phone, it’s because there aren’t many, and it’s so much easier to get lost in the issues than enjoy the experience — any: bad, good — offered by the Bauhn Sphere.

One positive is that it will be found in a supermarket. That’s like a positive, though given how Aldi stuff is generally a “while stocks last” sort of thing, that may not be a positive feature overall.

The screen also isn’t terrible either, providing a high definition display in a 5 inch format for a budget price, though because of the weak performance, you probably won’t even get to use the screen for all it’s worth. It also picks up oil and smudges from your fingers a little too easily, but Bauhn does leave a screen protector on the phone out of the box giving you something with a bit of resistance here. We’d leave it on (we took ours off), as it actually makes the screen feel better on the fingers.

Another positive is that the SIM technology it uses not only allows for two SIMs on a 3G network, but it’s both old and relatively new, with microSIM and miniSIM (the latter of these is what most people regard as a regular SIM, even though it’s technically a smaller miniSIM).

For people with older button based phones, this could provide them with an easy upgrade path due to this taking the same miniSIM technology, as well as offering them something to work with overseas, since microSIMs are more easily found than the older and larger miniSIM format.

Image from the Bauhn Sphere's camera

Conclusion

We’re not normally down on budget devices.

Budget devices are often fantastic, as they allow big companies a chance to get value packed hardware to customers who don’t necessarily want to spend an arm or a leg to have a phone that does similar thing to a big name one, just without all the grunt that comes from spending big wads of cash.

We’ve seen some great budget phones in the past, including models made by Huawei and Motorola, and even one Kogan and BenQ collaborated for.

It’s a shame, too, because Aldi could have made this to be an excellent budget phone. It could have made an inexpensive phone with lots of storage and enough room to move when you go overseas with that whole dual-SIM thing. It could have made a device that truly takes on the Motorola G for 2014, because the features are similar enough that the two could really do battle.

But Aldi’s Bauhn Sphere isn’t a good phone. It’s not even a phone worth checking out at your local supermarket.

Look at the eggs, the yoghurt, the cheese, and the meat, and skip the phone.

Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
Reader Rating0 Votes
Available in a supermarket; Supports both micro- and miniSIM;
Multitask button not mapped correctly and still functioning like a menu button, leaving multitask under the home button; Virtually no space on the phone, and yet reports 32GB storage; Headphones aren't always picked up and will almost always play audio through speakers; Terrible system performance; Weak day long battery life with one SIM, and we're concerned what this would be like with two!; Little customisation or firming of the Android operating system, leaving you with app monitor notifications generally meant for developers and a keyboard that feels out of date compared to what Google's current stock Android keyboard is; Low-end 3G performance; Bundled with so many bloatware apps, you'll never complain about the bloatware other phones come with;
1.9