Aldi’s $279 Bauhn Sphere smartphone reviewed

Remember when you had to go to a phone store to buy a phone? No more, with phones available everywhere, and Aldi is getting on that with the Sphere, a budget phone for a budget price. Worth it, or is there better value at some other place?

Features

Everyone has a phone, and now it’s Aldi’s time to show us what the company has been working on.

There isn’t an Aldi name, though, with “Bauhn” used, one of Aldi’s many house electronic brands, like Tevion or Medion.

Here in the Bauhn Sphere, you’ll find a 1.3GHz quad-core processor paired with 2GB RAM, 32GB storage, and support for a microSD slot beyond this. Google’s Android 4.4.2 “KitKat” runs here, making it relatively up to date.

Connection options are relatively bare-bone, with WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS, and 3G connectivity spread out over two SIM slots. A microUSB port is also provided, useful for charging and moving data to and from the Bauhn Sphere.

Cameras are also here, with a 2 megapixel front-facing camera and an 8 megapixel rear camera with auto-focus and a flash.

This sits under a 5 inch high-definition screen, showing a resolution of 1280×720, and a pixel clarity of 294 pixels per inch.

Buttons are normally not found on most Android phones, but Bauhn still has a few soft buttons here, relying multitask, home, and back under the 5 inch screen. There are only two physical buttons, with a volume rocker on the left edge and a power button on the right.

Ports are also found here in the form of a 3.5mm headset jack up top next to a microUSB port, while a microSIM and a miniSIM slot can each be found under the plastic rear cover, as well as a microSD slot.

The battery is removable and is rated for 1800mAh.

Performance

In the hands, the black plastic of the Bauhn Sphere feels cheap and flimsy, but for the price, we’re sure people won’t mind.

It’s not one of those phones that exudes a feeling of something being well built, that’s for sure, but that plastic back comes off after a good and solid prying with your fingernails, and while it’s plastic all the way around, it’s comfortable enough in the hand, complete with buttons on either edge, making it easy to grip and fiddle with both the power and volume when you need to.

Bauhn won’t win any awards for the design, though, and it won’t win even a commendation for the name.

Even though Bauhn calls it there “Sphere,” there is nothing remotely spherical about the smartphone, unless of course you include the small sphere printed on the back, and that’s a circle, not a sphere.

Forget the name, though, because there’s a smartphone here, and it packs in features for a value price, so does Aldi’s Sphere have the potential to take on products from Motorola, Kogan, Huawei, or ZTE?

Based on what we’ve seen, no.

Just… no. Horribly no.

Where to start?

Well, we’ll probably just start with the negatives and how they affect the experience, because it’s the first time we’ve needed to start with the weak points of a phone, and that’s because there are just so many. So, so many.

The aesthetics of the phone are basic enough, and we don’t have a problem with the simple look, black plastic back, and 5 inch high-definition screen, but that’s probably where the niceties stop, and from here on in, our experience with the Bauhn Sphere wasn’t exactly a pleasant one.

For starters, there are three soft buttons on the bottom, but they’re not totally mapped correctly. There’s a multitask button, a home button, and a back button, and we listed these in the features, but these are not what the buttons actually are, or one of them, even.

The multitask button actually works like a menu button, telling us this is actually old hardware — an old phone from before Google ditched the menu button and went with multitasking instead — and that multitask feature works by holding down the home button, not when you press the multitask button.

That’s not a good sign that Bauhn let the Sphere out without checking this basic issue, and we’re a little surprised to see the problem crop up on a KitKat phone, but we’ll progress.

It's Android, sure, and pretty stock, but this has to be one of the weakest Android phones we've ever looked at.

Then there’s the performance, and there are already concerns when we switch it on for the first time, with the screen requiring a basic calibration before working, and letting us see some of the developer specific things, such as app permission management and a name for an audio enhancement feature that hasn’t changed much — “BesAudEnh” — and probably should before it was released.

Move on from here and you’ll find some issues, such as slowness, and lots of it, as the phone struggles to open applications quickly. When you let the phone catch up, it’s not bad, but we found problems as we jumped from apps to the menu, with the phone lagging all the time.

Even the keyboard was a touch frustrating, with Bauhn providing the older Android keyboard from before Google moved to the version with gesture typing. It’s there, mind you, and you can switch to it, you just have to know it’s there, otherwise you’ll be using the old AOSP keyboard with zero gestures and a readily seen slowness as you press each on-screen character.

Frustrating.

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