Here comes Homtom S the Sixteenth. The new, self-proclaimed high-flyer for little money. 16 is almost a fascinating number: normally, one would assume that there were other 15 Homtoms before this device and that alone in the S series! The naming is rather random. As well known, the name is not based on the premium model by Samsung, but the series rather tries to serve low-low-budget devices (or ultra-low-budget). A small example? When this review was written, the new Galaxy S9+ was available for 950$. For this price, you can buy a Homtom S16 19 times!
But is that what you want? Is it worth buying a smartphone for only 50$? In the range of 70$ there are already some big competitors and then there is the market for used devices, which offers a huge selection in the range between 50 and 100$. Find out in this review if it is really worth to buy a Homtom S16!
Design and build quality
From distance, one will not recognize that S16 is a low-budget device. The front houses a 5.5-inch display in the classic 16:9 format. At the bottom, you will find the soft-touch buttons. These are not illuminated by LEDs but are kept in a highly reflective silver, which at least gives the impression of illumination. The top looks quite empty. A selfie-cam, the earpiece, and a proximity and brightness sensor are available. There is no notification LED.
When you take S16 in your hand, you first notice its low weight of only 165g. The dimensions of 151.5x71x8.9mm are quite compact. The glass is enclosed in a white plastic frame, which results in very small gaps. But the whole impression looks quite good, even if appearances are deceptive. The power and volume keys on the right side are also made of white plastic. Small gaps are visible on the button sockets. All in all, however, the build quality is fine up to now.
The transition of the frame into the rear cover is clearly noticeable, but not sharp-edged. The removable plastic casing, in a usual Homtom design, sits firmly in its place. Beneath the casing, there is (surprisingly) an removable 3000 mAh battery. Above the battery, there are two Micro-SIM slots and a separate slot for a Micro-SD card. Here, too, the manufacturer did a great job.
The first shortcoming is above the SIM cards slots: a fake dual camera. Why does one think to have to simulate such a camera in this price segment? It is a mystery to me! In the price range around 100$, the attempt is at least comprehensible, but here? The fake dual-camera protruding 1mm from the rear side is located in the middle and a monochrome LED flash is embedded between the two camera openings. Quite an unusual position. A small inconspicuous fingerprint scanner is installed to the right. This was somewhat cumbersome to achieve in the test, albeit easy to find. Funnily enough, even this position is better suited than the sensor of the Galaxy S8, but the sensor does not win any prizes. Unlocking from standby worked, but it took 1-2 seconds. Only 7/10 attempts were successful. To make it worse, the sensor has a little play in its frame. I haven’t had such defects for a long time and such errors simply aren’t allowed, even if the smartphone only costs 50$. So, sooner or later, you had the feeling that the scanner could fall out of the socket. Operating S16 is, due to its average dimensions, quite pleasant and you can even use the device with one hand at times. At no time is Homtom particularly prone to slipping. At the bottom of the smartphone, there is a hole for the speaker. The hole for the microphone is located at the bottom of the frame. Homtom S16 can be charged with a Micro-USB cable and there is also a connection for the 3.5mm jack.
Instead of installing a fake dual camera, they should have spent more time on the design. The dimensions and the transitions of the materials are uncomfortable, but a shaky fingerprint sensor is totally a no-go. Too bad. To always have to remove the battery when changing SIM or SD card is a bit laborious. This is already better solved in smartphones which only cost a few dollars more. But there are also 3 full-fledged slots!
HomTom S16’s scope of delivery
Homtom sends its S16 in a rather unadorned box, including the following besides the smartphone:
• Power supply EU (1A)
• Micro-USB cable
• Quickstart Guide
• Transparent protective cover (bumper)
• Screen protector
260ppi, that’s what you get when you combine a 5.5″ display with a resolution of 1280×640 pixels. Not really incredible. Unfortunately, this low resolution can also be seen in everyday use. Images or app icons appear slightly blurred, but the font is still easy to read. Homtom S16 achieves good values when it comes to delivering as little luminosity as possible. Therefore, the display can be very well adapted to low light conditions. What is not needed in the dark, however, is missing in the light. From 50% on, the brightness increases only marginally. In direct sunlight, it is almost impossible to recognize anything on the display (trying to read something would be totally useless).
The viewing angles of this LCD IPS display are not particularly stable. If the angle falls very flat onto the display from below, a blue tone is produced, from above you can recognize a more typical yellow tone. After all, the black level is okay and there is no atrium formation. A screen protector, which was applied right from the start, protected the glass from the coarsest scratches. But also the glass itself was hard enough to resist keys and similar metals.
The colouring of the display is very neutral but has a slight red tone. However, this is not very unpleasant. You can customize the display thanks to MiraVision. The display has 4mm bezels to the edges. Above, there is an 11mm bezel and below, 13mm, but there you can find also the soft-touch buttons. The touchscreen recognizes 5 points of contact simultaneously, a good value in this price range.
The display of Homtom S16 is not exactly the best of the displays. The resolution is just too low for today’s standards and the maximum brightness is only conditionally sufficient. Normally, what Homtoms offers would not be that bad, but for a few dollars more you can already get much better smartphones.
As you can imagine, Homtom S16 has no Snapdragon 845. This alone probably costs as much as the whole phone. Homtom uses a MediaTek MT6580M processor instead. This processor is still manufactured in the old 28nm process and offers 4 cores at 1300MHz. Here, we have a Mali-400 graphics unit with more or less 400MHz set aside for the processor. In this way, Homtom copes satisfactorily with standard tasks such as chatting or surfing. But a gamer probably won’t have much fun with this Homtom. Asphalt 8 could not be played smoothly even with low settings. If you only play 2D games like chess or solitaire, you will get along with S16. As soon as more action takes place on the screen, Homtom also goes down in 2D games.
However, Homtom S16 is not compatible with the 3D part of the new Antutu benchmark, as it relies on Vulkan. In order to get more performance points in the 3D bench, I manually installed the old version 6.3.7 via APK, with matching 3D part of course. Homtom S16 can reach 770 points.
Unfortunately, the low-performance level also shows in the other tests. In addition, there is only a 2GB storage with a speed of just 1500MB/s. Homtom S16 is just enough to stay in touch with friends, to check messages and to use Google here and there. However, the phone is not suitable for complex workloads or a lot of multitasking.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result
System – Andorid 7.0
Like many low-budget smartphones, Homtom S16 has an Android 7.0 system, which is not up-to-date anymore but has a wide distribution and good adaptability.
There is hardly any great bloatware on Homtom S16, but the options menu has been extended by some tabs, app icons have also been graphically readapted. In addition to that, there are few unnecessary adjustments. “Smart somatosensory” had no visible function. “Float Window”, for example, extends the screen with a freely movable ring menu, some of which can be freely designed. Unfortunately, Homtom S16 is not strong enough to stretch such an extension and thus additional calculation effort on a permanent basis. The idea is good, though, but there are not many apps in the Play Store that are compatible with this function.
Bloatware apps include Info Hub and HT Xtender. The former is a kind of message hub that can be switched off and uninstalled. The HT Xtender is integrated deeper into the system and is designed to make it easy to transfer data to another smartphone. A good idea, the only disadvantage is the rather slow transfer rate. The HT Xtender cannot be uninstalled but can be deactivated and thus removed from the App-Drawer.
The navigation through the system is pleasantly smooth, considering the hardware. Switching between apps, and thus multitasking, is satisfactory as long as you only switch between chat programs or less complex/equivalent applications.
Even if there won’t be a developer community around S16 (the hardware is too weak and without a Snapdragon), a Custom ROM would be possible, because the bootloader can easily be unlocked in the extended developer settings.
The operating system is probably one of the most successful parts of Homtom’s S16. Of course, you have load times when opening an app or switching from one to the other. However, the operation remains inconspicuously positive.
What can you expect from a fake dual camera in the price range of 50$? Well, not much. The competition in the adjacent higher price ranges, usually, is not that good either. The pictures are hardly useful as soon as the light no longer offers optimal conditions. The edges of the photos are always blurred. After all, the HDR mode could in some cases actually improve the image’s quality, but mostly it only overexposes the photos. It would have been better to save the few cents for the fake dual camera and invest them in the main camera. The camera used is supposed to offer 13MP. However, these are visibly interpolated. As already mentioned, the second sensor has no function. But Homtom doesn’t even bother to keep up appearances. The integrated camera app has no extensions that would allow you to shoot fake bokeh or other dual functions.
As expected, the autofocus can’t do very much and I often had to focus the image manually. There is no image stabilizer, EIS (Electronic Image Stabilizer) is mentioned, but had no effect on videos or photos.
The selfie camera should offer 8MP. But here, too, the interpolation is evident. It is almost the same as for the main camera. The pictures are hardly useful. Under strong light, you can take a useful snapshot from time to time (after several attempts). As soon as the light conditions get worse, the quality of the images drops drastically. It is hardly worth mentioning that neither the main camera nor the selfie camera can be used for evening or even night shots.
First of all, the GPS reception was good, although it had some difficulties determining the location. Again and again, the location jumped very far away during the trip and landed again in the right place after a few seconds. The navigation was successful in the end but, occasionally, it caused some problems. Unfortunately, S16 does not support LTE. WiFi at 5 GHz is also not supported. Bluetooth is available in the 4.0 version and works without problems.
Furthermore, no mobile data connection could be established with our first test device. The test device must have had a hardware defect. The SIM card was recognized, but a data connection could not be established. A connection was only possible with a second device. This was then at an average level. The 3G network was enough for an occasional Google search and a news check. But watching videos, the connection was lost very often. The reception strength inside buildings also decreased quite quickly.
S16’s speakers are not very good. The 10$-more expensive competitors already sound clearly better. It would be a waste to deal with individual tonal conditions here – if one can even describe them as such. Because already at half volume the speakers begin to whine and rattle. The clarity of voices is still okay. Listening to voice messages works without problems. The microphone was also acceptable, the person I was talking to could understand what I was saying and I had no problems understanding my interlocutor.
Homtom S16 houses a 3000mAh battery, which lasted one day with just average use. Things look a little different when you look at your mobile phone almost every two minutes. For a “power user”, S16’s battery is definitely not enough. The SoT (Screen-on Time) values of approx. 6 hours also coincide with the PC Mark Battery Test’s result of 6.5 hours. However, a YouTube video at half brightness consumes 18% in half an hour at only 480p resolution. So how long S16 lasts throughout the day depends a lot on the workload.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours