Aspera Jazz 2 review: It’s cheap… and that’s all

Posted: 28 October 2019 6:02 am
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Aspera Jazz 2

You won't have to lay down much to pick up an Aspera Jazz 2, but that's its primary selling point.

Quick Verdict

The Aspera Jazz 2 feels like a retro smartphone, complete with slow performance, a very rudimentary camera and cheap build quality. It's acceptable if your needs are very basic, but there's better value to be had in the budget phone space.

The good

  • It costs less than $100
  • Android Go makes the most of meagre resources
  • Removable battery
  • Dual SIM

The bad

  • Poor performance
  • Terrible camera
  • Poor battery life

You can't expect that much out of a phone that retails for $99, because you're not giving any manufacturer all that much money to actually build a phone at that price point.

The Aspera Jazz 2 is one of the most rudimentary phones we've tested at Finder for quite some time. That price point has some obvious appeal, but when you consider the wider field of budget phones available, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn't exactly a bargain.

Aspera Jazz 2

Design

  • Cheap plastic build
  • 4.95-inch low-resolution display
  • Huge screen bezels
  • Dual SIM, which isn't common at this price point

Setting up the Aspera Jazz 2 honestly felt like a trip back in time, and that's a journey that started from the moment that I unpacked it. While smartphones as a category have only really existed for a little over a decade, the design can't help but feel retro.

There's a 4.95-inch display with an 854 x 480 WVGA resolution, which is astonishingly old school. It's surrounded by very wide and very white bezels, with a simple plastic casing in silver giving it the only colour accent you'll find.

The screen isn't high resolution, and it's also noticeably recessed behind the front glass, which means it's also more prone to reflection and visibility issues in low light. This is very much a utility phone, not one that's showy in any real sense.

The Aspera Jazz 2 is cheap, for sure, and it feels the part. That's not a surprise in one sense, and if you're a fan of smaller smartphone bodies it may have some appeal.

One interesting design aspect you don't find on too many phones at this price point is dual 4G SIM compatibility. In keeping with its old-school style you'll have to pop the entire back of the phone off, then remove the battery before you can add in any SIMs, but if you're a fan of having two services on the go at once, the Aspera Jazz 2 will handle it just fine.

Still, there are obvious compromises at play in a phone this inexpensive. There's no fingerprint sensor for unlocking, so you'll need to secure the Aspera Jazz 2 with a pattern, pin or passcode. We've started to see phones tending down to this price point with actual biometric unlocks, again making the Jazz 2 feel a little archaic.

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Aspera Jazz 2

Camera

  • 5MP rear camera is awful
  • 2MP front camera is no better

Conventional logic says that budget phones keep the price low with very simple camera modules on board. That's certainly true to an extent, but what we've seen from manufacturers such as Nokia/HMD Global, realme, Alcatel and others is that the advances in general camera technology mean you can pop in a perfectly adequate camera module into a low-cost phone for everyday photos.

It seems like nobody told Aspera this, because the Aspera Jazz 2 comes with one of the most rudimentary cameras I've tested in a smartphone for quite some time. At the rear, you'll find a single 5MP lens, while the front-facing camera has a 2MP resolution.

Neither lens supports touch to focus capabilities, so you're entirely stuck with whatever the Aspera Jazz 2 decides to focus upon. Not that you're awash with choices generally on the default camera application, which has options for picture and video taking... and that's it.

Dig a little deeper and you'll find scene options for scenarios such as night shooting, party shooting or sports shooting. You have to toggle them off once you're done, otherwise they become the new default, thanks to that basic camera interface.

The limits of what can be done with a 5MP sensor really kick into play here, because almost every shot I took with the Aspera Jazz 2 felt disappointing.

While it's true that you're not paying much for the Aspera Jazz 2, in camera terms it's way behind what we've seen from other manufacturers, and that's disappointing even at this price point.

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Aspera Jazz 2

Performance

  • Android Go makes the most of a simple processor

The Aspera Jazz 2 runs on a MediaTek MTK6739WW processor with just 1GB of RAM, which again is a very retro step. Plenty of competing phones do at least punch up to 2GB of RAM without too much extra expenditure, if any at all.

Aspera does offset this by using Android Pie Go, the specially-engineered variant of Android that optimises around low-powered devices. This means that by default you get the "Go" versions of apps like YouTube, Facebook and Maps pre-installed, but you're not generally limited to just those apps to speak of.

Aspera really doesn't do much in terms of its own individual apps for the Aspera Jazz 2 beyond an FM radio app that predictably requires wired headphones to operate as an antenna. Again, that's a feature that was found on smartphones (and indeed feature phones) years ago.

The Aspera Jazz 2 actually fell under the specifications needed to run Geekbench 5 for comparative purposes, but it should be no surprise that it's a slow and jittery handset. If your needs are remarkably modest that might not be an issue, but anyone who wants to spend serious time with this handset will quickly hit the performance wall.

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Battery life

  • 1,900mAh battery with poor endurance
  • Removable battery continues the retro theme

There was a time when almost every smartphone that didn't have an Apple logo on the back came with a removable battery.

The Aspera Jazz 2 continues this all-but-lost tradition, with a removable 1,900mAh battery that you'll have to install before you start using it. One quick tip here: While the casing looks like it splits on the closest silver seam, it's actually the entire silver back casing that comes off to grant you access to the battery and SIM card bay.

1,900mAh is quite small by 2019 battery standards, but my hopes were moderately high that the low-resolution screen and low-powered processor in the Aspera Jazz 2 might grant it more battery endurance than competing handsets.

It wasn't so. Using our standard test, running a YouTube video at the highest resolution the Aspera Jazz 2 would support with screen brightness maximised, the battery ran down to 65% within just an hour.

While we don't have much in the way of comparative data for phones at this low a price point using this test, that does strongly show that this is a phone that just doesn't have much battery stamina. Its sluggish performance meant I didn't want to use it all that much, and this did extend its battery life.

If you're only using it very lightly throughout a day it might just last. I'd suggest you pack its MicroUSB charger just in case.

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Aspera Jazz 2

Should you buy the Aspera Jazz 2?

  • It's super cheap, but it's not great value

The market for a $99 smartphone is by definition buying primarily on price. If what you need is just a basic smartphone, then the Aspera Jazz 2 fits that bill.

It's just that we've seen so much competition recently in the budget and mid-range spaces that the kinds of experiences you'll get out of the Aspera Jazz 2 feel like poor value anyway. You're not going to get top-flight photo, performance or battery experiences – but it's really not hard to get better than what the Aspera Jazz 2 offers.

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Aspera Jazz 2: Pricing and availability

The Aspera Jazz 2 sells outright with 16GB of storage for $99.

Aspera Jazz 2 Specifications

Display

Camera

Physical dimensions

Connectivity

Power, storage and battery

Device features

Display size 4.95 inches
Resolution 480 x 854
Pixels per inch (PPI) 197.9
Rear camera megapixels 5MP
Rear camera aperture size N/A
Video recording N/A
Front camera megapixels 2MP
Front camera aperture size N/A
Dimensions 140mm x 68mm x 9.5mm
Weight 150g
NFC No
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Network category speed N/A
Processor MediaTek MTK6739WW
RAM 1GB
Operating system Android Go
Internal storage

16GB

External storage support Up to 64GB
Battery capacity 1,900mAh
Headphone jack Yes
Fingerprint sensor No
Water resistance N/A
Wireless charging No
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