If there’s one thing that some Chinese manufacturers are prone to tackling as an afterthought, it’s the name of a product – the first thing that a prospective customer will encounter.
While the likes of Homtom or Ulefone are merely a mouthful to pronounce, and others like Elephone or Uhappy are likely to cause a few smiles, there’s a third category which is likely to provoke quizzical or bemused looks (at the very least).
Doogee belongs to that latter category, alongside the likes of Ainol, Goophone and Fanny Wang. Although these companies have initially targeted the Chinese market, their international expansion prospects might be harmed by an unfortunate choice of name.
The T5, from Doogee, is the latest Chinese-sourced rugged smartphone that has landed in our labs, and the only one we’ve come across that carries an IP67 rating (rather than the more common IP68) which, in theory at least, makes it slightly less sturdy than its peers.
Launched in August last year, the Doogee T5 smartphone was provided by popular online Chinese retailer Lightinthebox where the device costs a mere £158 (around $200, AU$260). Note that this price is exclusive of any taxes that may be levied by HMRC or the courier companies on behalf of the vendor. Want to buy tech from online Chinese retailers? Read this first.
The T5 is billed as a premium-looking smartphone but without the price tag and, uniquely amongst its host of rivals, it uses a nifty little trick that allows the user to customise the look of the smartphone – simply swap the side panels and the back cover. Two of these are provided, one having a simili-leather finish and the other a more sporty one, with screws and a screwdriver as well.
As expected, the phone is bulky (153 x 78 x 14mm) and on the heavy side at nearly 260g. That’s understandable given the focus of the device and doesn’t distract from the overall positive impression of its build quality.
There are plenty of screws here, metal (at least on the sides) and a Doogee logo imprinted on the back. We liked the protruding buttons, as seen on the AGM X1, but there are only three of them (power and volume rocker), and no dedicated or customisable buttons sadly – such as push-to-talk or SOS for example.
The earpiece, a front-facing camera, a trio of capacitive buttons and a 5-inch HD display are located on the front. There’s no branding on the front, or LED status lights sadly, and while the HD display is decent, the screen resolution is far lower than the competition.
A micro-USB OTG-capable port and a 3.5mm audio socket are hidden under two flaps on top of the device and unlike most of the competition, the microSD storage and the SIM card slots are located inside the T5 and can only be accessed by removing the back cover.
The cards and the removable 4500mAh battery are protected by a rubber sheet, and the battery is fed by a 10W (5V, 2A) power supply. The changeable back cover is probably what earned this device an IP67 rather than an IP68 rating, as it is less likely to endure a prolonged stay underwater.
The T5 is powered by a Mediatek system-on-a-chip, the MTK6753, which is an octa-core model featuring eight Cortex A53 cores clocked at a lowly 1.3GHz. Graphics are handled by an ARM Mali T720 GPU and the modem supports the B20 band.
That SoC is backed up with 3GB of RAM and 32GB on-board storage, with the microSD card slot allowing an extra 32GB to be added. The front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel Omnivision model, and the rear one is a Samsung-sourced 13-megapixel affair with an F/2.2 aperture.
There’s no 802.11ac or NFC when it comes to connectivity, which is a big let-down if you fancied using this device for contactless payments.
As expected it runs Android 6.0 and unfortunately, like most Chinese phone vendors, it is unlikely that this device will ever receive an update to Android Nougat. In use, we liked the floating quick menu, and the ability to change the user interface to match the back cover, as well as a number of other applications (Datawiz’s Document-to-Go, DG Security and DG Xender).
Of particular interest is Parallel Space which allows you to clone an app and run the two instances simultaneously on the same device. Neat!
We didn’t notice any significant lag when playing around with the T5 smartphone. The eight cores, even at 1.3GHz, didn’t ever flinch, and the ample amount of memory ensured that even resource-hungry apps were properly fed. Note that the phone doesn’t come with the full set of Google Web Services.
Doogee sells two other versions of the T5 – the T5S and the T5 Lite – both of which have worse specifications but share the same design. The T5 is more of a traditional smartphone that has been given a splash of rugged goodness.
The simili-leather back, for example, will probably get scratched and marked if used, say, on a construction site by traditional ruggedised users (although one might argue that the back covers can be changed).
For those sort of folks, the Ulefone Armor, AGM A8, Blackview BV6000, DeWalt MD501 or the Cat S60 might be better alternatives, especially as they all have IP68 certification. For those looking for a smartphone with a similar rating and a more traditional look, the Nomu S20 or the slightly more expensive Blackview BV7000 Pro are perfectly acceptable substitutes.
If you can live with the name, though, and don’t mind the restrictions and caveats usually associated with buying a product from overseas, the T5 is a smartphone with a hard-to-beat value-for-money ratio.