[alert type=alert-blue]Technical details[/alert]
OS Andoid KitKat 4.4
Processor 1.7Ghz octa-core
Screen 4.8 inches
Resolution 1280×720 pixels
Memory 1GB RAM
Micro SD compatible? No
Rear-facing camera 8MP
Front-facing camera 5MP
Dimensions 139.8 x 67.5 x 5.15mm
Battery 2,050 mAh
Kazam is a relatively new handset company set up two years ago by two HTC executives. It took the view that there was a gap in the market for a middle-price range of smartphones that could offer extra features and services that the big manufacturers were not covering.
Which means that, if you buy a Kazam handset you get a couple of interesting service and support benefits.
One of these is ‘Rescue Operation’, a diagnostics app that lets a Kazam engineer access you phone remotely and fix any software bugs or glitches while it is still in your pocket. Another of these benefits is a free screen replacement service.
There are terms and conditions, but if your Kazam screen cracks or breaks during normal use Kazam will replace it free. Naturally you’ll have to send it off to their service centre for a week.
[alert type=alert-blue]Form Factor[/alert]
Which brings us to to the Kazam Tornado 348. This is a 3G-only Android smartphone whose main claim to fame is that it is only 5.1mm thick. We’re not sure why thinness seems to be the Holy Grail of so many smartphone designers. To those who remember the fat brick phones of the 1990s the Tornado is a miracle of micro-engineering. We’re more relaxed with a thicker phone that can pack a bigger battery and a strong chassis.
Kazam says the Tornado 348 definitely is the world’s thinnest phone, but a thinner one is probably being produced in China by someone else as we write this – so we’ll go with maybe the world’s thinnest phone.
Which is great news if you like a mobile phone that is thinner than a CD case. The Tornado certainly impresses with its thinness. But thinness for its own sake is not necessarily a virtue. For starters the Tornado feels quite fragile even though it has front and back Corning Gorilla 3 glass that should be impervious to routine use. The second compromise is the thinner the handset the thinner the battery. When a modern smartphone such as the Tornado sports an energy-sucking 4.8-inch AMOLED display the value of being skinny is cancelled out by the shorter battery life from a thinner battery.
[alert type=alert-blue]Memory Loss[/alert]
Loss of memory But there is another reason why, in the Tornado’s case (pun intended) a wafer-thin chassis is not good news. The case is too thin to support having a micro-SD memory card slot. Which is a problem on a handset that only has 16GB of internal storage.
Once upon a time 16GB was deemed more than anyone in the world could possibly use. But that was in the days before phones doubled up as MP3 players and movie players. These days anything under 32GB is regarded as impractical.
Of course 16GB is more than enough if all you want to do is save pictures and save all your content to the Cloud (eg Google Drive). But start saving a few 720HD videos, a hundred or so CDs worth of music and loading up a film or two and that 16GB will soon seem sparse. In fairness to Kazam it could be argued that anyone buying a £250 3G handset is not going to use it as their main computing device.
If you’ve got a tablet as your media hub, then the Tornado’s meagre 16GB will probably not worry you. And in double fairness to Kazam they have kept the Tornado free of bloatware. Apart from the memory required by the Android Kit-Kat operating system, the rest of the storage is all yours.
Kazam has done an excellent job with the design of the Tornado. Front and back are perfectly flush. The sides of the screen extend almost to the edges of the 1,8mm bezel and the thin brushed aluminium band around the case looks classy with a premium feel. As stated the case is covered by Corning 3 Gorilla Glass which offers thinness, lightness, with high resistance to scratch and shock damage in normal use. If you like to carry and hold mobile phones that weigh next to nothing the Tornado will delight.
Kit-Kat The Tornado comes with stock Android KitKat 4.4 mercifully free of any manufacturer customisation. So you’ll be able to customise it as Google intended. More expensive smartphones are now shipping with the latest ‘Lollipop’ version of Android, but KitKat is perfectly serviceable for a mid-range 3G device such as the Tornado.
The Tornado gets its horsepower from an ARM Mali octa-core chip. So this is the chip that was powering last year’s top £500- plus smartphones. ARM chips are also used in iPhones. The octa-core chip makes the Tornado very quick and responsive.
Just a few years ago it would have been inconceivable that a screen of this quality could fit into a device the thickness of a few sheets of paper. But such is the pace of screen technology that Kazam has equipped the Tornado with a vibrant AMOLED screen that pops with colour. Contrast levels don’t degrade with side viewing angles. The downside is that these screens are gluttons for power. So brightness has to be turned down most of the time to conserve battery power. This is not a problem indoors. Outdoors you’ll want to keep the brightness ramped up. Which brings us back to our bugbear – why have a thin phone and ace screen at the expense of not being able to fit an unremovable battery fat enough to keep it going at full brightness for 16 hours.
The 8MP rear camera is fine for social networking duties while the front 5MP snapper does great work for selfie addicts. Just don’t expect DSLR quality. Outdoor pictures resulted in a washed out sky and foreground. The camera can’t hold a candle to an iPhone 6 Plus but at least the controls are simple. Move the touch autofocus and auto-exposure viewfinder frames to the scene you want to capture and snap away, There are no picture editing features but Google Play has plenty of photo-editing apps.
Standout design and performance at an attractive price. Lack of 4G connectivity and storage makes the Tornado 348 a non-starter for power smartphone users, though. But casual users and fashionistas content with social networking who are unconcerned with consuming gigabytes of data will find this a good deal for their £247.