Kogan Agora Smartphone Review: The Best Bang For Buck In Android


I have a confession: I really didn't want to like the Kogan Agora smartphone. As soon as I was handed the device and told the price, I immediately relegated it to the cheap and nasty corner. 'Nothing good can come out of a $150 device,' I thought to myself at the time. Well readers, I'm here to tell you that I was wrong.

More: Kogan Agora Tablet Review

What Is It?

The Kogan Agora (the name is Greek for 'Market') is a $149 dual-SIM, Android smartphone that looks like a budget Galaxy Note.

It packs in a 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of on-board storage and a 5-megapixel camera. The screen measures 5-inches on the diagonal with a resolution of 800×480. It also has dual-SIM capabilities. The device doesn’t support 4G, instead one slot is 2G and one slot is 3G. The Agora is running Android 4.0.4.

The Agora is almost the budget smartphone we never had. Ruslan Kogan — founder of Kogan Online — wanted to bring a cut-price Android phone to the market way back in 2009, but legal complications meant it would never see the light of day. Flash-forward by four years, though, and now we finally have an Agora to call our own.

What's Good?


The best thing about the Agora is the value proposition. For $149, you get a hell of a lot. When comparing the Agora to the rest of the phones that play around that price, it leaves its competition for dead. The only other handsets I'd recommend are older, much slower handsets with single-core processors like the HTC One V or the Motorola Defy.

The only handset I would say gives you this much value for the pittance you end up paying is the Nexus 4 from Google and LG. It's another lesson for big manufacturers: monstrous handsets needn't attract monstrous price tags.

On top of the awesome value, the Agora is packing two SIM slots, making it a rare beast in the Australian telco landscape. Admittedly, they're a bit nerfed (which we'll get to), but overall it's a welcome addition.

You'll get exceptional brightness out of this screen, but the way that it's bonded to the LCD doesn't instil confidence as far as toughness is concerned, so don't go dropping it.

The 2000mAh battery strapped to this moderately specced Android phone means you'll easily get two days worth of use out of the Agora before you go scrambling for your charger.

Other little things you find around the place just make the Agora a nice phone to use, which is so strange for a budget Android phone. You’ll get a free Kogan Mobile SIM in the box when you buy the Agora. That means you’ll have a new phone number with $100 worth of calls and 100MB of free data to get you started. The Agora runs stock Android 4.0.4, so there are no messy UI integration hurdles to jump through, and it doesn't look like a pile of garbage either.

What's Bad?

While the screen on the Agora is nice and bright, the resolution is a little ropey for the 5-inch screen you have going. Expect to see pixels.

Speaking of pixels, don't go near the camera on the Agora. It's woeful. Just don't. Not even in an emergency. People will laugh at you.

Like we mentioned previously, the whole thing doesn't feel particularly tough. Because it's all plastic — particularly the screen coating which looks like it could be dispatched with a light breeze — you're going to notice when you drop it. Presumably because it will be in thirty different pieces on the floor.

There are other drawbacks, but all of them are fairly nitpicky — no stylus on a 5-inch screen, audio is crap, Geekbench score of a two-year old device — but for $149, what are you expecting?

Should You Buy It?

Sure, it's no Galaxy Note IV or iPhone 6, but as far as I'm concerned, the Kogan Agora is the mobile embodiment of cheap and cheerful. So should you buy it if you're in the market for a cheap Android smartphone? For $149, you're goddamn right you should.


Comments

    Warranty?? Include that in the price or you are not comparing apples with apples (so to speak). In my experience Kogan products are crap. That's obviously not a universal feeling because he's a rich man, and sure the squeeze he's put on other retailers is all for the good. But my pile of Kogan junk is starting to fill my garage - microwave dead at 13 months, Bluray DVD at 21 months etc. ADD IN the price of the warranty before you think that you are getting a bargain - then compare.

      EDIT: never mind, i didn't read your comment very well.

      Last edited 18/02/13 4:23 pm

      Though in this day and age, who keeps a phone for more than 2 years? I know I'm a phone whore, and about 18 months is my outer limit.

    On top of the awesome value, the Agora is packing two SIM slots, making it a rare beast in the Australian telco landscape. Admittedly, they’re a bit nerfed (which we’ll get to), but overall it’s a welcome addition

    so umm... when you getting to that?

      thinking the same thing myself, well get to that.... like the sign "Free beer tomorrow" at my local pub

    Warranties are quite good. How hard it would be to get Kogan to honour them in a timely manner might be a different story.

    12 Months Warranty

    Support & Repairs
    Phone & Email Support

    Free
    3 Years Warranty

    Support & Repairs
    Phone & Email Support

    $19.00
    5 Years Warranty

    Support & Repairs
    Phone & Email Support

    $29.00

    Here's the actual specifications (according to the Kogan website) for those who actually want a bit of detail about the phone, not just 700 odd words of opinion.

    Technical Specifications

    Audio
    Loudspeaker - Yes
    Microphone - Yes

    Body
    Dimensions - 142.8 x 80 x 9.8mm
    Weight -180g

    Camera
    Flash - Yes, LED
    Front - 0.3MP
    Rear - 5.0MP

    Connectivity
    2G Network - 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz
    3G Network - WCDMA: 800, 850, 2100MHz
    Bluetooth - Yes
    Data Transfer Profiles - GPRS Class 12, EDGE Multi-Slot Class 12, HSPA Up/Down 7.2/5.76Mbps
    FM Radio - Yes
    GPS - Yes
    SIM Slots - 2: 1 x 3G, 1 x 2G
    SIM Type - Mini SIM
    USB - Yes, Hi-Speed (USB 2.0)
    Wi-Fi - 802.11 b/g/n

    Display
    Pixel Density~186ppi
    Resolution - 480 x 800
    Size - 5.0"
    Type - LCD capacitive touchscreen

    General
    Form Factor - Candy Bar
    Model - KAPHN05ANDA
    OS - Android
    OS Version - 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

    Inputs
    Card Slot - Micro SD, 32GB max.
    Power - Yes, Micro USB

    Outputs
    Audio - 3.5mm Mini Jack (TRS)

    Performance
    Battery - 2000mAh Li-ion, 2G talk: 7h 40m, 3G talk: 4h 50m, Standby: 400h
    CPU - Dual-core 1GHz Cortex-A9 RAM512MB

    Recording
    Audio - AAC
    Video - 3GP
    Video Codec - MPEG-4 Video
    Resolution - Fine: 720 x 1280, High: 480 x 640, Medium: 320 x 480, Low: 144 x 176

    Sensors
    Accelerometer - Yes

    Storage
    External - Micro SD
    Internal - 4GB

      And my opinion of the phone is thus.

      Why would you get a phone so big???? That's just ridiculous!

      It seems like a nicely speced phone. If they actually made it in a size normal people can use, and maybe dropped $50 from the price tag, I'd buy it in a heartbeat as a spare phone to keep in the house/car.

    Got mine this morning and initial impressions are that it has beaten my expectations (which were admittedly low). I travel a fair bit and so need dual sims and an autofocus camera for business cards so this is the only thing on the market for me at the moment. It zips along fine and the screen, whilst not great, is better than I was hoping for. As for the warrantee, one year is included. If it lasts a year, for $150 its been a bargain.

    i've read that Kogan has bad customer service, so i hope you get one that isn't busted :)

    On top of the awesome value, the Agora is packing two SIM slots, making it a rare beast in the Australian telco landscape. Admittedly, they’re a bit nerfed (which we’ll get to), but overall it’s a welcome addition.

    when are you going to get to it?

      Yep he seems to have missed that bit. But to cut it short for the two Sim slots, one can handle 3G, the other only 2G. No different to the yumcha dual sim models from China.

        yeah but he does say that in the article before the nerfed comment, so i thought it was in relation to something else?

    This is just one of tens of different models of Chinese Android phones availalbe in the same price range, many of which are better, and none of which have the false claim of being "the best value smartphone on the market."

    The Agora is severly limited by a lack of RAM and very low resolution screen for the large size.
    If you have a look at aliexpress.com you will plenty of similar phones, but with double the RAM, better resolution, and the newer Android Jelly Bean which is faster than Android ICS which the Agora runs on. Also, unlike the Agora, a lot of the never phones have covers available for them.

    The phones ordered from Aliexpress will usually ship from China - not really an issues considering the Agora ships from Hong Kong - so there will be comparable delivery times.

    The only good point in favour of the Agora is a local warranty.

    Last edited 18/02/13 4:29 pm

      rogerm's right. Plus you can get phones similar in spec if not better for the same price. A lot of the borderline knockoff named phones spring to mind when I think of the Chinese phones (HDC Galaxy Note 2? Really?).
      The Tengda GT-N7100+ that looks the same as the Kogan being one of them. Not to mention it's also dual sim has a gig of ram & better camera for a similar price.
      It's great you can get warranty here, but you'll find even international sellers if you ask them will advise on what their warranty terms are too.
      Just because we're 'girt' by sea doesn't mean we can't expand outside of our local marketplace.

        Despite the fact its a re-branded Chinese cheapy, and the fact that Kogan has notoriously bad service (just look at their Facebook feed), it was a low risk, low cost option for me. I may well look at the other Chinese based options after this experience: it's early days, but I am well chuffed at having a dual sim phone of decent enough quality.

    After buying a Kogan Angora tablet, there is no way I would ever buy another Angora branded item from them again (don't get me wrong the other brands they sell such as my Samsung S3 have been the best buys I've made, & I will continue to shop with them as their delivery service is speedy and their prices highly compeditive), the Angora's seem to be riddled with random problems, my touch screen would randomly touch itself, everywhere, no rebooting or resetting would fix it, and don't even bother trying to get customer service, you pay for what you get, I highly suggest to anyone thinking of touching (excuse the pun) anything labeled as Angora to look at another brand instead and pay that bit more

      Fair enough.

      So how do you feel about their Agora range?

        lol damn auto correct *blushes*

    I own the old 7" Kogan tablet. It also was good value for money BUT because Google Play limits what you can install based on your device name there are plenty of titles I can't install because it identifies itself as "telelinks..blah..". If this phone is the same then you can look forward to disappointment.
    Also, 4.0.4 is cr*p. When I upgraded from 2.3 to 4.0.4 I immediately wanted to upgrade to 4.1 to get rid of the bizarre & laggy response. I don't know if Kogan will put out an update but if not you can look forward to rooting the phone and getting away from that dog of a version.

      It's early days, but it isn't laggy and i have downloaded all my usual apps from Google Play with no issues (Evernote, Anydo, Camscanner, Instagram, ABC News etc). Mind you, i am also still using the Original iPad, so my starting refrence point is pretty low :-) Obviously would have preferred Jellybean but still, at $150...

    So Luke, basically you're saying you got over your agoraphobia?

    Hey, no need to push! I'm going, I'm going...

    Just received my Agora smartphone....biggest piece of crap..screen dies within 2 minutes so you can only see ghost like on it.. Did factory reset,2 minutes later same deal...Bluetooth does not work and sim decides when it wants to work,usually when you need it,it does not work...Delivery of phone was 2 weeks late...Contacted Kogan about problems and get email asking to send pictures of problems..hmmmmmm that's difficult..Sent pics of phone turned on so they can see that you cannot see screen and now being ignored.... Kogan is just a huge scam selling dodgy crap

    My phone arrived today and I was disappointed to find it had a faulty screen. Apparently this is not uncommon:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVkZif9gbCM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8a6W-tk3kk

    There are also quite a few people on Whirlpool not entirey convinced that Telstra 3G 850 works on the phone.

    Kogan is still shipping the phone with 3G Quad Band on the box despite their website showing different specs:

    http://i.imgur.com/BUObp5d.jpg

    Now the difficulty will be in getting the phone replaced or a refund. As the next batch is not shipping till April, I hope I won't have too much trouble getting a refund.

    Yes, despite being initially happy, have since discovered the phone will not work on 850. Back to Kogan it goes...

      Mine didn't want to run 3G 850. 2100 seems ok, if your within a km of the tower.

    It has no working GPS !
    Check the specifications at Kogan's website: mine has no GPS and is going back !
    Otherwise, its better than I expected but I wouldn't have bought if I had know the GPS was broken. I bought a Huawei for AUD79 and that had effective but not good GPS but this is twice the price and doesn't even try - phooey!

    Last edited 23/02/13 7:24 pm

    We received our Kogan Angora phone today and our expectations were low (we weren't expecting the earth due to the price) and we are still disappointed. The 3G 850 does not want to run, the screen cuts out. To activate the Kogan trial SIM you had to supply your date of birth, drivers license, medicare card details (!), address, and credit card details which made us worry about identity theft. Normally only 1 major and 1 minor form of ID is required for prepaid SIM activation we thought. We ended up changing 1 number in the drivers license and medicare number IDs and the SIM activated anyway (we were concerned about identiity theft and where this information would end up). Overall, I think this company should be charged with misleading Australian consumers. I am sending my crappy new Angora phone back to Kogan but am worried that receiving any response from the company since their customer service is reported to be very poor.

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