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.
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.
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.
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.