Kogan Agora 4G: Australian Review

Kogan isn't alone in the low-cost Android game these days. Can it keep up with the bigger names in the fight for your bottom dollar?

What Is It?

The latest phone from Kogan to bear the “Agora” name comes with a 1.2Ghz Quad-Core processor, 5″ display screen with a stated resolution of 1280 by 720, 8MP rear camera and Android 4.4, AKA “KitKat”.

The new Agora gives you more than the last model by featuring Category 4 4G antenna on the 700MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz bands, expandable storage up to 64GB by virtue of a MicroSD card and Bluetooth 4.0.

The Kogan Agora 4G goes on sale from 5 August and will set you back $229 (plus delivery). That puts it right in the middle of the Moto G ($249) and Moto E ($179).

What's Good?

The new Agora 4G looks exactly the same as the old Agora, which is to say that it looks like a reminiscent throw-back to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It was one of the first Google Nexus devices, and it was excellent (until Samsung stopped updating it). Kogan and its new partner in phones, BenQ, want to continue this excellent legacy into the future, but instead of a premium phone at an extra-premium price, it wants to compete on the other end of the market: decent hardware at a cheap price to give consumers excellent bang for buck.

The Agora 4G is the third such handset from Kogan, and the first to come in tandem with another brand attached to it. Kogan is serious about making phones and it's demanding to be noticed in what's becoming a very crowded cheap phone marketplace.

For the first time in a long time, we have a real ball game on our hands at the bottom end of the market. If you want a smartphone that doesn't suck these days, you may only have to part with between $180 and $350 of your hard-earned dollars depending on what you need. So let's break down the Agora by the numbers and see how it really stacks up to the competition.

Competitors to the $229 Agora 4G on a sliding scale from cheapest to most expensive include the Moto E at $179, the Moto G for $249, and $399 for the Nexus 5. The Agora 4G fits neatly at the bottom of the scale, and that's a perfect spot for it from a bang-for-buck perspective.

Now that every carrier that matters offers 4G on their pre-paid services, it's smart that Kogan ditches the dual-SIM option offered in previous Agora models in favour of a pure-4G device. That's going to make it look more appealing than the cheaper option, the Motorola Moto E which still has dual-SIM instead of 4G support. Notch one up for the Agora 4G.

It's also interesting to see that Kogan and BenQ have teamed up on design for the new Agora this year as well. Previously, Agora handsets have been 5-inch, black, rubberised bricks, but this one is different. It's packing red accents around the camera lens, and the front and rear speaker grilles. Everything is nicely centred and the rear cover isn't an all-encompassing shell like on previous models (which looks and feels terrible), it's a handsome little plate. We like the way this one's put together.

One thing the Moto products really have going for them is where they were developed: in the beating heart of the Google beast itself. As a result, both are running the closest thing to stock Android they possibly can, which makes them cut-price Nexus devices by anyone's calculation. To compete, Kogan is back with another vanilla version of Android 4.4 KitKat to keep users happy. And when we say, vanilla, we mean it. The only bells and whistles Kogan has thrown at this is pretty average video editing and camera software, which thankfully can be replaced. So from a software standpoint, all three cut-price models kick stock Android goals.

From a hardware perspective, the Agora 4G is impressively well-stocked versus its competition. It's packing a 1.2GHz quad-core processor which is faster than the Moto E and matches the Moto G at a lower price; 1GB of RAM much like both Moto competitors and a bigger 5-inch screen.

Interestingly, the Agora 4G hasn't changed much from the previous iteration, the Agora Quad-Core. The new Agora features the same 1.2GHz quad-core processor as its predecessor, the same 5-inch screen, the same 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

The new Agora gives you more than its bigger brother by featuring Category 4 4G antenna on the 700MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz bands, expandable storage up to 64GB by virtue of a MicroSD card and Bluetooth 4.0.

None of this is bad per sé, but it is interesting to see the ongoing maturity of the Agora brand. I'd hazard a guess that we're reaching the limit of bang for buck that Kogan can offer its customers in the Agora range. $229 gets you a fantastic device with better connectivity options than ever before for $30 more than the previous generation. Clearly there's a margin in there for the manufacturer and the reseller otherwise it wouldn't exist, but with specs so similar to the last model and a price barely more expensive, it's safe to assume that the Agora is well on its way to brand maturity.

Maturity means that evolution and brand diversification is coming. Don't be surprised if at CES next year we're telling you about a flagship-level phone from Kogan that looks set to cost around $400-$600.

Where was I?

Oh right.

What's Bad?

Like all cheap phones, Kogan and BenQ had to make concessions when building Agora 4G so it would fit neatly into that $229 price point.

Despite the fact that BenQ makes displays and imaging products all the live-long day, the screen on the Agora 4G is sadly sub-standard. I didn't expect a $229 handset to have a 1080p panel, but a 720p one where I couldn't see every single individual pixel while also lamenting the lack of saturation would have been nice. It almost looks like you're viewing the device through a piece of Cling Wrap.

Also, as we mentioned earlier, you're going to want to replace the Gallery and Camera software as soon as you can. It's deeply average. Set your defaults to Google default apps you can download from the Play Store like Chrome for your browser, Google Camera, Google Keyboard and Google Photos.

Finally, the camera module may say 8-megapixels on the box but as we've seen before, it takes more than a megapixel count to take a decent image. Mind you, if you expect to get a flagship-quality image out of a bargain-basement-priced product, you're doing it entirely wrong.

Should You Buy It?

So it seems that Kogan's claim of having the cheapest 4G phone on the market in Australia right now holds up. Pretty spectacularly too, I must say. Whenever I pick up a cheap Android handset, I imagine the things I'd rather live with on a day-to-day basis than the device in question. Phones like the Agora 4G, and the Motos E and G, however, have completely changed my mind on the cheap end of the market. Phones like these are no longer terrible.

If you want a great 4G phone with mid-market specs at a small price, look no further than the brand new Agora.


Comments

    Ha ! Kogan. I have to buy another phone charger today because the crap kogan one that came with my G2 shat itself on the weekend. The phone is less than 8 months old. Never buying from Kogan again. Will wait until JB HiFi gets the G3 before I get one this time.

      ok i have shopped at kogan a lot and i must say they are good as a retailer, just dont buy there cheap crap like phones and tv. they are cheap knockoffs.

      ummm don't LG package the charger in the box? I wouldn't think Kogan are swapping them out for their own charger?

        That's what I thought but the charger has a big kogan printed on it.

          that's weird. Might be because they get OS stock and swap them out for australian plugs.

            That would explain it. I remember getting a galaxy note from mobilecity (I think that was their name) and all the bloatware was in polish. I wish they would release these phones all at the same time. It sucks to have to wait till Australia gets the phone after everyone else bar the US .

      I tried the first Agora.... it's laggy as... why are we marking this as a good phone... I have no idea.

      Even scrolling between home screen was jittery. If you want a super cheap and decent phone, just get Nexus.

        The Nexus 5 is a great phone at a very reasonable price. But this phone is just over HALF the price of a Nexus 5. So yes, it's not as good as a Nexus in many ways, it does actually have some advantages (expandable storage, 700 MHz LTE) and remember - you can buy 2 of them for the same price as a 32Gb Nexus 5.

      So you are blaming Kogan because the charger has died?? have you spoken to Kogan to get a replacement charger since your phone is less than 8 months old so it's still under warranty??

      Also you have to remember that the phones that Kogan sell are "grey market" phones, so essentially they are phones being sold in an overseas market so it would come with a AU/NZ Compliant generic charger and/or adaptor.

        That's why I won't buy a phone from them again cause it takes too long to get a replacement. I went to officeworks and bought a more powerful charger for 24 dollars. I will admit the prices are good for the phone but it's a hassle if something goes wrong.

      Let's see, no updates to Android at all from Kogan, but they were quick on the moto g. The screen cracks very easily and no replacements are available so its back to Kogan at $200 min, and no NFC so lots of things like banking or screen casts aren't possible. Mind you the moto g doesn't have NFC either. But Kogan is a cheap product with no support so suggest spend a few dollars for at least something that updates your Android versions when they are out.

    If I read one more story on giz implying Kogan (or iinet for that matter ) has anything beyond the application of a sticker and local support to the hardware they flog, I will fully do my rag. Please do a little basic research before writing these fawning "kogan did this or that, how smart" articles. http://androidcommunity.com/benq-is-back-in-the-game-with-f5-and-t3-4g-smartphones-20140701/ . Ta.

    I really wanted to like the Agora HD phone, and bought one for our oldest kid for his birthday. Long story short, after two months, two replacement phones, a lot of emails, uploaded photos and videos of various issues, as well as the hassle of sending phones back to Kogan, we asked for our money back, I got a new HTC One M8, and the boy got my 11 month old HTC One M7. Damn, but the whole experience has really put me off Kogan phones.

    I may be wrong so please correct me if I am, but if the CPU in this unit the MTK brand may mean many custom ROMs will not work on it. If you don't know what a custom ROM is, no problem, you will never notice.

    I bought a cheap chinese phone with similar specs/form factor to the previous Agora phone when travelling recently due to someone wanting my Nexus 5 more than I did, and found it suprisingly good! I have kept it to use as a wifi AP and replaced with a Moto G after cracking the screen.

    Might as well get the Huawei G6 which is also Cat 4 LTE with a nicer screen and better resolution more or less same price Optus Outright and unlock $239
    or the Nokia 635 no front cam and not as nice as the screen on Huawei G6 but $240 and 4G plus Windows Phone 8.1 with Cyan update and a MicroSD that will even take 128 gigs,

    I got my Kogan Agora 4G smartphone yesterday and a disappointing thing is that it cant pick up my Amaysim 3G network at my home in Lane Cove North NSW very well. Considering that the most important use of a smartphone is to be able to make and receive calls, this is a major letdown!

    My wife has an Aldi Bauhn Sphere 5" smartphone which also uses the Amaysim 3G network (Optus Network) and while the Bauhn phone sitting next to the Kogan phone shows 3 full bars out of 4 bars in its red network triangle, the Kogan phone very often shows no bars (indicating no signal, so you cant use the phone). The Kogan network triangle is in a light grey colour network triangle which is not easy to see. However, when I went into the Westfield Chatswood Centre the Kogan got a full 4 bar triangle and worked very well - For example when i answered a call on the Kogan phone, I could hear very clearly & did not need to put the phone on loadspeaker which I have to do if I am using the Aldi Bauhn smartphone. I am not sure what is causing the poor reception of the Amaysim 3G Network on the Kogan phone - Is it that the Kogan phone is failing to easily pick up the Amaysim 3G signal or does it only work well with a 4G signal?

    The Kogan picks up my WiFi network well Len Lane Cove NSW

    Kogan is using this site's expose of their phone as a link for the Ultra High Density TVs. Some one needs to look into the shoddy way that business is trying to suck people into buying their shoddy priced products.

    The only problem is that when things go wrong, Kogan really don't care.
    My Agora went stupid after an firmware upgrade and I was expected to pay big bucks to have it looked at.. I have bought MANY Kogan products but am starting to realise the old saying is most true.. "You get what you pay for"

    The Kogan Agora 4G+ is a piece crap! I have had this phone for atleast 6 months and it was good to start off with but over time it it gets worse.

    Too start off with does the phone even have a file manager as an app? I can't arrange my files on the phone so I have to plug it in a computer.

    Another question. How do you update the firmware as it doesn't update automatically like any other android device would do?

    Don't even get me started on the camera. Its blurry and you can't turn off the picture snapping sound.

    The internet connection ehhhh. My iPod 4G has a better connection.

    You can't choose your own ringtone from your play list.

    This just recently happened. When I save pictures to my phone it goes to my internal storage. The only problem is that the phone doesn't recognize my internal storage for some reason so I have to plug my phone in to the computer, locate these picture and drag them into my SD card so I can actually see them. I have tried changing the settings for my downloads to got to my SD card but that didn't work.

    Some good points: It has a very fast processing speed.
    Its great for watching HD movies as it has a large screen so you can really get involved and the audio is pretty good.

    Conclusion: A really good cheap smartphone for dumbass people that don't know how to use a phone.

    My Kogan Agora 4G phone froze this morning (8 hours ago), the screen is totally stuck, I can't switch my phone off and with this model/brand I can't remove the battery. Is it broken permanently, can it somehow be 'unfrozen'?? Help

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