It seems like I’m suckered in every couple of years. Getting a new cell phone is one of the most exciting, annoying, and I’d argue wasteful things we do as a society. Companies love to promise us the world with each new device they deliver, and we line up like robots to gain access to what most times amounts to the same model with an upgraded screen, camera, and processor. Do we ever stop and ask ourselves what we truly need though? I’d venture a guess that if asked most would respond they use their cell for texts, Facetime, a few games, Snapchat, taking some pics, and perhaps watching reels. The reality is, a phone like the prepaid TCL 40 XE 5G is perfectly capable of handling these types of actions. It also costs about a grand less.
The TCL 40 XE 5G features a fairly simple build. It has a plastic body and a similar screen. It’s 6.56 inch screen gets decently bright and responds quite well due to a 90 Hz refresh rate. Comparably, my Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is made with an “Aluminum armor” and has a gorilla glass screen. This is nice, but it’s very heavy and bulky. Additionally, I once dropped it and there is now a major chink out of the side of that armor. I felt sick when it happened because the phone was relatively new. While I’m not going to test the durability of the TCL, something tells me I’d feel a lot less terrible if I dropped it (unless it broke). If it does break, the price point is so much better at $119.99 (at the time of this writing). My current phone runs just over $1k.
I did my testing on the Verizon network, and therefore coverage was great. All phone calls and voices come through crystal clear, and obviously texting is not an issue. I use the pre-installed messaging app on the phone and don’t mind the differences vs. Message+ which comes preinstalled on most Galaxy phones. If I truly want to switch, I can just head over to the Google Play store and download that app. Apps work like a breeze as well. As an Android device, the 2.2 Ghz processor coupled with 4GB of RAM allowed me to play most basic games easily, and it also holds up on emulators too.
Photos should be terrible on this thing though right? Not exactly. This little beast with a mere 13MP camera somehow takes some pretty vibrant pics too. Basic snapshots turn out lively and rich. Side by side comparisons of pics with my current Galaxy left me a little stunned. The big difference certainly comes through in low light situations and with zoom. Digital zoom on the photos also reveal some pixelation, but how often are we checking that? The TCL cannot hold up to the advanced cameras of Galaxy and iPhone, but it holds its weight. Video leaves a lot to be desired – though it does record in 1080p at 30fps. Optimally, I’d like to see 1080p at 60. Again though, for the average user, it’s hard to deny the TCL works just fine.
Battery life is fantastic on the TCL 40 XE. Where my current giant of a phone needs charging every eight hours or so, the TCL lasts for nearly two days. I still need to use the Galaxy for work and it gets a bit more heavy use. There is no chance it will last a full day regardless. TCL opted to include a 5000 mAh battery in the phone, granting it long life even with plenty of use. It may just be my favorite thing about this cell. It allows me to use the phone for a variety of media and audiobooks without the need to worry about it dying when I need it most. If it does need a charge, the USB C port makes it easy to do so, and I’m loaded up with cables.
In conclusion, testing the TCL reminds me of my days working at Best Buy. Folks came in to buy a computer. “What do you plan to use it for?” I would ask. The vast majority of people wanted a laptop that browsed the internet, allowed them to watch videos, and worked with Microsoft Office. They needed a simple laptop, and I would tell them that. I could sell them one for a few hundred bucks. They wanted to see more though. So I would take them over to a Mac and show them some very basic features. Many times they couldn’t resist and would drop the $2k for something they really didn’t need. It was crazy.
The TCL 40 XE 5G phone will do what you need it to do. It’s a great phone – and don’t let the fact that it’s prepaid push you away. Ask yourself – do I really need the iPhone or latest Android? Many of us are buying a Mac when we need a simple laptop. I say save the dough.