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Hands On with RCA's Budget Unlocked Androids

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Jan 6, 2016, 6:17 PM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome

The unlocked phone market is taking off in the States, and RCA is one company trying to take on the budget end of that market with a range of Android phones that sell for around $80-100 unlocked. We checked out the first LTE model in their lineup.

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RCA isn't actually a manufacturer of phones, they're just licensing their brand to a company named Curtis. You probably haven't heard of Curtis, which is the whole reason they're using the RCA brand. But Curtis isn't the actual manufacturer, either. They contract that out to an unnamed Asian ODM. Curtis is the main company here, though, deciding what to bring to market and how, with RCA overseeing mainly to make sure their brand isn't tarnished. Curtis is focusing on the US and Canadian markets with this line of RCA phones. RCA licenses their brand to other companies - with their own phone lineups - in other countries.

So what does Curtis' lineup of RCA phones look like? Well, it looks a lot like Blu's lineup, which is no coincidence since that is their main competitor in the affordable, unlocked space. Blu's phones tend to be more stylish and some are higher-end, while RCA is really focusing on price. Some models with LTE and large screens reach $150, but that's the top end for them. Most are under $100.

These phones retail at places like BrandsMart, P.C. Richards, and even dollar stores. They're really for the most price-conscious consumer.

RCA RLTP5558  

They have a few LTE models, but the first and most mainstream is the RLTP5558. (That really rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) It has a 5.5-inch display, LTE, and 8-megapixel camera, and a 2-megapixel camera. Under the hood is a 1 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor (MTK6735). You'll also find 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM.

Most everything about the phone is what you'd expect for a phone that's about $100. The screen is average for this price point. I've seen worse, but if you need a great screen, you'll need to spend more than this. The materials are standard plastic. The side keys aren't great; they're sharp and take too much effort to press.

The software is very plain Android 5.1, as is common on this type of phone.

Quite frankly, if you're reading this site, you probably care more about the details and performance of your phone than anyone that would buy this phone. But it's interesting to see what companies are doing at the low end of the wild west that is the US unlocked phone market today.

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CES 2016
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