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Hands-On with Freetel's US-Bound Smartphones

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Jan 6, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Freetel believes it can win over U.S. consumers with the Kiwami, Miyabi, Priori3, and Musashi Android smartphones. These inexpensive handsets should put other low-cost makers such as Huawei and ZTE on notice. Here is a brief look at these phones from the land of the rising sun.

Freetel is anxious to add its roster of smartphones to the growing number of handsets that are sold online directly to consumers. Freetel tells us that sales of unlocked phones have reached about 4 million per annum in the U.S., which is enough of a market opportunity that Freetel can't ignore the market any longer. Freetel is Japan's fourth-largest carrier and owns the entire supply chain behind its branded handsets. Here is a really brief look at the four phones headed to the U.S.


This is Freetel's King Kong phone. It's a flagship in the vein of the Huawei Mate 8 or LeTV Max Pro. The hardware is quite good, the quad HD screen impressive, and the price point ($389) is delicious. I was impressed with the build quality and the minimalist use of metal, glass, and plastic to form the design. It is light in the hand, but the 6-inch display means it has a rather large footprint. The fingerprint sensor on the back is wicked fast. Freetel says the 21-megapixel Sony camera has a 6-lens system for focusing.



This phone is a step down from the Kiwami but is still impressive. This phone is smaller and easier to hold/use. It has a nice metal frame forming the exterior edges. The dual glass panel design invokes the Sony Xperia Z series a bit. You'd never guess the Miyabi costs only $199. The build, materials, and design are classy through and through.



The Priori3 is an entry-level phone that would fit in with any prepaid carrier in the U.S. It looks and feels like a $99 phone. The plastic shell is glossy and smooth, but it collects gross finger grime. I wasn't all that impressed by the display or the control buttons along the side.



We haven't seen one of these in a while. The Musashi is a large clamshell that has two full 4-inch touchscreens. The exterior display has 800 x 480 resolution while the interior display steps up to qHD resolution. Each operates the full Android operating system easily. The keypad is particularly large, making the Musashi ridiculously long when fully opened. I like that the d-pad can push the selector around on the home screen panels. The keys are flat and aren't all that easy to find. I didn't care for the travel and feedback of the buttons, either. Freetel isn't quite sure when this phone will arrive and hasn't set a price for U.S. consumers just yet.


About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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Jan 7, 2016, 2:51 PM

Looking Forward to the Musashi

I've wanted a smart flip phone for a while. I'm still using my non-smart flip phone from 2012, but since my dog recently chewed up its outer screen and camera lens, I'll happily buy the Musashi if it's reasonably priced. Given how much bigger it is than a traditional flip phone, it should feel even more like a real telephone--imagine, a cell phone that's well adapted to making phone calls!
I am a little concerned that the Musashi is going to be too large when opened. The Nokia N75 that I had years ago was also rather large for a flip phone - being a Symbian S60 smartphone flip phone - but the Musashi will be much larger from the descri...
Lenovo a588t is the cheapest right now for $80-120 with only android 4.4 and 2g only.

Samsung galaxy folder with android 5 for $300 but 3g only (1900mhz) for AT&T and T-Mo.

Lg Wine Smart with 4.4 for $300-ish too. Better than Galaxy folder in lo...
According to http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2497600, 00.asp, the Musashi "will probably cost $249."

Jan 6, 2016, 11:37 AM

Love the Idea of a Flip Phone

...They'll make a comeback...just watch.
I hope so. Reminds me of my old Nokia N75 in a way, but I'm sure it will be much improved. I hope the Musashi does well when it reaches the US, so that others may be tempted to make clamshell Android smartphones for the US market in the future. If ...
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