Czech-American brand Verzo is new to PC Advisor's reviews section, and the Verzo Kinzo is its first smartphone. Running old Android 2.2 Froyo, and with some outdated hardware that poses no threat to the smartphone-market leaders, it's certainly no competitor to the Apple iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S II.
That's okay, though: Verzo has actively decided not to play the sheep, instead urging consumers to come together and help it stand up to the bigger brands.
"We wanted to create a phone that would be open to its owners as much as the Google Android OS is open to its community. We wanted to build a phone that would not be the slimmest, the best in performance or the most expensive, but to create a phone that would go its own way and never leave it," states Verzo's press release.
The company claims to have great respect for the opinions of its customers, and it shows. Originally priced at €420, negative feedback led Verzo to drop the Kinzo's price to just €309 (or €339 with the GPS kit). It even returned the difference to those who had bought the phone at its previous ticket.
Combine that with the inclusion of free Sygic navigation software, with maps of Europe and Russia, and free shipping worldwide, and this phone offers great value. Note that we didn't test Sygic for this review, set up as it was in Czech.
User input required
Perhaps more importantly, though, Verzo wants Kinzo users to guide development of its smartphone's interface. In its current form, the Kinzo runs a stripped-down version of Android 2.2. The three Home screens are notably bare (you can add up to four more), and the Applications menu is devoid of any social-networking or multimedia apps. Instead, Kinzo offers TellMe, a community application for submitting your own suggestions for future software updates.
At the time of writing, just two requests had been submitted via TellMe. One user wanted an upgrade to Android 2.3, plus more speed and apps, while the other would like to see the headphone jack to be moved from the side to the top of the device, which would make it easier to listen to music via the supplied earbuds while the device is in a pocket. We second both suggestions.
Verzo says its custom GUI is Android how it should be. Save for the weather widget and a few new wallpapers, we didn't spot many differences. Further customisation will occur over time, we believe.
When the Kinzo landed in our Test Centre, Verzo scored a win on first impressions. The Kinzo ships in a large rectangular black box, with one corner tapered off in a design that's reminiscent of the smartphone's own angular chassis. Inside, all the gubbins - which include mains and car chargers, an 8GB MicroSD card, a leather case, earbuds, a MicroUSB cable and a thick printed user manual - are individually boxed and neatly stowed away. There are several dividing foam layers, and a clear plastic sheet over the phone itself that converts the box into a display case of sorts.
So, here we have a smartphone made by a company with strong morals and a good sense of humour, that encourages user-led development and plays to our intrinsic desire to stick up for the little guy. It's well priced and impressively packaged. But is that enough to sway our opinion?
The Kinzo won't look down its nose at other smartphones, boasting about how many processor cores or camera megapixels it has, says Verzo. Indeed, it can't. Yet our informal tests found performance to be adequate.
We loaded up a few free games from Android Market, and found smooth framerates in Dragon, Fly and Raging Thunder, a well implemented accelerometer in Army Sniper and Air Penguin, and good touchscreen calibration and a large viewing area in Angry Birds.
The single-core TI OMAP 3630 processor is clocked faster than those found in many budget smartphones, at 1GHz, and paired with 512MB of NAND flash memory. There's also a 4.3in capacitive multitouch TFT panel, capable of displaying 800x480 pixels and usefully wide for viewing web pages in landscape mode. This display isn't very bright, though, and its colours are incredibly dull. It's also fairly reflective.
Also going against the Kinzo's favour are wireless connectivity that stretches only to 802.11b/g and a lowly 5Mp camera with autofocus and an LED flash that produces overexposed shots. Perhaps in recognition of its poor quality, there's no dedicated button to invoke the camera on the smartphone's casing. You also get a secondary VGA-resolution snapper for video chat.
Worse, though, is the smartphone's design. And that's surprising, given its outsourcing to a design studio, Novague, also based in Prague.
Housed in its plastic casework, the Kinzo feels durable, yet toy-like. Its angular, diamond-inspired design is fairly attractive, but we found it far too big. Ape-handed men might get on a little better with the Kinzo, but we found comfortable one-handed use impossible - this smartphone sports chunky measurements in every dimension.
Our sample came with a European two-pin mains adaptor. The 5.66Wh battery takes a long time to charge over USB; plugged into a PC, the battery was only 20 percent full after an hour. However, in line with other large-screen Android handsets, you can expect the battery to last one day. Verzo cites a 16-hour runtime.