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Unihertz TickTock first look: 5G rugged phone with unique rear display

Unihertz seems to enjoy success with interesting phone launches on Kickstarter and its latest offering brings 5G, a massive capacity battery, rugged design elements, a decent camera, and a unique rear display.

Regular readers know I have a history of testing out the unique offerings from Unihertz, and a couple of its phones have earned a spot in my pocket for several months. The latest one serves as a powerful, rugged phone with a rather interesting small display on the back. That small display has some functionality, with more to come, but I wouldn't say that's the major reason to pick one up.

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For the past couple of weeks, I have been carrying an early prototype of the Unihertz TickTock. It has a very large 6,000 capacity battery and goes for at least two days while I have also experienced the fastest 5G downloads that I have ever seen on T-Mobile . The MSRP is $399, but there available prices to back the project on Kickstarter are available start as low as $279 with an estimated ship date of April 2022.

The Unihertz TickTock is the seventh phone launched on Kickstarter, and I've had the opportunity to test out the previous six. The phones are generally affordably priced, even outside of the Kickstarter special offers, and target niche segments of the smartphone market. Each one has far exceeded the modest Kickstarter goals, and I'm sure this one will likely see a similar response. There is a lot to like about this phone, even if you are not that interested in the rear display.


See also: Best rugged phone 2021: Your adventure (phone) awaits.  



Specifications

  • Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 700
  • Main display: 6.5-inches, 2340x1080 pixels resolution TFT LCD
  • Rear display (sub screen): 1.3-inches, 360x360 pixels touchscreen
  • Operating system: Android 11
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB internal storage with microSD support
  • Dust/water resistance: IP68
  • Cameras: 48-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Wireless technology: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS/BEIDOU/GLONASS, FM radio, infrared
  • LTE bands: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,17,18,19,20,25,26,28A,28B,34,38,39,40,41,66
  • 5G bands: 1,2,3,5,7,8,12,20,25,28,38,40,41,66,77,78
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, barometer, and compass
  • Battery: 6,000mAh non-removable
  • Dimensions: 176 x 85.6 x 14.9mm and 308g

Hardware

The Unihertz TickTock is a large and heavy phone with ample bezels around the display and an unusual form factor. The front is dominated by the 6.5-inch display with rounded corners and a center front-facing camera notch. The display looks great with vivid colors and crisp fonts. It's also a flat display so there are no issues with inadvertent screen presses.

The top and bottom of the phone angle up to peaks on either end, which is something we haven't seen before and looks to be simply a design element. On the right side, we have two metal volume buttons and then the power button below these, just about in the middle of the right side. This power button also serves as a reliable fingerprint sensor, and I love it. The metal side piece is also indented just a bit to narrow up the phone a small amount on either side.

The left side houses two buttons, colored red, that can be customized for your use. They can be used to toggle the back display on and off too. The SIM/microSD card slot is located up on the left side. An IR transmitter is embedded at the top of the phone. The USB-C port is hidden under a rubber port cover on the bottom.

Flip the TickTock over, and you can see why Unihertz gave this phone that name. A round 1.3-inch diameter color touch display is centered on the upper back with a 48MP camera on the left side. A flashlight is positioned about this camera, but it also looks likes there is a camera on the right side of this display. I have yet to figure out what this other camera is and have asked my contact for more information in case this is a prototype design element.


See also: Best Android phone 2021: Top expert picks.


There is also a mono speaker down on the bottom left side of the back, under the Unihertz label. The back panel has a matte, kevlar look and feel to it. The metal housing around the display and camera is substantial and a prominent design feature of this phone.

Software

The Unihertz TickTock launches with Android 11 out of the box, and the prototype I tested has a September 5, 2021 Android security update installed. While I have tested all of the Unihertz Android phones, in the prototype stage, I have not seen regular software updates and recommend you purchase the phone for what it does at the time it is sold without holding much hope for timely updates.

The phone runs a fairly stock version of Android with just a few specific settings for the rear display, extra buttons, and intelligent assistance. The intelligent assistance settings include options for the network manager, app blocker, LED notification (green light on the upper back), flip to mute, QR code scanner, and more.

In addition to the Google basics such as calculator, calendar, camera, Chrome, Gmail, Maps, Messages, and more, you get a few apps from Unihertz. These include an FM radio, IR remote control app, music player, NoteBook, sound recorder, and Toolbox.

The Toolbox is full of useful utilities that enhance the phone's functionality. The tools in the Toolbox include a sound meter, compass, flashlight, bubble level, picture hanger tool, heart rate monitor, height measuring utility, magnifier, pedometer, barometer, speedometer, alarm, plumb bob, and protractor. It's cool to see the camera used with some of these tools to provide an augmented reality experience that provides you with a device for accurate measurements.

The home screen also supports common app widgets to customize your Android experience. The Quick Controls section from the notification shade can also be customized to your personal preferences.


See also: Unihertz Atom XL hands-on: Four-inch display, 48MP camera, and DMR support for less than $330.


Initial usage experiences

The Unihertz TickTock has a very large 6,000mAh battery inside, and even with fairly heavy usage, I have been able to go two full days with the phone for the past couple of weeks. It also supports 30W fast charging, and the battery has been one area I never even thought about while using this phone.

There are usually some compromises with coverage and support for all available bands on your carrier with these unlocked phones that are designed for worldwide use. That is the case here too, but T-Mobile n41 is one of the supported 5G bands, and I've seen faster speeds with this phone (492Mbps down) than I have with any other phone I have tested over the past year. I was frankly blown away by the 5G performance. Phone calls and LTE coverage were also very good with the TickTock.

I dipped the phone in the water and ran with it in the rain, knowing that it was built to withstand the elements thanks to its IP68 rating.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've tried to make sure to use the rear display and found myself mainly using it to check the time and to capture selfies. An always-on display can serve the same purpose on other phones, so at this time, I find it pretty limited. As mentioned above, there are specific settings for managing what you can do with this display. Unihertz stated that it is working to provide more functionality and capability for this display. It will be interesting to see what the company comes up with, but it's also a display just for viewing since a keyboard on there would be of minimal use. Do you have any ideas of what Unihertz can do to make this display more useful?

The phone performed well and was very responsive. I've been spoiled by 120Hz refresh rates on displays and can't go back to a 60Hz phone as my daily driver. Then again, I am always thinking of the battery on my Z Fold 3  so it was refreshing to never even think about the battery on the TickTock. 

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