Local telecoms firm, Seemahale Telecoms is readying the launch of a new smartphone that it hopes will help to connect more South African’s to the internet.

The SeeTel Phoenix smartphones are set to launch in December and while the phones are cheap, Seemahale Telecoms founder and director, Dr. Thabo Lehlokoe assures us that isn’t a way of saying they’re cheaply made.

“We want to provide people with an affordable way to access content online without sacrificing quality. Many people in South Africa can’t afford something like a laptop and we think that something like this [the Phoenix smartphone] will provide people with a way to access online content and communicate with friends and family,” Dr. Lehlokoe told htxt.

“We want people to look at us and say ‘they offer value for money’ not that we offer the cheapest smartphone,” he said.

The handsets in question are the SeeTel Phoenix ST500 and the ST510.

The former is set to retail for R1 899 and the specifications are quite decent. Inside is a Cortex A-53 quad core CPU running at 1GHz that is paired with 1GB of RAM. There is 16GB of internal memory which is small but you can expand this with a 32GB microSD card if you wish.

Of course the handset does sport a camera on the front and back with the former housing a 8MP sensor and the latter a 5MP snapper.

The specs are low but when you consider that this handset is being targeted at those folks who have no internet connectivity at all, it might mean a substantial upgrade.

The ST510 seems like your average mid-tier smartphone. You have an octa-core Cotex A53 CPU (four cores at 1.3GHz and four more at 1.5GHz) paired with 3GB RAM and 16GB of internal capacity. The rear camera is a 13MP affair and the front is an 8MP snapper that we see in most, if not all, mid-tier smartphones today. The phone also has a rather tempting price of R3 499.

“For the price you pay you get incredible value, we want to be like Lexus in that respect,” said Dr. Lehlokoe.

Seemahale Telecoms also hopes to bring manufacturing of the phone to our shores. “In the near future we hope to be assembling the devices locally. Right now they are being manufactured and assembled in China but we hope to have a local factory up and running soon,” says the co-founder.

Now, we usually give manufacturers a hard time for only giving us 16GB of internal storage. In regards to the ST500 that should be a decent amount of storage but the larger ST510 poses a problem what with its big camera.

Thankfully, it’s a problem Seemahale Telecoms has already addressed.

Crunch time

The handsets are set to ship with an app called CrunchCam. This app takes your photos and shrinks the size down, substantially. We took an image that came in at 10.24MB, using CrunchCam that image shrunk down to 1.21MB.

Now if we’re honest, there is a dip in the quality of the image.We also noticed that once we resized the original image on the left, it shrunk down to 1.9MB.

The point of this app is to reduce the storage capacity needed inside a smartphone while also allowing folks to share images online or with friends and family. The app is free but you are only able to crunch 1GB of photos. You can get an additional 250MB by sharing the app with friends and another 250MB for writing a review but once that is done you will need to pay $4.99 for unlimited crunches.

While you can download the app through the Apple App Store or through Google Play, SeeTel will be packaging the app with its smartphone as SeeTel Crunch, an exclusive deal with the developer, iCelero.

The SeeTel brand has big expectations for its handsets and we hope those aspirations come to fruition. Our criticism of the Crunch app aside, these handsets look like they do offer users value for money but we reserve our judgement until we get our hands on them when the smartphones launch in December.