The TCL 20S is fast becoming a very popular phone in the US and UK, and the reason is its price – it costs less than $250. But is the TCL 20S any good? Let’s find out…
Cheap phones are ten a penny these days. In fact, if you want the most possible choice when it comes to your next phone, you’ll find way more options at the bottom of the market – this is where all the competition is. You have brands like Xiaomi and RealMe, for instance, but there is also TCL in the mix these days as well. And the TCL 20S is one of the company’s most popular Android phones.
But is the TCL 20S actually any good? This is kind of a loaded question; it’s a loaded question because it depends on what you want to do with it and what you’re comparing it against. Is it better than the iPhone 13? No – not even close. Is it good compared to a similarly priced, sub-$300 Android phone? Yes, the TCL 20S is a pretty decent little package.
At this end of the market, you cannot be too fussy about things like camera tech, overall performance, and things 5G. Most sub-$300 Android phones will not ship with 5G support and OLED displays – they just cost too much. And when you’re chasing bargain-basement prices, corners need to be cut and concessions have to be made – usually things like 5G support, OLED displays, and the camera module.
To get a better idea of what makes the TCL 20S tick, let’s first take a look at the TCL 20S’s specs. After this, I’ll dig into what’s important and what’s not so important on a phone of this caliber. What you need to keep in mind is that this phone is a CHEAP phone; it is not designed to compete with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S22 or Apple’s iPhone 13 – it is designed to be affordable and accessible for people on tighter budgets.
TCL 20S Specs – Full Specifications
- Display Size: 6.7in
- Dimensions: 166.2 x 76.9 x 9.1 mm
- Battery Size: 5000mAh
- Screen Resolution: 2400 x 1080 pixels, 60Hz
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 128GB
- Headphone Jack: Yes
- 5G: No
- 4G: Yes
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
- Main Camera: 64Mp + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP
- Front Camera: 16MP
- Charging Speed: 18W
- Colors: Milky Way Gray, Frosted Blue
As you can see, there’s a fair amount of good stuff in the TCL 20S’ specs list. You have a headphone jack, support for 4G, a massive 5000mAh battery, and a decently high display resolution. And the display size – 6.7in – is pretty big as well, around the same size as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, so the phone will be great for viewing media and mobile games.
With storage, the TCL 20S comes with 128GB as standard. That’s pretty good, offering more than enough space for most people – especially if you leverage a Google One cloud account (as most people do). The RAM at 4GB is pretty low but, again, at this price point that is to be expected. As is the low-grade Snapdragon processor. It’ll still handle most things fine, but it is not a chipset that was designed with power users in mind.
With the camera, you have a 16MP on the front, again, not too bad, and a quad-array camera module on the rear fronted by a 64MP wide-lens camera, an 8MP ultra-wide, and two additional 2MP sensors – one’s for macro shots. These latter two cameras are not great, they’re there more for show than substance. But, again, that’s pretty much a given at this end of the market.
For most people, the 64MP main camera will be fine for social media posts and snapping pictures of family and friends. If you need or want something better, you’re going to have to pay more money. My advice? Get the Pixel 5a or iPhone SE 3 – both have very decent cameras and do not cost the earth. Or, save up some cash and get an iPhone 13; its camera and overall performance are utterly brilliant.
As you’d expect at this price point, there are more than a few concessions aboard the TCL 20S. The phone itself runs Android 11, almost two generations behind the latest iteration of Android – Android 13 launches soon. TCL has also NOT confirmed whether or not the phone will be getting any future updates, so you could be stuck on Android 11 for good. Again, this isn’t ideal.
The software, while perfectly useable, isn’t up to the standard you’ll find on Samsung, Apple, or Google phones. Most Chinese phones have a distinct lack of quality in this department, and TCL is no different. It works, sure. But I wouldn’t want to be using it long-term. I feel much the same way about Xiaomi phones, so don’t think I’m just ragging on TCL here. The only exception to this rule, in my opinion, is RealMe; I really quite like the software it runs on its phones.
With the SD 665 CPU paired with 4GB of RAM, you have more than enough performance for doing simple things like downloading apps, cruising the internet, and accessing social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But it will not be able to handle more advanced tasks, and some CPU-intensive games may cause the phone problems – things like overheating and lag. If all you need is a phone for email, apps, and social media, it’ll be fine.
Is The TCL 20S Worth Buying?
If you’re on a tight budget but you need a phone that can run apps, take decent looking pictures, has great battery life, and runs things like a headphone jack, the TCL 20S is a great option – for less than $300, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better phone on the US market right now.
Having said that, I would definitely have a good look around at some of the alternatives. Motorola has some great options right now, in and around this price point, and so too do RealMe and VIVO, if you’re in the UK, Europe, or Asia. Would I recommend the TCL 20S? Yes, but only under the condition that all you want to do with the phone is run apps, go on social media, browse the web, send messages, and send and receive email.
The TCL 20S will do all of these things fine, but if you want anything more advanced, I’d advise that you look at picking up an older, refurbished iPhone instead. You’ll get better support from Apple with updates, significantly better performance, and an all-around better-built phone (even if it is a couple of years old).
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Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.
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