Duoqin F 21 Pro, LOL I'm still laughing at it.
If Nokia and Xiaomi made a baby ...
Okay, It may seem like an odd choice at first sight. I hear you saying ‘Why on earth you’d go backward?’, ‘That screen size is unpractical’, ‘Seriously! for that much, you can get a better Smartphone!’. And yeah, you’re not wrong. But I’m not wrong either.
For some time now, I’ve been on a quest to change my computing habits and adapt to a better rhythm. I really love tech, but in the last 4 or 5 years, I felt tech more and more intrusive, a hassle and burden than joy and fun.
I tried to ‘fast’ out off tech and the internet at least once a year to get away from that bad feeling and annoyance. While it’s true that it is a temporary solution for an ever-growing hassle, it still helped me to determine how I want to fix this.
So here’s how I thought I can solve this:
Limit most of my computing needs to a ‘proper computer’ aka a laptop or a desktop.
Do strict minimum on a phone, while it still can be a backup when needed.
The first part is easy, I have a Thinkpad T550 as my only personal laptop. The desktop is just not me anymore, I can’t sit on a stationary computer for hours to do whatever I wanna do. Probably because my work requires me to stick to a computer for 10 hours a day already. So, laptop, running Tumbleweed: Solved.
The second part though is where it gets interesting. I needed to limit my use of the smartphone; I surf on the internet a lot of time with it, I play games on it every day, and barely communicate with my surrounding (although, I’m not seeing that changing a lot. I might meditate instead).
I wanted to ditch the main platforms; Android and iOS, completely. I looked at Ubuntu Touch, SailfishOS, and KaiOS. But the thing is, there are some apps that are still needed even if I hate that. So, sticking with Android is still the most practical choice here.
In order to find the right device, I started by noting down what I need it for :
- Calls & SMS
- Bank App (because the website is horse poopoo and, functionality-wise it is “read-only”)
- Password manager + 2FA app.
- Whatsapp for out-of-work comms (retarded choice, I know), and Telegram for personal access (I’m dragging them here slowly, but steadily).
- LTE Acces Point
- Good battery + Small screen (They complete each other but the size also limits its usability).
- A physical keyboard is a big plus.
- As cheap as possible.
Once I decided I’ll keep Android, most of these boxes are checked. What’s left is mostly the hardware part; battery, access point, and keyboard.
After some time researching, I found a very VEEERY nice website that helped me a lot. If you wanna downsize to a featurephone, make sure to take this shortcut in your research and go to Jose Briones’ Dumbphone Finder. I can’t thank Jose for his work enough, also make sure to check his Youtube channel for hands-ons and reviews.
I wanted to go with Palm Phone: too expensive either new or used.
Blackberry KeyOne/Two: Too much expensive for me but really good one
Unihertz Titan & Titan Pocket: Same as the blackberry.
Soyes phones and such: Meh!
Qin F21 Pro: Seems okay, no play store (It’s not a big deal but the limit of 6 apps, that you only can sideload with Adb is a deal-breaker. I can do it but it’s lots of useless headaches while It’s just Android).
Qin F 2 Pro: interesting form factor but only 2 Gb RAM, not a future-proof config.
I left it and went looking into other offerings like Sonim Sues and Unihertz. the result was either unavailable or expensive for what it offers.
And one day I stumbled upon Qin F 21 Pro “Global version” which is just regular F 21 Pro with Google sauce added to it and a bit of other useful tweaks to make it usable out of china.
So I decided to go with it, and I’m glad I didn’t go with the F 21 Pro + version (4GB RAM, 64 GB memory) as It seems It has some issues that the regular version doesn’t seem to suffer from.
I ordered it and It came after one full month, which is still good considering how crazy are logistics these days + being ordered during Christmas time.
The box came, I opened it, the whole wrap inside is like half of the box, then inside it an even smaller box for the phone itself.
(One side note, the first thing that my wife noticed reaching my desk is the really small box, which begs the question: what makes her notice small things when it comes to me? I asked and she just laughed and left me even more confused).
Okay, the phone. Like anything else there is good and bad, some specific things might be considered ugly.
This thing is so cute and funny. It painted a smile on my face for days, and I still feel joy using it. This is objective, not subjective. If you disagree, I’m sorry but you’re a psychopath.
It runs Android 11, is fairly modern, and will support apps for quite some time.
It got good enough specs for a little device, 2 Ghz Cpu, 3 Gb Ram, and 32 Gb internal memory. Also modernized with a USB-C instead of Micro USB. The clickiness of the keypad is joyful and brings lots of memories from the time I used an Alcatel, a Sony Ericsson, a siemens, and other phones.
A little over 2000mAh battery and LTE network with hotspot capabilities. That battery is enough to get you through the day as you don’t need to use the phone more often as you do with a big slab.
While the size of the screen does make it a non-source of distraction, it would’ve been nice to have a little bit bigger screen (which implies having a bigger battery > more cost > higher price, I get it). Some apps struggle to work fine on such a small screen, although, the phone got a little trick up its sleeve for that. You do a long click on the back button to get to all open apps and there is the option for “High resolution” which renders the display on a taller and more standard ratio with black bars on the sides. It certainly helps but it’s a big annoyance to switch back and forth for many apps.
In some menus, the keypad will work just as a keypad, no text entry, like when you try to add members to a group on Telegram for example. You still can switch to an on-screen keyboard but on that little screen, you better not have sausage fingers.
The selfie camera position is weird, it needs to get used to. If it was at least a wide camera it could’ve helped. You need to stretch back your arms to get yourself in the frame and then, you are not seeing easily what’s on the screen.
No volume rockers on the sides. sure they’re mapped to “8” and “0” with long clicks, but that doesn’t work everywhere. I can use the Up and Down arrows when the phone screen is locked, otherwise, I have to pull down the notifications area to have access to the volume functionality there and it’s small and bothersome to do every time. It’s a feature phone form, yes, but this form also had these volume buttons on the side even before the smartphones. Remember the music phones like the SonyEricsson Walkman series and such?
The Camera, just tell yourself it is not there. Sure you can get some acceptable 5MPx pictures in perfect daylight. They may look good on the small screen but they aren’t. The HDR and IOS options in the Camera App are just a bad joke, it doesn’t do anything.
No 3.5mm headphone jack. Seriously! you think it’s a given for this form factor. Instead, you have an IR blaster for Remote control which is very cool, but how many times are you gonna use it? barely. a trade of a useful feature for a just cool to have one. This is what I consider the bigger downer about this phone.
Also a note for what’s aesthetically ugly, that huge sticker in the back with the model, serial number, and such. I gave it a few seconds of heat with a hairdryer then took it off and stuck it on the inner side of the phone’s box.
All the other limitations in the bad section above still serve the purpose of limiting the use of a smartphone which is what I intended. But having a headphone jack is still very useful for good calls clarity and listening to music or podcasts on the go. the wireless headphones do bug with interferences out in the wild and savage streets of the city.
Overall, apart from the 3.5 mm jack I’ll need a workaround with an adapter like a snob! Using it for a week now, this little freak is still bringing joy to see and use daily. Seeing people laughing at it before having their minds blown when they see it has everything their SmartBrick have never gets old, and once again, a companion device is fitting well in the hand and does enough for its job, while leaving the big computing job to a proper comåputer. This might not be the end of my quest for a phone, as I’m still open to having a better one, something like a blackberry like the Unihertz Titan Pocket but way cheaper.
I hope this phone gave you at least some giggles. For me, that would satisfy my effort writing for you about it.
If you have any questions about the device, ask me in the comments section below. I'll be happy to reply.