Introduction and design
The title of “world’s thinnest smartphone” is a fleeting one. No sooner had UK start up Kazam revealed the 5.1mm thin Tornado 348 then along came Oppo with its 4.85mm Oppo R5.
If you hadn’t even heard of Kazam to begin with I wouldn’t be surprised; the company’s only two years old.
The Tornado 348 is the brand’s flagship device and looks instantly familiar as a sort of iPhone 6/Sony Xperia Z3 hybrid. It doesn’t push the boundaries in terms of specs or pricing, but Kazam has got a couple of after-sales features that give the handset its USP. And, of course, it’s very thin.
Kazam is asking £249 for the Tornado 348 and that gets you a 4.8-inch 720p screen, 1.7GHz octa-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, 8MP rear camera, 5MP front snapper and Android 4.4.2 KitKat.
Design is what this phone is all about and Kazam has kept it as svelte and streamlined as possible at 139.8 x 67.5 x 5.15mm. The 95.5g weight is extremely light for a smartphone and it’s very well distributed across the chassis.
There’s no doubt that if you’re a minimalist fan of the skinny jeans, then you’re going to appreciate the Tornado’s chassis. But I’d argue that this level of thinness really isn’t crucial to your buying decision when it comes to a new mobile.
There are practical reasons why having a phone this thin isn’t a good idea and the whole bendgate controversy is one of them. It’s pretty clear that exerting a minimal amount of pressure at both ends of the Tornado 348 causes it to flex noticeably.
Secondly, Kazam has neglected to add a microSD card to the phone, presumably in an effort to keep it thin. This isn’t much of a problem when the internal storage is 32 or 64GB, but with only 16GB on board it’s an issue.
Whether or not the thinness is necessary, I still feel the Tornado 348 is an attractive handset to look at and a small part of me wants this plucky British start up to be successful.
The front of the phone is free from any kind of physical buttons but does have the soft-touch Android keys on the bottom of the bezel. It also lacks any kind of a notification light. This is a small but valuable point as some handsets these days boast a small light that winks at you when you’ve received an email, text message or other notification.
Not having one isn’t a great omission, but I did find it annoying as I tend to keep my phone on silent for the majority of the time.
The chassis is ringed with a champagne gold metal strip with protruding buttons for the volume rocker and power switch. Both buttons are located along the left hand side whilst the Tornado’s micro SIM slot is the only feature gracing the right hand side.
Both the front and the back of the Tornado are coated with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 which means its tough, but also slippy to hold and prone to fingerprint smears. The glass back and rounded corners mean from the rear the phone looks a lot like it belongs in Sony’s Xperia range.
The Tornado 358 charges via microUSB and both the port and the handset’s headphone jack are on the bottom of the phone, just like you’d find on an iPhone.
The design is one of the strongest elements of this phone. It’s no small feat to make a smartphone this thin and light. But I’d argue that the similarity to Apple and Sony is more detrimental than positive because it removes the originality.
I found the screen on the Kazam Tornado 348 was one of its best qualities. It’s a 4.8-inch display with a 1,280 x 720p resolution and a detailed 306 pixel-per-inch density.
Furthermore, the AMOLED panel means that colours and contrast are very well represented and the phone does a really good job when playing videos or displaying photos.
The vibrancy doesn’t compete with the likes of the Super AMOLED screen found on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, but that’s understandable given this phone is over £200 cheaper.
Sizing is also an important issue to take into account. Many smartphones are getting larger and I feel the 4.8-inch sizing hits the sweet spot. It’s a fraction larger than the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 but not as big as the 5-inch HTC One M8.
In practical terms this means you can stretch your thumb across the display without needing giant hands but at the same time media isn’t hampered by a tiny screen.
Talk of the Tornado’s screen nicely segways into another key feature of this handset which is Kazam’s after sales service. It offers a free screen replacement service whereby the company will replace a broken screen free of charge for a up to a year after your purchase.
As I said earlier, the Tornado’s chassis isn’t the most grippable and I can foresee occasions when it would slip out of your hand and potentially crack the Gorilla Glass display. Knowing you can get it replaced for free at any time is a big plus point for the Tornado 348.
Kazam offers other such services, including a remote access Kazam Rescue app that operates on a PIN number that lets a software engineer access the handset and attempt to fix whatever the problem is remotely.
The company also offers an extra year of warranty with the phone that they will activiate if you register your phone and download five partner apps from a selection that includes the likes of Amazon, McAfee and Opera.
The Kazam Tornado 348 arrives with absolutely no bloatware pre-installed, so you get a completely clean Android experience. This is a good thing because there’s minimal ROM space to begin with and extra apps would only leave you with less space to install your own.
Customisation is one of the appealing parts of the Android OS and having complete freedom without any other processes getting in the way is a key feature for me.
Occasionally an Android overlay can be great – like with HTC’s Sense but sometimes it doesn’t feel as intuitive as it should – like with Emotion UI on the Huawei Ascend P7.
It means the phone runs as fast as possible because the number of background processes is kept to a minimum. The Tornado 348 was pleasingly fast during general usage and I’ll discuss this in more depth in the next section.
Interface and performance
As I mentioned in the previous section, there’s been no extensive modification and no bloatware preinstalled. Outside of a Nexus device, this is as clean an Android experience as it gets and anyone with familiarity of the operating system will have no problems with the interface.
The app drawer, notifications panel and settings shortcut haven’t been altered and, as with most smartphones, you can group apps together into folders to save homescreen space.
One of the newer Android features is Guest Mode, which you can select from the pull-down settings menu to launch. This lets you limit access to albums, notes messages and other personal data if you want to give the handset to a friend to use.
There’s the usual selection of Android widgets and wallpapers available to customise the Tornado 348. Kazam hasn’t added anything new and there’s plenty more to be had from the Google Play store.
I can’t really fault the interface on the Tornado 348. It would be nice to have an idea of when to expect Lollipop, but KitKat is intuitive and blessedly free from interruptions on this handset.
The Tornado 348 uses a 1.7GHz MT6592 octa-core processor and an ARM Mali 450-MP4 graphics chip, both of which are comfortably mid-range. The performance level is roughly that of last year’s early flagship handsets; the LG G2 being a good example.
I installed my usual round of apps and games and the Tornado 348 wasn’t troubled by any of them. My concern about the performance doesn’t come from the processor and 1GB of RAM, but the lack of storage.
Any serious smartphone user which, these days, is most of us, is going to find 16GB with no upgradeable storage very limiting indeed.
There’s a case to be made for streaming services like Spotify, Netflix and Dropbox. But if you want games that take up over a gigabyte (like Grand Theft Auto III) then space is going to go fast. Leaving out a microSD slot isn’t a cost issue; it’s a design issue to keep the phone as thin as it is. Unfortunately I think the 348 is worse off for it.
I found the Tornado 348 was fine when opening basic apps or navigating through menus, but it did take a fraction longer to load up more complex or graphically-heavy apps. Similarly exiting back to the homescreen also produced a slight amount of lag.
During heavy gaming sessions – that is, over 20 minutes on Grand Theft Auto III, the chassis did get quite a bit warmer. The problem isn’t as severe as the Sony Xperia Z2 or Z3 during 4K filming, but it is present.
Battery life and the essentials
The slimness of the Tornado’s 348 chassis means a removable battery, or even a particularly big one, is out of the question.
Instead, the handset has a fixed 2050mAh power pack that gives you a middling performance. For comparison purposes, it’s less than the 2300mAh battery inside the Google Nexus 5.
Running a 90 minute HD video from phone’s hard drive took the battery down from full to 75%. Streaming the equivalent did slightly more damage. Throw in some intensive 3D gaming on top of either of those uses and you’re down to under 50% in a couple of hours.
The reason for the battery loss is the AMOLED screen – which I had set on full brightness for the purposes of the review. The screen, as with any smartphone sucks up the majority of the battery.
But, if you’re not using it with the same kind of intensity I mentioned above, you can squeeze some decent time out of the Tornado 348. It doesn’t feature 4G or NFC connectivity which saves some power and there’s also the option to alter the power usage in the settings menu.
I found that if I staggered my usage and didn’t rely on 3G all the time, then I could just about get 24 hours out of the Kazam Tornado 348. It’ll be no surprise to any smartphone user that, realistically, you’re going to have to charge this phone every night.
At first glance, the Kazam Tornado 348 looks like being a good phone for making calls: it’s not too big for your hands and because it’s light, you can hold it up to your ear for quite a while without getting tired. And while those points are both true, I still found this handset came undone slightly when it came to making and receiving calls.
Firstly, an incoming call requires you to drag the phone icon to the bottom to answer and to the top to send to voicemail. It’s indicated with green and red to make it simple, but occasionally my down swipes weren’t registered and I couldn’t answer the call.
Secondly, once the call is in progress, the volume really isn’t as loud as it should be. I had the in-call volume set to the top level at all times because any lower and I was in danger of missing something. To be fair to the handset, my call recipients didn’t flag any issues on their end.
The Kazam Tornado 348 comes with the stock Android keyboard that’ll provide the basic typing experience for composing emails or text messages. There’s a pleasing little buzz of haptic feedback and more often than not the predictive text got what I was aiming for.
It’ll also understand swiping, if you prefer using that to actually pecking out your messages.
Naturally, having a smaller screen than the current crop of 5-inch smartphones means there’s not as much space for the keyboard to occupy, but it’s a question of familiarity. You’ll quickly find you adjust to whatever screen size you’re using and adjust your typing accordingly.
There’s full Google Play access so you’re able to download a third-party keyboard if you don’t get on with the stock Android offering.
The Kazam Tornado 348 comes with Google Chrome as the single browser choice and it carries over all the features you’re likely to need in a mobile browser. Tabbed browsing, incognito and bookmarks are all available from the settings menu.
There’s no stock Android or Kazam-based alternative to split the Tornado 348’s attention and since Chrome is a fully capable browser in its own right, I didn’t have any problems with the browsing experience on this handset.
In fact, because the phone’s screen is so good, web browsing is a highlight feature. You can load mobile or desktop sites and although loading times aren’t as fast as flagship devices, the result is just as pretty.
The Kazam Tornado 348 has a camera similar to so many other mid-tier smartphones: it’ll give you serviceable results without really producing anything that’ll blow your mind.
Once again, it’s a testament to the screen that Kazam has used that photos taken on the 8MP rear-facing camera look so much better than when you blow them up to a full screen size.
The camera has some of the features, but perhaps not as many as you might think. There’s HDR and Panorama mode and the usual options to add geotagging, smile detection and a self timer to get yourself prepared. But there’s no option to fiddle with the white balance, exposure or ISO.
What you can do is add in plenty of after-shot effects and filters with Google’s built-in photo editor. And of course you’re not short of photo editing or camera apps on the Google Play store either.
The rear-facing camera will shoot video at 30fps with a 1080p resolution and you’ve got a 5MP front-facing camera for the necessary selfies. Check below for some examples of photos taken with the Tornado 348.
As I’ve already mentioned, the 4.8-inch 720p AMOLED screen is one of the best parts of the Kazam Tornado 348 and as a direct consequence, media is a highlight.
The 16GB storage limitation means you’ll likely be streaming video, rather than loading it onto the hard drive and watching offline, but the result is just as impressive.
High definition video and gaming run beautifully on the screen and you can get really sucked into the content if you put the brightness up.
Sound is a little less impressive and after a while I was longing for the BoomSound speakers of the HTC Desire Eye. Like the in-call experience, the volume isn’t as loud as I’d like and the speakers can’t really get around the range requirements for a true audio experience.
You can overcome this to a certain extent with a decent pair of headphones and it’s not a bad compromise because of the quality of the screen. You’ll want to use this phone for video and gaming.
If you’re just interested in music then 16GB goes a bit further than it does for video. You can fit a decent number of tunes onto the Tornado 348 and play them back through the standard Google Music player.
The service will also let you upload 20,000 of your own songs to Google’s servers for free and stream them back over an internet connection. Music playback can be controlled directly from the lock screen which saves you having to navigate to the player when you simply want to skip tracks.
As with all Google-certified handsets, you can also purchase songs or videos from the various online Play stores. Google has broken it down into separate channels, including books, magazines and games alongside the aforementioned movies and songs.
Apps for the various sections come pre-installed on the Tornado 348 and are tucked away into their own Google folder on the homescreen.
One point to make is that the Google Play Movies and TV app won’t play any of your native video files directly – it’ll only handle purchased films and episodes. Instead, you’ll find your videos in the Gallery photo app in a separate album to your pictures and photos.
Gaming, like video, benefits from the 1,280 x 720 AMOLED display and 306 PPI – especially if you’re playing graphical 3D games like GTA 3.
Rounding out the media credentials are two extra Google apps: FM Radio and Movie Studio. The first is pretty self-explanatory, using wired headphones as an antenna and the second lets you make rudimentary cuts and edits to videos you’ve shot. Both are pretty standard apps but you’ll have to live with them because there’s no option to uninstall.
The Kazam Tornado 348 is a refreshing blank slate when it comes to media. There’s no third-party options forced on you, so you can use the Google Play store to find whichever tools you want to play or download your media.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Lay the Kazam Tornado 348 face down next to the white variant of the Xperia Z3 Compact and the two phones look almost identical in terms of design. It’s there that the similarities end – the Z3 Compact is smaller, with a 4.6-inch 720p display and thicker, with an 8.6mm chassis. It’s also almost twice the price.
The higher price does bring with it several additional features, not least the IP68 waterproofing and 20MP rear-facing camera capable of shooting 4K video.
Although the Xperia Z3 Compact runs Android, it’s been skinned by Sony and comes with the Japanese company’s first-party apps like MoviesUnlimited and – crucially for gamers – PS4 remote play.
Comparing the two means the Kazam Tornado 348 comes off worse, but given the price difference it’s to be expected. The Tornado is, in my mind, the Diet Coke version of the Xperia handset, keeping much of the design and essentials but losing virtually all the features.
If your budget allows, the Xperia Z3 Compact offers a better choice in terms of future proofing but if all you want is an attractive handset to handle the basics, you’ll be fine with the Tornado.
- Read our full Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review.
Google Nexus 5
At first glance, the Nexus 5 appears similar to the Kazam Tornado 348 in terms of presentation and specifications: a 4.5-inch screen, 8MP rear-facing camera, 16GB of ROM space, no microSD expansion, 2,300mAh battery and an untarnished version of Android all for £299.
But when you dig a bit deeper, it becomes clear just how impressive this phone is even though it’s been around since October 2013. The 4.5-inch screen is 1080p resolution, the 8MP camera has OIS, the Snapdragon 800 processor runs at 2.26GHz and the new Lollipop OS. It’s also got 4G capability.
To be fair, it’s bigger, bulkier and more expensive than the Kazam Tornado 348 and the display doesn’t have the brightness or black levels that Kazam’s phone does with the AMOLED coating.
But even though it’s over a year old, this still remains one of the best budget handsets in the sub-5-inch screen arena on the market.
- Read our full Google Nexus 5 review.
Nokia Lumia 830
The Nokia Lumia 830 isn’t exactly a budget phone, but it’s not a top-tier contender either. The colourful 5-inch device is priced around £300 SIM free and comprises a 5-inch 720p display, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 CPU and a 10MP PureView camera with Carl Zeiss lens.
Obviously, being a Lumia, it’s going to be a little different in your hand than the svelt Kazam Tornado 348. The Lumia 830 measures 139.4 x 70.7 x 8.5mm with a plastic removable back that lets you swap in different colours and weighs in at 150g.
It’s also a Windows Phone handset as well so you’re not going to be getting the Android experience and, by extension, some of the rarer apps.
As with many of the Lumia phones, the strength here is in the camera and media capabilities. There’s a microSD slot for expandable storage and plenty of software options for taking the best pictures. It outperforms the Kazam Tornado in this arena, but for general ease-of-use, the British brand still has the upper hand. The Lumia 830 is a little sluggish when it comes to performance and the bulky design won’t appeal to everyone.
- Read our full Nokia Lumia 830 review.
The OnePlus One is pretty much the standard-bearer for affordable Android smartphones. At roughly the same price as the Kazam Tornado 348 (£269) the OnePlus offers amazing specs: a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, 3,100mAh battery and 13MP rear-facing camera.
In terms of value for money, it’s pretty much unbeatable. The main reason for choosing the Kazam Tornado 348 over this Chinese wonder is that, at 5.5-inches it can be a little bulky for those with smaller hands. Of course, media looks fantastic – but that’s beside the point.
Aside from the sizing issue (the OnePlus is 8.9mm thin and weighs 162g), I’d side with the OnePlus One over the Kazam Tornado 348. That’s not because the Kazam is that bad, just that the OnePlus is that good.
- Read our full OnePlus One review.
The Kazam Tornado 348 is a phone trading off its design, its price and little else. For most people, that’s enough on its own – but don’t go looking for anything deeper with this handset. The lack of 4G and microSD are pretty big obstacles in today’s cramped smartphone market.
Although the story behind the phone is appealing (and I’m all for supporting British companies) there’s just not enough about the Tornado 348 to give it the edge over other phones at the same price point.
There are some very good parts to the Kazam Tornado 348. The casing and design obviously have their origins in Apple’s iPhone 6 and Sony’s Xperia Z2 but that’s no bad thing. The phone is light, thin and good looking. The metallic trim alleviates it above the average plastic or polycarbonate chassis and a 4.8-inche display is the sweet spot for usability and media.
The AMOLED screen itself is undoubtedly a highlight. It’s bright, well contrasted and detailed enough to make games and video really stand out. The 8MP rear-facing camera is also well up to the task. Better yet, Kazam’s offer of a free screen replacement for the first 12 months and dedicated customer service is something other smartphone makers should take note of.
Kazam’s decision to leave the Androd KitKat operating system well enough alone is a smart move. There’s not a hint of bloatware or skins and the result is a refreshing blank slate of a smartphone. If there was a hint of an Android 5.0 Lollipop update, I’d be even happier.
Great design is one thing, but when it comes at the expense of functionality things instantly become a lot murkier. The lack of a microSD expansion port is a big omission on the Tornado 348. The problem is alleviated somewhat by the ability to stream content, but it’s still an important feature to miss out for the sake of keeping the phone slim.
Similarly, the lack of 4G is a bit of an issue for me. A year ago it wouldn’t have been much of a problem, but going into 2015 with a 24 month contract on a handset limited to 3G shouldn’t be appealing for anyone.
There were also a few issues with call connectivity. I didn’t feel the Kazam was loud enough during calls and signal reception didn’t impress me either.
I feel the Kazam Tornado 348 abandoned some pretty vital smartphone functions in a quest to become the thinnest and lightest smartphone out there. The design and weight are certainly appealing, but haven’t phones got to a point where we don’t really need them any thinner? The lack of 4G, microSD and, to a lesser extent, NFC isn’t going to win the Tornado any friends.
And yet, there’s plenty this phone does right: The screen’s excellent (and replaceable for free), it’s got a premium feel at an affordable price and the camera and OS are both sound. Kazam offers solid after-sales service as well, which is often overlooked when buying a new device.
The Kazam Tornado 348 could be a great phone but it’s got limitations that are hard to ignore. It looks and feels great, but the buying decision comes down to style over substance. It’ll look good in your hand but the competition is too good to ignore.
First reviewed: December 2014
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