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Unihertz Luna review: $300 mid-range smartphone with rear LED lighting
Unihertz is known for making funky phones and the latest appears fairly standard, except for the back panel
3/5 Medals of Yavin: Decent Android smartphone at the $300 price
LED lights on the back panel offer a unique option
Solid mid-range specifications at a low cost
Older software with poor record of ever getting updated
Thick and heavy with a large 5,000 mAh battery
Five years ago I tested out my first Unihertz smartphone, the tiny Atom. It fit into the palm of my hand, yet provided a full 4G Android smartphone experience for less than $200 (assuming you backed the phone on Kickstarter). Since then I have had the chance to test out a few other Unihertz offerings on ZDNET.
Unihertz phones often look similar to existing smartphones, but are much less expensive, bulkier, and offer a feature or design element that is unique. Here are a few examples:
Unihertz Titan…BlackBerry Passport
Unihertz Titan Pocket…BlackBerry Bold
Unfortunately, the software the phone launched with was usually all that you could count on as updates have been non-existent. While that’s unfortunate, the low price made it easier to accept the phone at the state it launched. This is not great for security though.
For the past couple of weeks I have testing out the Unihertz Luna, a smartphone featuring an interesting rear panel with funky LED lighting patterns. Hmm, where did I see something like this before? Oh, I guess it’s Nothing ;)
As explained in my palmsolo’s Refresh Rating Scale post, I’m awarding the Unihertz Luna three (3) Medals of Yavin. Unihertz offers solid specifications and good quality, but it’s a thick, chunky, heavy phone that relies on the gimmicky rear LED lights to attract customers.
The Good and the Bad
Despite all of the internal testing and trials, it’s rare to find a perfect product. Reviewers tend to push things to the limits and find unique situations where things may not perform perfectly, but there are also various use cases so my pros and cons may not match yours.
Rounded corner metal frame design with flat sides
No bloatware or ads
Ample RAM and storage
3.5mm audio port and IR for remote control
Solid battery life
Side fingerprint sensor
LED lights on the back (inconsequential for me though)
Android 12 with little hope of any updates
Thick at 10.4mm and heavy at 298 grams
Basic camera performance, despite high megapixel count
No 5G support
It seems natural for Apple to launch an iPhone with a glowing rear Apple logo, but we’ve yet to see that become reality. However, we recently saw the Nothing Phone 1 launch with LED lighting on the back and now we have another option with that capability for $100 less.
When I first opened up the package, I thought I was looking at an iPhone 13 Pro Max clone with the familiar rounded corners, flat sides, and stove top three rear camera design. However, it’s nearly 3 mm thicker and 58 grams heavier so that similarity is just in the first look.
Let’s go ahead and start around the back since that is where the unique function of the Unihertz Luna can be found. There are five LED light strips on the back and the white model I tested has a non-luminous adhesive strip around the entire back panel. This strip is made of semitransparent materials so that the lighting from the LED strips is enhanced on the white model.
A LED lights utility is found in the settings and that part seems very well designed with a LED light brightness level slider, settings for when to activate the lights, and advanced features. You can enable the lights for incoming calls, notifications, and music with various patterns for the lights. Advanced features include ambient light, charging reminder, and bedtime schedule.
I personally find the LED lighting widget on the home screen to be my preferred way to enable the lights and quickly toggle on or off these various activation settings. Unihertz did a good job with the lighting options, but I just find them a novelty that you show off when you are talking with people, but not that useful for daily use.
The three cameras are positioned on the upper left of the back. The results from them are fine, but you are unlikely to capture shots you would ever want to print. The camera software does not switch automatically between the main camera, infrared, or macro modes, but these are modes available within the camera software.
The flat metal sides are loaded with the following:
Top: Microphone, 3.5mm audio port, and IR sensor
Left side: Two programmable function buttons
Right side: Volume button and power/fingerprint sensor
Bottom: Mono speaker, USB-C port, mic, SIM card tray
The display looks just fine, even with a lower resolution than most modern Android phones. It has narrow bezels on the top and sides with a thicker bezel along the bottom. The 32MP front-facing camera is positioned off to the far left corner of the display.
The Unihertz Luna launches with Android 12 out of the box with the December 5, 2022, Android security update installed. I checked on some other Unihertz phones I still have around and there is no record of updates for firmware or monthly security updates. Do not buy this phone with an expectation of ever receiving updates, which could pose a security risk for anyone buying this for business use.
The phone runs a fairly stock version of Android. The Google Discover page is available when you swipe from left to right to the first panel, much like a Pixel phone.
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, sound recorder, and Toolbox. The camera software is also specific to this phone, like every other Android phone.
The Toolbox is full of useful utilities that enhance the functionality of the phone. The tools in the Toolbox include:
Picture hanger tool
Heart rate monitor
Height measuring utility
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 supports common app widgets too so you can customize your Android experience. The Quick Controls section from the notification shade can also be customized to your personal preferences. Custom settings exist for the LED lights and two left side function (aka shortcut) buttons.
The Unihertz Luna does not support any 5G bands, but it does support quite a few 4G LTE frequencies. I used it with T-Mobile and connectivity was fine. I tried using a Verizon SIM, via US Mobile, but was not able to connect via cellular.
Specifications alone don’t mean much, but they are useful for comparing similar devices and checking that you are getting value for your money.
Processor: MediaTek 6789 octa-core
Display: 6.81-inch, 2400 x 1080 pixels
Operating system: Android 12
RAM: 8 GB
Internal storage: 256GB UFS 2.2
Cameras: 108MP main, 20MP night vision, 2MP macro, and 32MP front-facing
Battery: 5000 mAh with 18W wired charging
Dimensions: 168 x 76.8 x 10.4 mm and 298 grams
Colors: Black and White
If you are looking for a portable LED light show, that also functions as an older Android phone, then you might consider the Unihertz Luna. I’ve heard many people say that smartphones are boring and maybe those folks are just looking at iPhones. There are plenty of unique options available in the Android space and the Luna certainly stands out with the interesting LED lights on the back.
I tried using the Luna as my daily driver, but with no 5G connectivity and the chunky size I could only make that possible for a few days before jumping back over to other phones. The $299 price point is attractive though and you do get quite a bit for that amount of money, but you have to be willing to carry a brick in your pocket.
Unihertz releases devices with unique functions at affordable prices and has a solid track record of good success finding people that result in very successful Kickstarter campaigns. If we could just see at least quarterly Android security updates for a couple of years or some kind of commitment to the software then I would be more apt to consider its phones.
The LED lighting is fun…for a few minutes, but I did not find it useful for practical daily use. Too many compromises were made to enable the lighting and it is just not a phone for me.
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