Punkt MC02 Phone review: I haven’t been this annoyed by a phone in a long time

Privacy still comes at the cost of convenience

Punkt MC02 Phone on a surface.
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Unless you're really passionate about privacy and controlling every app permission, the Punkt MC02 Phone makes the typical Android experience feel alien.

Pros

  • +

    Unbelievably long battery life

  • +

    Plenty of privacy and security tools

Cons

  • -

    Terrible camera performance

  • -

    Software is buggy

  • -

    Requires subscription service

  • -

    Extremely dim screen

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I often laugh whenever someone tells me they refuse to have security cameras inside of their home, especially when they’re saying all of this with a phone in hand. Most people don’t think much of it, but smartphones are notorious for the amount of privacy you have to forfeit in order to use them. That’s why the Punkt MC02 Phone exists to protect you from what you’re probably not aware of happening in the background.

I’m not referring to superficial things like unlocking a phone, or downloading an app from somewhere besides its official store. I’m talking about the amount of data that’s aggregated and transmitted by your phone from the services you probably use on the daily, as well as from oddball third-party apps you need to download to work with a smart home device you own.

In my Punkt MC02 Phone review, I’ll break down what makes this Android phone different and who it's for.

Punk MC02 Phone review: Specifications

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Starting price$799
Screen size6.67-inch IPS (2400 x 1080)
Display refresh rate60Hz
CPUMediaTek Dimensity 900
RAM6GB
Storage128GB
microSD?Yes
Rear cameras63MP main; 8MP ultrawide; 2MP macro
Front camera24MP
Battery size5,500 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)14:36
Charging speed18W wired, 18W wireless
Size6.53 x 3.06 x 0.43 inches
Weight8.11 ounces
ColorsBlack

Punk MC02 Phone review: Price and release date

Closeup of Punkt logo on MC02 Phone.

(Image credit: Future)

You can only buy the Punkt MC02 Phone directly from the company’s web site for $749, which comes with a 2-year warranty and a 1-year subscription to Apostrophy Services. The latter comes out to be a $17/month cost, which would obviously be in addition to your cell phone plan.

Without the service, you miss out on what makes the Punkt MC02 Phone unique when it comes to privacy features. I’ll explain more about what they are, but it includes VPN service, a ledger that lets you tune privacy settings, and more.

I’m actually surprised by the added subscription cost just because the features in Apostrophy certainly make up the best things about the Punkt MC02. While Apostrophy offers more than a VPN service, the starting prices for some of the best Android VPN services cost much less than Punkt’s subscription. 

Punkt MC02 Phone: $749 @ Punkt

Punkt MC02 Phone: $749 @ Punkt
When it comes to offering you peace of mind privacy, the Punkt MC02 Phone goes beyond most Android phones by offering intuitive permission controls for every app, a VPN service, and other secure tools.

Punkt MC02 Phone review: Design

Back of Punkt MC02 Phone shown while held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

Since much of the focus is around privacy, the Punkt MC02 Phone doesn’t get as much attention, so it sports a minimalist style. Really, it feels and looks like an Android phone I reviewed in the early days of the 2010s when every slate looked exactly the same. Even though Punkt describes the MC02 as having a "premium feel," its matte plastic casing doesn’t evoke that. Sure, it does nicely at looking clean even after you spend some time handling it, but the Punkt MC02 Phone lacks charm. Then again, I suppose that's the kind of thing you don't care about if youre more concerned about prying eyes noticing your phone.

Despite the boring design, I’m actually surprised by the 3.5mm headphone jack fashioned onto the phone. I often forget how much I used to lean on this port, including now when I want to play music from my phone when I'm driving in my car. A headphone jack has become one of those things that I rarely use anywhere else.

Punkt MC02 Phone review: Display

Colorful video played on Punkt MC02 Phone's display.

(Image credit: Future)

The Punkt MC02 Phone’s immense size is partly attributed to its 6.67-inch IPS display. Details are sharp and plentiful on the display, thanks to a 2400 x 1080-pixel resolution, but that’s the only good thing going for it. Having been spoiled by the displays in some of the best phones, I’m able to instantly distinguish the sub-par qualities about the MC02’s display.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Punkt MC02Google Pixel 8a
Brightness (nits)6151,378
sRGB %118.7126.5 (Adaptive), 108.9 (Natural)
DCI-P38489.6 (Adaptive), 77.2 (Natural)
Delta-E rating0.240.24 (Adaptive), 0.29 (Natural)

For starters, it’s painfully dim whenever I use the Punkt MC02 Phone outdoors. The screen manages to eke out a peak brightness output of 615 nits, which is below average by today’s standards. But the other distracting quality is the noticeable amount of distortion at wide viewing angles. It’s so bad that it gives black that grayish look at slight angles, while the screen's 60Hz refresh rate makes simple actions like scrolling look stuttery.

Punkt MC02 Phone review: Camera

Punkt MC02 Phone running its camera app.

(Image credit: Future)

Shockingly, the Punkt MC02 is accompanied by a triple camera setup that consists of a 64MP main camera, 8MP ultrawide lens, and a 2MP macro sensor. I didn’t expect to see a setup like this on a phone like this, but it turns out to be nothing worth bragging about for many reasons.

First of all, I feel like I’m in a time portal after running the camera app because it’s an interface from the early days of Android. In fact, it has the same distinct tone whenever I use touch focus to indicate it’s ready for a shot. But the saving grace after that shock is how the MC02 offers a robust set of camera tools that I didn’t suspect would accompany a phone like this.

In addition to having the usual set of modes, like portrait, panorama, and slow motion, Punkt also throws in a manual mode with limited controls, night mode, and a beauty one if you fancy that over-Photoshop look.

I captured a bunch of photos with the Punkt MC02 and I can share this about the experience and performance: it’s frustrating.

Don’t let the main camera’s pixel crushing number fool you. Even with a 64MP camera, fine details turn out smudgy. For example, the trees and buildings in the background with the photo of the New York Public Library above almost look like they’ve been drawn when I zoom into them. I’m also annoyed by the MC02's inability to focus right away, forcing me to constantly adjust it multiple times over to get the shot right.

Things become incrementally worse switching over to the 8MP ultrawide camera. Details go right out the door at the same location where I snapped the New York Public Library, but the photo suffers most by how the overall image looks hazy. The clouds in the sky also reveal how the Punkt MC02 also struggles with its dynamic range performance.

Punkt MC02 Phone camera sample.

(Image credit: Future)

I’m also not a fan of how selfies turn out with the Punkt MC02. Despite rocking a 24MP front camera, which seems overkill, the phone churns out poorly exposed selfies that look soft. I took a selfie of myself with the sun beaming down my face, but I can barely make out any details because the focus is so bad — and it doesn’t help that the highlights in the shot are overblown.

Punkt MC02 Phone camera sample.

(Image credit: Future)

However, portrait mode turns out to be the one area I can confidently say the Punkt MC02 Phone handles things well. The beauty marks around my face are much more defined than the selfie, while the MC02 does a decent job of applying an out-of-focus effect to the background.

Low light is pretty much a no-go for the Punkt MC02 Phone. Can you even make out the detached garage in my backyard in the first photo above? I don't think so, but even switching to its dedicated night mode, the heavy amount of noise introduced into the shot makes it practically unusable.

I’m not too keen about the MC02's video recording performance either, which suffers from the same qualities that plague my snapshots. Even though it can shoot 4K video, it doesn’t mean they automatically come out good.

Initially I noticed a fair amount of shake, but enabling EIS helps to mitigate that problem when shooting handheld. Sadly, EIS does nothing while I’m moving and recording. The video above struggles immensely with dynamic range and features a washed-out look overall.

The MC02's cameras are there if you need them, but the phone can’t even rival the quality I get from some of the best cheap phones around like the Nothing Phone 2a and Google Pixel 8a.

Punkt MC02 Phone review: Performance

Google Play Store shown running on Punkt MC02 Phone.

(Image credit: Future)

Without diving into the specs, I could tell by just navigating around that the processing performance of the Punkt MC02 isn’t on par with what I want in a phone. Sure, launching apps isn’t a problem for it, but it’s more about how the phone responds that’s the biggest drawback.

Often there’s a delay with the MC02's responses, like how switching modes in the camera app takes a couple of tries before it does it. These superficial tasks shouldn’t be this problematic, but I suspect there are bugs in the software that could be impacting things.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Punkt MC02Google Pixel 8a
ProcessorMediaTek Dimensity 900Tensor G3
Geekbench 6 (Single/Multicore)887 / 2,3691,581 / 4,093
3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)12.9441.1
Adobe Premiere Rush (Mins:Secs)N/A0:56

On the flip side, benchmark tests also expose how the Punkt MC02 struggles with certain tasks. GeekBench 6 scores come out to 887 and 2,369 for the single and multi-core tests, respectively. Those results are nothing to write home about, especially when they come up well short against my favorite budget phone at the moment; the Pixel 8a.

I’m able to play all of my favorite games on the Punkt MC02 Phone, but they can often test my patience with their choppy performance. In fact, its frame rate of 12.94 fps running 3DMark’s Wild Life Unlimited test is laughable — but made more poignant when I try to scroll the world map in Age of Origins. While that game is still playable, it becomes problematic in more graphically intensive sequences where timing matters.

Punkt MC02 Phone review: Battery life

Punkt MC02 Phone placed on wooden bench with back of phone facing up.

(Image credit: Future)

Another advantage of this phone's size is that it can support a much larger battery. In my day-to-day use, the Punkt MC02 Phone’s 5,500 mAh cell easily gets me through a work day with plenty of gas left in the tank. Usually I’ve been getting about a 30% charge level right before bedtime, which is above average in my experience.

The phone’s battery endurance could also be the result of a slower 60Hz refresh rate paired with the power optimizations of MediaTek’s Dimensity 900 chip, but it also makes a solid impression on Tom’s Guide’s battery benchmark testing, where the MC02 achieves an average time of 14 hours and 59 minutes.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Punkt MC02 PhoneGoogle Pixel 8a
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)14:5911:21
% Charge (15 minutes)13%16%
% Charge (30 minutes)24%33%

Over on the recharge side of things, the MC02 features 18W wired and wireless charging. I’ve seen slower phones, but the Punkt MC02 still charges at a snail’s pace by reaching 13% with 15 minutes of charging and then to 24% in 30 minutes.

Punkt MC02 Phone review: Software

Risk and privacy details shown on Punkt MC02 Phone.

(Image credit: Future)

Anyone who’s serious about privacy will appreciate what the Punkt MC02 Phone brings to the table, assuming they can pony up the monthly cost to use the available services after the free 1-year trial is over. The first thing that jumps out is the black-and-white look of Apostrophy OS, which silos its privacy-centric tools from the usual Android experience I’m used to.

To Punkt's credit, the MC02 lives up its claim of being a phone that "really puts you in control" in how apps collect data. On one side of the home screen are all the apps connected to your account, while the other serves as a depository for all the Android apps you use. 

One of the tools that Google should steal from Apostrophy OS is the carbon and data ledger, which can be accessed by long pressing an app icon. This essentially lets me set the permissions on how apps behave on the phone, by dialing in the settings to my preference. Not only can I limit the permissions, but also how apps remain active in the background — which can further extend the phone's battery life.

Screenshot of Punkt MC02 Phone Home Screen.

(Image credit: Future)

In adding to these permission controls, which are more intuitive than how Google does it, the secure Email, Calendar, Contacts, Notes, and Storage apps contained within Apostorphy OS are protected from outside influences. That means they're secure and safeguarded from any advertising-based infiltrations. For example, I have a TextNow account that I use for calls and messaging, but the app is notorious for collecting data for its advertisements.

Screenshot of Punkt MC02 Phone Privacy Features.

(Image credit: Future)

And finally, the Punkt MC02 Phone comes with its own VPN service to disguise my location and protect my privacy while surfing the web. It's one of those things that give me peace of mind while connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

All of these privacy features are superb, but it definitely impacts what makes an Android phone useful with all of the Google services baked in from the start. Sure, I'm able to sideload the Google Play Store app to install the apps I use on the daily, but in doing so, I've come across small annoyances that expose the inherent flaws about locking down Google services.

That's the biggest hurdle I think you'd have to overcome if you truly want every part of your phone secured and locked down. But this methodology comes without its own set of restrictions. Ultimately, the Punkt MC02 makes it less intuitive for you to enjoy all the services you're invested in with Google.

At the same time, the MC02 is currently running Android 13 underneath it all, which by itself is at a disadvantage. Most newer Android phones nowadays come with Android 14. There's no promise it'll get updated, but the company at least says that it'll continue to get security updates until April 2028.

There are other bugs I've encountered with the software that keep the MC02 from feeling like it's polished experience. Even though they might seem minor, like how I have to tap on the display a couple of times before the phone registers it, they do add up.

Punkt MC02 Phone review: Verdict

Punkt MC02 Phone review.

(Image credit: Future)

I’ll be frank: the Punkt MC02 Phone is one of the most annoying phones I’ve used in a long time. There are certainly bright spots in its package, like the unexpectedly long battery life and the more intuitive permission controls. But using the MC02 will be a stark departure for most people.

I get it, really. Privacy is one of those liberties that we often overlook in rushing to set up a phone, but we’ve become so reliant on the services and apps that make today’s best phones enjoyable to use. Unless you’re the type that likes to micromanage every app, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a whole lot of purpose with the Punkt MC02 Phone.

Factoring its price and the fact that you’ll eventually have to pay for a subscription service in order to use the Punkt MC02 Phone down the road, it’s almost impossible to choose it over other Android phones.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.