Coolpad Conjr Joins Rush for Feature-Rich Budget Phones

It's getting harder to distinguish budget smartphones from their high-end counterparts at first glance. The Coolpad Conjr is a good case in point, with a sleek design that suggests a smartphone that costs three times as much as this discount device out of China.

Dig into the specs of the Conjr, and you'll figure out why this unlocked smartphone will sport a sub-$200 price tag when it goes on sale this month. Still, Coolpad's entry into the U.S. market offers enough features normally found on pricier phones to make it a compelling option if you're looking to save a few bucks on your next mobile device.

Pricing: $179.99 unlocked

Availability: The Conjr goes on sale today, Jan. 5, before launching in the U.S. on Jan. 19.

Key Specs: Fingerprint readers are rapidly finding their way to lower-priced phones, and the Conjr is no exception. The fingerprint reader on the back panel lets you program up to five fingers and perform tasks such as opening up apps and taking pictures, in addition to unlocking the device.

MORE: Best Cheap Phones - Unlocked Android Smartphones

The 13-megapixel rear camera is a pretty powerful one for such a cheap phone, though we're interested to see how the f/2.2 aperture handles photos in low light. Similarly, the front camera is an 8-MP shooter that comes with an LED flash, signifying this is a phone for the selfie crowd.

The Conjr features 3GB of RAM, a generous amount of memory for a sub-$200 phone. And all that is housed in a phone with a metal alloy frame and a 2.5D curved glass display.

Look at some of the Conjr's other specs, though, and you'll see where the phone makes some compromises in the name of keeping prices low. The MediaTek MT6735CP quad-core processor powering the phone isn't exactly a powerhouse, and that 5-inch IPS display offers a relatively modest 1280 x 720 resolution. You'll also have to make do with Android Marshmallow instead of the more recent Nougat version of Android. Storage capacity is only 16GB, although you can augment that with a microSD card.

What's New: Despite some specs you'd associate with a low-cost phone, the Conjr still packs in enough higher-end features to make it a noteworthy addition to the U.S. market.

Outlook: When I talked to Garth Benner, Coolpad's vice president of open markets, prior to Conjr's debut at CES, he was confident about the phone's ability to reach customers in the U.S.

"The [budget] space is getting a lot of attention," he said. "Consumers are looking for more options beyond what carriers are providing them."

That certainly seems to be true, given the number of budget and mid-tier phones that are finding in ways to pack in more impressive features. It will be interesting to see how a phone that's new to the U.S. like Conjr can make a name for itself with budget-minded shoppers.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.