Have we been here before? I feel like we’ve been here before. Today’s review is about a new, fairly capable entry-level Android phone called the Ding Ding SK3 Pro. It’s doesn’t seem like much in terms of looks or specs, but it certainly isn’t without some interesting bits and pieces. To find out what we think of it, continue reading the rest of this post.
Last month, we gave you our thoughts on the Ding Ding SK1 smartphone, a smaller, less expensive model from the same company that makes the SK3 Pro. These two phones are targeted towards people who have their eyes set on the local market for their next smartphone purchase.
What does the SK3 Pro have to offer in exchange for some of your cold hard cash? Probably not a whole lot that you haven’t already seen before, if we’re being honest. But as the folks at Ding Ding are likely to try and argue, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
For starters, the SK3 Pro is a full-blown phablet. It has a 5.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels (HD). This screen uses an IPS touchscreen panel so viewing angles aren’t bad for a budget phone. And it runs the Android 4.4 KitKat OS on a quad-core MediaTek MT6582 processor.
All you really need to know about the SK3 Pro in terms of the hardware is that it packs a nice collection of essential components for a phone that needs to run Android KitKat at a reasonable and problem-free pace. All the menu buttons for navigation and user input can be found on the large screen, and for everything else, there’s a rear-mounted hardware button set that clearly takes a lot of inspiration from LG’s G series of smartphones.
Yes, the SK3 Pro has rear-mounted buttons, including a circular power button/lock switch. Incidentally, the back is also where you’ll find the SK3 Pro’s main camera and dual-LED flash combo, as well as the built-in speaker and the Ding Ding Technology company logo.
Display and camera
The SK3 Pro’s display and its HD resolution combine for a good experience when it comes to reading text, watching videos, and even browsing the Internet. But this same experience can definitely be made a whole lot better, especially in terms of touchscreen responsiveness. In any case, the display works as intended, and the fact that it measures 5.5-inches diagonally means it it has plenty of screen real estate to offer users.
It should be noted here that the SK3 Pro has a persistent menu bar that always seems to be present on screen. And the one time that it isn’t present, it gets replaced with a row of icons that contains the Back button, so it’s like it was never gone in the first place. Anyway, I felt like the touchscreen would be better utilized if the persistent menu bar disappeared. But maybe that’s just me.
The rear 8-megapixel camera on the SK3 Pro is complemented by a front-facing 2-megapixel camera that can be used for selfies. The front camera works best only as a sort of backup, “last resort” kind of camera for candid photos, but the rear camera is something that can be used for consistently acceptable quality photos to be shared on social media by the average smartphone. It’s not a digicam replacement, but it’s a usable camera phone, that’s for sure.
Audio and connectivity
Just like the display performance, the SK3 Pro’s audio performance is decidedly nothing to write home about. It’s not entirely disappointing, just enough to meet expectations.
Using headphones on the SK3 Pro — whether wired or wireless — proved to be easy. And of course, audio came through about as perfect as the source material permitted it to be.
And by the way, speaking of wireless headphones, the SK3 Pro does support a number of wireless connectivity options. Yes, it has Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi. And its wired connectivity options include not just the 3.5mm headphone jack but also a micro USB 2.0 port. It can be used for both data and wired charging.
Software, gaming and battery life
I still haven’t mentioned it, but as you can plainly see — if you’ve looked at any of the SK3 Pro’s photos at all — it looks a lot like a certain phone that you’ve probably already seen before.
The rear mounted power button, the lack of capacitive menu keys, the slightly rounded top and bottom edges. These are all signs that the design was lifted heavily from one of LG’s former flagship phones. But that’s not all that Ding Ding used for inspiration.
The software on the SK3 Pro might just be familiar to you, too. The Settings screen looks a lot like the one on the same LG phone above, and yes, even some of the same Settings options are also present.
I’d like to knock it for this, but then I realize that it’s an Android phone, and I guess after a certain point they all start to look the same. Still, there’s no denying that a lot about the SK3 Pro has been derived from somewhere that already existed before it. And in a way that doesn’t hide that somewhat unpleasant fact at all.
Since it’s an Android phone, the SK3 Pro has the usual assortment of default Android apps, which include Google apps (Gmail, Calendar, YouTube) as well as a handful of basic smartphone apps (Phone, Messaging, Browser, Music).
And of course, it’s easy to add even more apps if you want to by going to the Google Play Store. I did that and added my own favorite apps, as well as a few mobile games that I like playing on occasion. What I found is that the SK3 Pro works best for casual mobile games, but not for resource-intensive, CPU-hungry, high-def titles that you may know of.
To give you an example, I installed and played First Touch Soccer 2015 (FTS) on the SK3 Pro, and while the intro and menu screens were all handled smoothly, the actual gameplay tended to stutter in the middle of the action. It’s a game where there is usually a lot going on in the screen at different points across the playing field, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s a bit resource-hungry. But I was still surprised to encounter frame skips while simply dribbling the ball past CPU team defenses.
A single football match in FTS usually lasts around 3 minutes. And I found that the SK3 Pro manages to lose only about 4% of battery charge per match. This is with Wi-Fi on, the screen brightness set to auto and audio set to about 20%. In total, the SK3 Pro could last around 2 hours of non-stop online gaming with a mobile game as intensive as FTS. With other titles, it could go up to about 3 or 4 hours, depending on the game.
For normal smartphone use, the SK3 Pro lasts about a day and a half before needing a recharge. And it only takes about 2 hours to charge up to 100%.
Now that we’ve given you a rundown of the most important things you need to know about the SK3 Pro, it’s time to issue a verdict.
The SK3 Pro is a good contender for a semi-affordable Android smartphone (and a phablet, no less) that has it all. Not only does it have a large touchscreen, it also has all the necessary wireless options you might need with regular smartphone use (including dual SIM support and HSPA+ data), plus its design, while not exactly original, is a lot better than the bland, boring block-type phones that look devoid of any personality.
Perhaps the biggest actual issue one might have about the SK3 Pro is simply that it comes from a company with no history in the Philippines, and the way it’s made (which includes lifting a lot of core design and software concepts off existing smartphone models) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a typical smartphone user. It certainly doesn’t to me.
There’s a perfectly good entry-level phone hidden inside the SK3 Pro’s shell of a copied body. But it’s up to Ding Ding and its fledgling marketing team to convince potential buyers that this notion is more than just a possibility.