Last winter, I was passing through a small town in the rural parts of eastern Turkey, and had chance to meet some locals as I was hitchhiking. This is when I noticed Vestel Venus e2, the most affordable option of the new smartphone models made by Vestel, an electronics company from Turkey.
This model was so popular that the supply to locals weren't enough. And I'm talking about under-developed rural towns with population less than 5000, so it was something new for a lot of people, they could upgrade from old fashion basic cellphones to colorful smartphones for only 600TL.
On the way to a town in Ardahan province
This worths more attention than iPhone X; affordable smartphones actually deliver more innovation and most importantly enables new markets. As a software engineer, solving problems in the rural part of Turkey sounds much more interesting than figuring out how we'd optimize a UI for the odd notch design iPhone X "developed". I think smartphones are just smartphones, all got the same abilities.
A few months after, my iPhone 6 died. At that time I was in Ubud and didn't want to just get a new iPhone right away. I first gave it to a local repairman, he worked on it for 2 months, returned it back to me without screen, camera and a third-party battery. The repairman ripped me off, I moved on. For next 6 months, I didn't use any smartphone. I was tired of baby-sitting a mobile phone already.
I finally had to get a phone last september, when I went to Turkey to attend the funeral of my grandfather, so I could communicate with my wife and family. As you can guess, my choice for new smartphone was Vestel Venus e2.
In this blog post, I'll tell my experience of using Vestel Venus e2 for over a month as my daily phone.
The Good Parts
Venus e2 has a simple hardware design I quickly got used to. The software is a minimalistic, unbloated version of Android running. Could it be better? Yes, I'll mention below some caveats below.
2. Dual sim-card
This is great if you have to hold two different sim cards, like me. When I'm abroad and need to enable my Turkish sim card for a minute to login my bank, all I do is turning it on from the menu.
3. Battery Life
It was enough to charge it every two days. Note that I use mobile phone to message via WhatsApp and read/send e-mails.
4. Traditional Notification Sound
The default notification is the sound of teaspoon when you mix sugar and tea, in the traditional Turkish tea cup. This is nice although I prefer my tea without sugar.
The Not So Good Parts
1. Marketing Notifications
Vestel sends its users marketing messages in Turkish a few times a day and you can't opt-out from it. I get annoying advertise messages from Vestel about their english courses, diet programs although I use English interface and my body is fit.
I think this problem points to a fundemental issue in Turkish technology companies; marketing positions have more influence on product than designers and engineers. It's unfortunate that a technology company makes a new phone for the first time and ruins their impression by trying to sell english course and diet programs.
2. Button Locations
Volume buttons and power button is too close to eachother, so I oftenly ended up accidentally pressing power button instead of volume down. This is probably fixed in the new versions.
3. SwiftKey Keyboard
There are two different keyboards; SwiftKey and standard Android keyboard. SwiftKey is poorly designed and really hard to use, so I used the standard keyboard, which doesn't support emojis.
4. The Google Widget
Vestel Venus locks a Google Search widget in the home screen which you can't remove.
For a person like me who uses a few apps such as WhatsApp and Gmail, I think this is a good choice. I didn't care about the camera as I use my mirrorless camera whenever I care about the quality.
Do I still use Venus e2? Nope. I got my -almost dead- iPhone 6 repaired in Singapore last week. Although I'm not an Apple fan, I still can't see any alternative offering combination of good design, privacy and good software. If the repairman wasn't able to fix my iPhone 6, I'd keep using Vestel Venus e2 though.
I think it's a good alternative.