Boost Mobile, the MVNO owned by Dish Network following the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, is in a tough spot. Not only does it need to expand its user base for 5G service nationwide, but it also needs to migrate over 1 million Boost customers from Sprint’s 3G CDMA network to its 4G/5G service (operated by T- Mobile and AT&T) as soon as T-Mobile shuts down Sprint’s CDMA network by March 31, 2022. That means the carrier will have to convince its many customers to upgrade to newer 4G or, more preferably, 5G phones.
That’s where Dish’s first branded phone, the $279.99 Celero 5G (although often discounted to less), comes in. This iPhone-like Android phone performs better than expected and takes photos decent under good lighting conditions. Unfortunately, it’s exactly the same price as the popular and well-reviewed Samsung Galaxy A32 5G that’s also available from Boost, making the Celero a direct competitor. So how does the Celero 5G compare?
Celero 5G design
Like T-Mobile’s REVVL V Plus 5G and AT&T’s Radiant, the Celero 5G is made by Wingtech Technology and custom-designed for Boost (when you plug the phone into a computer, the phone is called “WT Celero 5G “). At first glance, it looks like an iPhone clone: it has silver trim all around, a square camera array, and the unmistakable rims around the camera lenses.
While its matte silver back shell is surprisingly smudge-resistant, its smooth surface makes the phone all too easy to slip off tables and hands – you’ll want to get a case to protect it. For a large phone (it measures 6.56 x 3 x 0.33 inches (166.60 x 76.20 x 8.40 mm)), the Celero’s all-plastic body and beveled edges make it comfortable to hold, and it’s not too heavy either.
However, the Celero’s power button and in-display fingerprint sensor are too low and too recessed to use easily. As a result, it takes an extra second to unlock the phone with the fingerprint sensor, as I usually look for the power button.
Celero 5G performance
The Celero 5G’s screen is large but dim: you need to set the screen brightness to around 100% to use it comfortably indoors (you’ll squint at that screen outdoors). It has a large 6.5-inch LCD screen that only has a 720p resolution, which means high-resolution photos and videos won’t be the sharpest here.
For a phone under $300 using the MediaTek Dimensity 700 “fast midrange SoC” processor and 4GB of RAM for support, the Celero 5G can handle basic tasks without any significant lag. I was able to quickly navigate between my many open tabs and apps and was even able to play a YouTube video while reading an article. Like the Samsung A32, the Celero comes with just 64GB of internal storage, but the Celero has a microSD card slot that can support up to 2TB.
I played a trick pokemon union, and the Celero 5G handled the game like a champ. The responsive touchscreen made it easy to move my Charmander around the battlefield, even as attacking moves got more complicated. When I plugged my wired headphones into its downward-facing audio jack, I could hear a vocal track over the game’s theme music that I’d previously missed. Its low-bottomed mono-speaker is passable: it managed to play the demanding “Dance at the Gym: Mambo” from the 2021 West Side Story soundtrack with clarity, if not a little too loud.
While I appreciate that this phone is running a mostly unmodified version of Android 11, the Celero is unfortunately full of bloatware. Along with the usual suspects like an Amazon apps folder, there are two folders called “Lifestyle” and “Games” that contain a bunch of app shortcuts that the phone will download if you click the “Add” button. There’s even an App Spotlight app that shows you 24 app shortcuts the carrier encourages you to download (including The old times). To make matters worse, every time you wake up or turn on your phone, you’ll see three apps performing some sort of setup in the background, but it’s unclear how to disable these processes.
As Dish’s first own-brand phone, it’s unclear if and when the Celero will receive any operating system or security updates to extend its lifespan. That’s a far cry from more established brands like Samsung, which have a four-year software commitment to the A32.
The Celero 5G’s battery life isn’t as long as its 4,000mAh battery would imply. Although I managed to get around 8 hours and 15 minutes of screen time before needing to recharge it, that was with very moderate usage. I was only on Wi-Fi to listen to a few podcasts, post to Twitter, check email, and chat with my family on Google Hangouts. If you primarily use 4G or 5G on this phone, you’ll probably need to keep the charger or a portable battery nearby, as the Celero might not last a full day of heavy use. The included 15W charger isn’t exactly a fast charger either: it took over two hours to fully charge the battery.
Celero 5G Camera
The Celero 5G’s cameras are standard fare in its class: it has a 16-megapixel rear camera, a 5-megapixel ultrawide, a 2-megapixel depth sensor and an 8-megapixel front camera. megapixels for selfies. With good lighting and framing, you should be able to get good photos with good detail to share online. However, I wouldn’t use this phone for taking measurements or taking photos at night, as these cameras just aren’t capable enough for more difficult situations. The front camera, on the other hand, can capture relatively bright selfies even in low light conditions.
Like other budget phones, the Celero’s ultrawide photos tend to look yellow, especially when comparing a photo taken with the main camera of the same scene. Whether I’m shooting holiday decor outdoors or inside a restaurant, the ultra-wide camera has a knack for inexplicably boosting the yellow channel.
Worse, the Celero’s camera app is boring to use. It can take an extra second to switch between main and ultra-wide cameras or different modes, which can be the difference between getting or missing the shot. It also takes around two seconds to process a live view shot, so you’ll need a steady hand and patience when using this mode. When I tried to take a photo that had a QR code on it, the app kept asking me if I wanted to visit this website, even after repeatedly pressing “No”.
Although I liked the $279.99 Celero 5G for its iPhone-like appearance and solid performance, I find it hard to recommend it over the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G at the same price.
For the same price, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G offers a larger 5,000 mAh battery, a better 48-megapixel main camera, C-band 5G compatibility, and four years of software support from Samsung. With the Celero, it’s unclear if it will get software support like security updates, from whom, and for how long, not to mention its smaller battery and less powerful cameras.
Boost is also offering the $249.99 Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G, which is $30 cheaper than the Celero, comes with double the internal storage at 128GB, and also has a 48-megapixel camera. The best-in-class OnePlus Nord N200 5G is even cheaper at $239, and it includes a 1080p display with a 90Hz refresh rate, though it’s unclear if this unlocked phone will be compatible on the Boost network.
I wish Boost would give the Celero 5G a permanent price reduction, like its current promotional price of $139.99 or less. This would make it much easier to recommend the Celero despite its flaws – shorter battery life, more bloatware, untested brand. But without that deep discount, the Celero 5G isn’t your best bet at Boost.
Photography by: Gloria Sin / The Verge