At IFA 2014 we saw a few new Windows Phones like those from NGM, Archos, and Prestigio, but the Yezz Billy 4.7 had the potential to really stand out. Details about this phone have been scarce since its announcement in May, so when found this phone in Berlin, we knew we'd have to spend at least a few minutes with it.
'Found' might be a bit of a stretch. We stumbled across it. Yezz is a small company, yes, and their booth at IFA wasn't a site to behold like some of the others. That's fine. But in their display that had about two dozen Android devices (including one so simplified it dropped the multitasking button for just two huge 'home' and 'back' buttons — it was an odd sight), the lone Windows Phone was tucked into a corner with nary a plaque to identify which one it was.
Picking it up I was surprised by how thin and how light it was. 7.2mm is thin, yes, but I wasn't quite prepared for it. The Billy 4.7 spots a 4.7-inch 1280x720 IPS display covered with "Ashahi Dragontail" glass, a chemically-strengthened glass not dissimilar from Gorilla Glass, but in this case somehow inexplicably impossible to clean and feeling of cheap plastic. In fact, I was sure it was plastic until I looked up the specs in writing this. The back of the phone is most definitely plastic; it was slick and slimy and the grid pattern on the white shell did little to impress.
Inside you'll find a 1.2Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage (with microSD expansion). While this very same processor was more than up to the task in the Archos 40 Cesium and the Prestigio phones, it failed to keep up in the Yezz Billy 4.7. Scrolling through just the homescreen elicited noticeable lag and jitter. Apps were slow to load and the entire experience felt painful in comparison to what we're used to from Windows Phone.
This could be attributed to the fact that they've put Qualcomm's entry-level processor in a phone that has a mid-tier display. The 1280x720 display has nearly three times the pixels of the 800x480 screens in the less phones. For comparison, the NGM Harley Davidson phone we also sighted at IFA has a 1280x720 screen and the more capable Snapdragon 400 at its core — we saw none of the same lag on it.
To make matters worse, the Yezz Billy 4.7 does not have the standard Windows Phone buttons at the bottom. Instead of back/Windows/search, the Billy 4.7 has dot/circle/dot. They execute commands as if they were labeled properly, but there's no discernable way for a user unfamiliar with Windows Phone to understand what's supposed to happen when you tap on the dot to the left. Or the dot to the right or that circle. One could assume that the circle would take you home, and you'd be correct, but it's a huge disappointment that none are properly labeled.
Apart from that, there's support for HSPA cellular, an 8MP camera on the back, and a 2MP shooter on the front. There have been significant chances since the May announcement of the Billy 4.7 — the phone's dropped the promised aluminum construction and 13.1-megapixel camera.
On paper the Yezz Billy 4.7 seems like it should be a decent phone. But the underpowered processor, confusing controls, and cheap plasticky construction make it feel like something that should be a tier lower on the totem pole. It certainly makes us question the $249/€229 price tag that Yezz is asking for here.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.