The Verdict on Wiko Robby—Weeks Later
It’s time that I draw some conclusions with regards to my experience with Wiko Robby. Maybe someone from Wiko will read this, but I won’t bother to write in French for them.
So, this is ending the series started with Marshmallow with 1 GB of RAM—Yes, You Can! and continued with Low-RAM Marshmallow—One Week Later. Comments on some reviews of recent Marshmallow Wiko phones also show up in The world is swarming with incompetents… and in Nolite mittere high-tech ante porcos.
This being said, I’ll get right to the point: Wiko has screwed Marshmallow in such a way that most widgets don’t update. That’s a fact. On Wiko Robby, the only widgets that update themselves without issues are the included and useless My Launcher weather widget and Google’s News and Weather widget. As I mentioned in the previous (“one week later”) post, most widgets simply never update, some widgets only update the hour but not the weather, other widgets seem to be working just fine, until they suddenly stop updating and remain frozen (Sam Ruston’s Weather Timeline is such a case), and one widget only worked if set to update on screen unlock… until it also froze.
I’ve made a table with 12 weather widgets (other than My Launcher’s and Google’s), wanting to document thoroughly which one stops updating and how is this happening (after how long; the entire widget altogether, or the time still works; does the location update stops first, if set to follow me? etc.), but eventually I decided to serve you the bottom line: Wiko’s Marshmallow (Update 25 for Robby) screws the widgets, no matter what settings I use (Nova Launcher also can’t use TeslaCount to update counters on icons, so I reverted to Wiko’s launcher).
Some of the settings added by Wiko in its “Phone Assist” apps are useful, but they make the Marshmallow experience confusing and frustrating even for a seasoned IT professional like me (it’s not the place to put a link to my CV). Making sure an app isn’t “optimized”/”Dozed” or killed in the background–in the hope that the associated widget won’t be sabotaged!–requires a visit in 3 or 4 places. How many people know where can be found each of them? Here you have the relevant screens, which partially overlap in functionality:
From left to right:
- Settings, Battery, ⋮ Menu, Battery optimization: select “All apps” and make sure the apps with active widgets are not optimized (put to sleep) by Android.
- Phone Assist, Power Saver, Optimized mode: either you set it OFF, or you set it ON and enable the apps with active widgets so they can still access the network.
- Phone Assist, Power Saver, Advanced settings & tips, ⚙ Settings, White-list apps background: whitelist the apps with active widgets.
- Phone Assist, Boot Optimizer: just in case this “optimizes” (blocks) more intent receivers than intended, allow the apps with active widgets to automatically start after the boot, should they wish so.
This is definitely something to ruin someone’s Marshmallow experience. This is a mess. Not to mention that sometimes, out of the blue, Phone Assist sets to OFF the automatic sync for the e-mail (and it also seems to block Twitter and FB to get the notifications), although the Wi-Fi remains “always ON” even when the screen is off. Wiko really tries too hard to preserve the battery, and all they get is to simply screw Marshmallow.
Ceci étant dit, tout cela est bien dommage, car l’appareil fonctionne plutôt bien pour son prix, et il a de certains atouts.
I’ve bought it for some design decisions that include: frontal speakers instead of the fucking idiot haut-parleur dorsal that all the stupid designers put on 99% of the phones; non-protruding primary camera; dual micro-SIM (micro, not nano!); user-replaceable battery; and 16 GB of storage (about 11 GB usable) as being more important than 2 GB of RAM.
And it’s actually satisfactory in operation, both as a phablet and as a phone. The reception is good, the 3G speed is correct (Telekom.de can’t offer more than that on 3G), the quality of a phone conversation is very good, the speakers are loud and powerful. The screen is excellent, bright and with very good viewing angles, it’s hard to believe it’s only 720p.
I also wanted 5.5″ because, unless I opt for a device with “physical” buttons (Lenny3), having on-screen buttons on a 5″ device means that most of the time the useful part of the screen is 4.65″ (most apps don’t know about the immersive mode, or don’t care about it). So going from my old 5″ phone with a full 5″ screen to a 5″ phone with a 4.65″ usable screen… thanks, but no, thanks.
To my surprise, I discovered that adapting to on-screen buttons is easier than I thought, and the phone doesn’t look that cumbersome with the unused bottom stripe (where the physical buttons used to be). Moreover, guess what? Whoever designed Robby did a great job in keeping the bottom stripe as narrow as possible. Let’s compare Robby to Tommy:
Now, for the bad parts. I will never–but never ever again!–buy a smartphone that has a mixed metal-plastic back cover in the manner “aluminium back, with top and bottom stripes and the frame of plastic.” An aluminium frame (such as in U Feel) is a better idea, no matter how crappy is the actual back cover. That’s because this is my first smartphone that creaks when hold from its lateral frame–and this is how a smartphone is hold most of the time!
And no, none of the reviews mentioned that phenomenon (you’ll find reviews in several languages éparpillées in the aforementioned posts). Notebookcheck.net says this: “the smartphone gives the impression of a decent build, but pressure quickly becomes visible on the screen and the smartphone creaks and cracks when it is twisted.” They’re however wrong: the phone is impossible to twist or bend unless you’re willing to apply an unreasonable force on it, but simply grabbing the phone from the lateral parts of the frame makes the frame displacing itself even so little, yet the tactile and auditory feedback is unmistakable–the phone creaks!
My first Android phone was an LG and, despite liking it (it didn’t have a back speaker, and the camera was non-protruding!), I said: “no more LG for me.” My second Android was a Huawei, and despite being excellent for the price and the year, I also said: “no more Huawei in my case!” This is my first Wiko phone: is it going to be the last Wiko too?
Because, let’s face it: Robby isn’t the only Marshmallow from Wiko with widget updating issues. Here’s an owner’s opinion about Wiko Sunny (a phone that shouldn’t have been released: 512 MB of RAM, really?):
Translation: “Unfortunately, not all the widgets (weather, etc.) update themselves, despite the battery optimization mode being disabled, therefore I returned this unreliable model.” Yup.
Back to Robby (which first became available in Germany, not in France, and in that “true black” color that’s unavailable in France!), some other people complained on a German Android forum that widgets don’t update after a reboot, and that this issue appeared after an update from V.10 to V.20 (I didn’t know about V.10, I thought V.16 was the built-in one). Well, I’m now at V.25, and the widgets are not fixed! So indeed, as the forum says, this one is on Wiko, not on Marshmallow!
All these people who left these reviews on Wiko France, don’t they ever use widgets other than those that come with the phone?!
Speaking of Wiko’s ROM, let’s also note that Clean Master is a pest, a cancer. Should you want something of the like, try CM Lite instead. But both apps give a false positive on the excellent built-in File Manager:
To put it bluntly: do the guys at Wiko really test anything prior to releasing a build of the firmware? They might have a financial deal with Cheetah Mobile, but hopefully not to the point of sabotaging their own products!
Today, I’m also believing that “One Clean” or Phone Assist’s “Click to optimize” are almost useless. Here’s why. When you press the app list button, you have the option of closing all the apps with UI. Indeed, “One Clean” would also kill background services belonging to apps without a visible UI, but in the following seconds most such apps would restart anyway if not blocked in the configuration screens shown above. An example:
From left to right:
- Apps left active after closing everything via the app list button.
- Apps left active after “One Clean.” Don’t look at the free RAM, as Marshmallow uses up to 128 MB as cache, and in this case the free RAM actually… decreased!
- Google Play Services automatically restarted shortly after, and some other Google apps started sync (Keep); also, Messaging went up and running.
- The Music app also started, despite my not starting any audio app.
As you can see, it’s useless to try to maximize the free RAM using Wiko’s tools or 3rd-party tools (such as Clean Master). When more RAM is needed, Marshmallow will close unused background apps anyway. It will also use less than the maximum of 128 MB of cache it can use on 1 GB systems.
The infuriating part is that My Launcher’s Weather app has an unstoppable background service even if the respective widget is on no screen! At the same time, no matter what I whitelist and what power saving I disable, third-party widgets simply can’t have a guaranteed update! (They actually have a guaranteed failure.)
Some notes on the camera now. As previously mentioned, its performance is unspectacular, and the artifacts it leaves on photos made me suspect its 8MP are upscaled (interpolated) 5MP, the Archos way. In this case though, using a 5MP setting doesn’t change the shape of the pattern of the artifacts, so I have to infer that we’re in the case of a noisy sensor, not of a faked resolution. This is acceptable given the price of the device.
As I used the camera in real conditions, I noticed that it tends to underexpose, even in good light, the way so many cheap LG phones do. Then I discovered something.
When taking a photo, if you don’t just tap on the trigger, but tap on various parts of the screen, not only the focus changes, but also the exposure time. Most of the time, the picture becomes brighter, even if the focus doesn’t change significantly, possibly because the light is now computed as an average for the area you selected instead of an average for the entire viewport! By making sure you select through a tap the most important area of a picture, not only you’ll get much better daylight photos, but even photos in low light conditions (and without flash!) will be much, much better! Also, selecting a darker area even allows for successful photos en contre-jour!
Another trick: switch the camera from “Normal” to “Professional,” then change the ISO to 400 for daylight or 800 for low light. The exposure will usually adapt accordingly, but the image is going to be lighter than normal–not overexposed, just lighter.
Now, the camera doesn’t seem that bad anymore. But the frame creaks. As for the widgets…
Allô, Wiko, ça arrive cette mise à jour, nom d’une pipe? (Et je suis poli et patient. Je devrais avoir retourné cet appareil, mais je déteste les cons, et il y en a beaucoup chez Saturn.de. Et j’ai vraiment besoin d’un truc de 5,5 pouces. Non, ma bite ne ferait pas l’affaire, elle a quelque 7 pouces…)
UPDATE: As I was telling myself that I can live with the (almost useless) built-in weather widget that use Accuweather in the background (without specifying it), plus Goggle’s News & Weather widget (which, just as Google Now, uses weather.com, which is The Weather Channel), I noticed one thing. No, not that most of the time the readings are different–this is rather normal in the world of weather apps. Spot the error:
At some point, instead of showing the weather for Leonberg, Wiko’s widget started to show the weather for Silberberg, despite Location being enabled. As previously explained, I don’t mind when instead of Leonberg I see Gerlingen, Renningen, Rutesheim or Ditzingen (and this actually happens in some German apps every now and then), as those towns are quite close. But Silberberg? Well, some motherfucker of a developer thought that, once the location determined, the closest station need not be determined based on longitude and latitude, but by name. And, instead of 71229 Leonberg (Baden-Württemberg), the search found (alphabetically by the name of the Land?) a station close to 95666 Leonberg (Bayern/Bavaria). So it displays the weather from Silberberg, more than 500 km away! One more reason to never trust the “system” weather widget…
As Shakespeare once wrote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the software developers…”
Aug. 23: IMPORTANT UPDATE!
I can now tell you why NOBODY SHOULD EVER BUY A MARSHMALLOW WIKO PHONE EVER! That includes at least the “Young” line that uses 1 GB of RAM: Robby, Lenny3, Tommy, Jerry, Sunny. I cannot tell whether the “over-optimization” is also present on Marshmallow devices with 2 or 3 GB of RAM (U Feel Lite, U Feel).
In addition to the widgets update being killed by the “over-optimization”, regardless of what settings are used, there is one more annoyance caused by Wiko’s “over-optimization”: e-mail autosync is periodically disabled by this piece of a shit, every single fucking day!
Despite every single account being set as follows, to sync every 15 minutes (note that GMail accounts are read by the GMail app, and only other accounts are read by the system Email app)…
…this is what the actual settings are–and there’s no way to enable the autosync from this dialog:
This is where the autosync can be enabled–globally:
At first, I though that the periodic “auto-disabling” of the autosync is caused by my accidentally hitting this “Optimize” thing in the Phone Assist app:
Unfortunately, this is not the case. The autosync disables by itself after some time! This is beyond unacceptable. I don’t know whether My Launcher or a system process is responsible of this issue, which is different from the widgets one, but the best thing everyone can do is this: when you encounter a Wiko smartphone, run away from it!
And when you think I used to recommend a few such phones in the past…
IMPORTANT! Update V.37 (received by me on Jan. 18, 2017), which is not a security update, fixed the widgets on Wiko ROBBY with regards to the general functionality: in previous versions (including V.32), most non-system widgets were simply not working at all (e.g. widgets for Twitter or for various news sources wouldn’t display anything), but now they work!
Still, a few widgets wouldn’t update at all, but it might be their fault. The general rule is that if a widget has a “button” or otherwise a way to update itself on touch, then it can be updated manually.
Also, background apps can still be terminated after some time for no obvious reason (at least on the “normal” ROBBY with 1GB of RAM, not on the Thai edition), despite having them whitelisted and not “optimized” in terms of battery, even those apps who add ongoing notifications supposed to keep them alive.
Nonetheless, since update V.37, ROBBY is at least almost fully usable in terms of widgets. I expect to find a similar progress with V.50 (to replace V.45) in LENNY3.