I've used the CMF Phone 1 and can't believe it costs so little

This is my favourite cheap phone of 2024!

The CMF Phone 1 surrounded by some of the accessories for the phone
(Image credit: Sam Cross)

After weeks of rumours, leaks and brand CEO, Carl Pei, showing us the device in all its glory, the CMF Phone 1 is finally here. The device looks set to be an affordable monster, with a spec sheet which defies the price tag.

I've spent the last week or so with the phone in my possession, putting it through its paces to get a feel for just what it is capable of. Does it have what it takes to be the best cheap phone on the market? Let's dive in and take a look.

The CMF Phone 1 surrounded by some of the accessories for the phone

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

CMF Phone 1: Camera

Let's start at the business end. With many people not using any other kind of camera these days, phone cameras must be adept at a wide range of photography and videography.

The Phone 1 doesn't disappoint there. That 50MP main sensor is an absolute beast, firing off some truly gorgeous shots with wonderful colour reproduction. It's vibrant, but without looking unnatural, with a really good level of detail.

Soft backgrounds are here in spades, too. The algorithm used here does a great job of separating your subject from the background, to offer a beautiful bokeh even without using the Portrait mode.

If I had to find one criticism with the camera, it would be the lack of features on offer. While there are a handful of different modes – Expert, Time Lapse, Slo Mo and so forth – it does feel a little underdeveloped compared to other handsets.

Still, that would likely only matter to prosumers, and that's really not the target market here. In fact, the straight up point and shoot capabilities of this sensor are so good that I'd wager it's more compelling in this straightforward setup.

CMF Phone 1: Performance

Packing a MediaTek Dimensity 7300 processor inside, the CMF Phone 1 was always expected to perform. And while I haven't had a chance to put it through rigorous testing, its stood up to everything I've thrown at it thus far. That includes a few stints of mobile gaming and some fairly long photography sessions in hot conditions.

The gaming really didn't faze this handset at all. In fact, thanks to the large 6.67-inch AMOLED display and RAM Booster technology, gaming was actually a breeze on this phone. Everything from simple text emulators to AAA mobile games were running smoothly, with no hint of heat. That's great for a handset which isn't a dedicated gaming phone.

The photography did trouble it a little more. It's hard to say whether that came down to the external factors – the British summer sunshine made a rare appearance that day – or the phone itself, but I found that after 20 minutes or so, it needed a cooling break.

The CMF Phone 1 surrounded by some of the accessories for the phone

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

CMF Phone 1: Design

One of the major selling points of this handset is the customisable nature. There are a wide range of different options and accessories available, to help make this device perfect for you.

I tested it out with the stand, the card case and the lanyard, as well as having access to a couple of the different coloured backs. I found the lanyard and the stand fairly handy. They attach to a small thumbscrew on the rear panel, making it quick and easy to get on and off.

The card case is a little trickier, needing you to unscrew three of the four back panel screws too. While that's not too tricky, it was quite cumbersome, so its only worthwhile if you really need it.

The CMF Phone 1 surrounded by some of the accessories for the phone

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

As for the back panels? Well, I tried my darnedest to get it changed over, but I just couldn't. Removing the four screws and the thumbscrew, you're greeted with a message which says "push here to release".

I tried pushing just about every which way I could think of, but there was nothing I could do to get it to budge. Fearing that any more force may cause damage, I instead opted to love the black back it came with out of the box.

However, I did finally find a way to get it changed over. You'll need to use slightly more force than feels natural, and really wedge something under the edge to get it off. It's certainly not an easy thing to do, but it is possible.

While we're on the subject of the back panel, it's worth noting the overall design. It's plastic – seriously, what more did you expect at this price? – but it does feel a lot cheaper than other handsets I've used.

The CMF Phone 1 surrounded by some of the accessories for the phone

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

Should you buy a CMF Phone 1?

At just £239 for the top spec model, the CMF Phone 1 really can't be measured against traditional benchmarks. Because sure, it does feel cheaper than other handsets around. But that's really the only major gripe I have here.

Frankly, this phone represents fantastic value for money in the current market. The spec sheet is incredible, and could easily be found on a device at twice the price. If you're in the market for a phone with top specs and a low price, this is the one for you.

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at T3.com, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.