LAS VEGAS - Nokia better watch its back. A new, little-known phone maker could shake up the Windows Phone market, loosening the Finnish company's hold at the top. Miami-based Yezz launched its Billy 4.7 smartphone here at CTIA to deliver a solid Windows Phone 8.1 experience in a sleek, stylish build for just $250 unlocked. You can pre-order it via Amazon already (expected to ship by Sept 15) or buy it through the Microsoft store later this year. I spent some time with the Billy 4.7 and was impressed with its solid chassis, better-than-expected performance and display.
Although it's just $80 more than Nokia's Lumia 635 ($168 unlocked on T-Mobile), the Billy packs a whole lot more advantages. Its 4.7-inch display has a 720p display that's sharper than the 4.5-inch Lumia 635's 480p one. The Billy also offers a 2-megapixel front camera and an 8-megapixel shooter round back, while the Lumia sports just a 5-megapixel rear setup and has no selfie camera.
Both phones feature removable rear panels and have a microSD card slot inside to boost onboard storage (both 8GB) by up to 128GB. While the Billy is powered by a 1.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 200 CPU compared to the Lumia's 1.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 one, it does carry more RAM (1GB) than the Lumia (512MB). During my time with the phone, it was zippy and responsive. The camera app opened quickly and snapped pictures swiftly. Sliding from the menu to the live tiles page was smooth and responsive.
What really surprised me with the Billy is its super sleek 0.28-inch profile, which is thinner than the Lumia 635's 0-36-inch one. That's also slimmer than the Samsung Galaxy S5 (0.31 inches). Despite that waif-like frame, the Billy felt solid and sturdy. I also enjoyed the soft touch finish on the phone's back.
Each Billy comes with three extra back panels in patriotic red, white and blue hues so you can pop them out and exchange them for a fresh look. All those goodies add up to make the Billy 4.7 a solid mid-range phone at an appealing entry-level price. But, before you rush out to buy it, wait till we get a unit in to put through our barrage of tests to see just how well this bargain phone stacks up against its competitors.