About 800 million Indians who don't have smartphones are in the cross hairs of Google's Android One project. Vipul Vivek & Agamoni Ghosh & Nitin Sreedhar review the first three phones launched in this programme recently.
A few months ago, Motorola brought quality to the sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone market. Then for a few weeks, it seemed Asus would take centre stage at the party Motorola had thrown.
However, Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi won over the spectators with its dazzling performance.
Without challenging the Chinese rival on quality, Firefox tried to mark its own territory by offering cloud-based smartphones running on its operating system at prices a little over a fifth of the ceiling of this vast segment.
Now, Google, which dominates the software part of the Indian smartphone market, is eyeing an entry into the hardware business. (Poor Windows didn't even get a chance to shake a leg at the party.)
The Android One programme will see the search engine leader join hands with handset makers to attract first-time smartphone users. What is Google betting on?
The stock Android experience, until now reserved for the mid-range flagship Nexus devices, comes largely at about a fifth of the cost and the promise of keeping you in mind before many others in the queue for updates to the Google ecosystem for two years at least.
For, the company doesn't seem to have scored a clincher with either the price or the quality.
Let's take a look at the first three Android One phones launched last week.
All the Android One phones launched together look identical when it comes to build and design.
Some functions such as taking photos or storing audio files aren't available without inserting an SD card; so, add about Rs 1,000 to the price of the phones.
Screens of all the three phones get smudged easily.
Spice Dream Uno Rs 6,299
Spice's handset, the cheapest among the three, is on the bulkier side, but has a good grip. The back panel has an edgy look with the part-silicon, part-plastic material.
The IPS LCD display disappoints when compared to Xiaomi's Redmi 1S and Motorola's Moto G. The touchscreen is smooth and responsive though readability under sunlight is not up to the mark.
The camera also fails to live up to its own claims. The front camera, particularly, is disappointing. The image quality is just about average. The battery performance is dismal.
Micromax Canvas A1 Rs 6,499
Micromax's offering is likely to be available in various colours, but the black variant is probably the most attractive.
The display has a rich colour output and decent viewing angles. The Canvas A1 has a lovely matte finish at the back. The rear camera and flash are located on a circular frame on the top left that protrudes, giving the device a different look.
The processor fits perfectly with the latest version of Android KitKat 4.4.4. The battery lasts for a day easily unless you use both the SIMs heavily. While the speaker output is decent, making calls on the device was not that smooth always.
People on the other side of the call often complained that our voice was muffled, despite sitting in a quiet room. The earpiece also sounded a bit dull even on full volume. The front-facing camera was more impressive, capturing exceptional pictures even indoors.
Karbonn Sparkle V Rs 6,399
The phone is light, though the rubberised back panel is slippery. The display is sharp and crisp, colours are well balanced and the viewing angles had no issues.
The touchscreen responds well and there were no lags switching between apps or functions.
The audio output - with or without the headphones - was middling though clean. The visibility is good even outdoors.
The camera clicks grainy pictures and doesn't work under extreme lighting conditions. The battery lasted a day with moderate use.
What we think
Those who couldn't lay their hands on a Xiaomi, these are the next best. Otherwise, wait, because Google has said it has more and better in store for Android One.
ANDROID ONE SPECS
Display: 4.5-inch (854X480 pixels, 218 ppi) IPS LCD FWVGA
Cameras (front/rear): 2MP/5MP; 30 frames a second 1,080-pixel recording
Memory: 4GB (about 1.5GB for use), expandable up to 32GB with a microSD card
Processor: 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek
OS: Android Kitkat 4.4.4
Battery: 1,700 mAh
SIM: Dual, microSIM