How cheap can Android phones go? Yes, they can go below the $100 mark, but can they provide a good user experience at this price point. My trysts with cheap Androids have only helped reinforce my view that this operating system has been built for high-end hardware. But when a company like Datawind — which gave India the very controversial, but also dirt cheap Aakash tablet — enters the smartphone space with a large screen Android device that with price tag of Rs 6,499, I had to give it a try. Here are the results.
Quick Tech Specs: 4.9-inch LCD touchscreen (480×854 pixels, 240dpi) | 1.3 GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6572 | 512MB RAM | 4GB internal memory + microSD card | Micros USB | Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth | 5MP reaer camera/ 0.3MP front camera | Android 4.2
Price: Rs 6,499
Design: It certainly looks like a smartphone, though it is not as thin as the box would have you believe. The shape is a bit awkward, a bit like the Sony Xperia Z devices. But the Pocketsurfer sure looks sturdy, thanks to the metallic band that runs around the device. On the left is one power button and on the right is a long volume button. Unlike most top-end Androids, the three buttons below the screen are visible even when the phone is not on. The micro-USB and 3.5mm jack are both awkwardly on top. The phone is heavy and weighs 176 grams, which is heavy for a 5-inch device. The rear flap is a bit tough to open and houses two SIM slots and the micro-SD card.
Screen: This is a budget phone and the screen is certainly one of the places where the company has tried to keep the costs low. It is not a bad screen if you get the angles right, but that is not going to be all that easy. This is an LCD screen and if you have been exposed to IPS panels you will not like what you see. But remember, the effort here is to give you a large screen at the cheapest price.
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Performance: This is a pretty decent smartphone and we did almost everything we would with any high-end smartphone. Multi-tasking works fine, but at times the phone does freeze up. I noticed this most while using the Chrome browser. There is an internal browser too, but it was impossible to clear the strange form that asked a lot of questions before the browser actually opened. I filled the form, but there didn’t seem to be a way to go further. That was bad since I know Datawind excels in compressing data to make it cheaper to access the Internet from their devices. The phone got a decent score on the benchmark tests and was placed near the two-year-old Samsung Galaxy S2.
Memory: It is no surprise that the phone has just 4GB internal storage. Out of that you get to use less than half. So, you will need to add an SD card to supplement the storage.
Connectivity: This is a dual-SIM phone and we experienced no issues as far as connectivity is concerned.
Software: This is where the Pocketsurfer is a bit of a headache. The phone has the same set of apps that I found on the Ubislate 7C+, a seven-inch budget tablet from the same company. That was supposed to have been the most affordable tablet for a lot of people and it was justified to pack that with education apps. I can’t understand why you want to pack a smartphone with the same apps. Plus, as I mentioned the browser is a real pain to get going. There is a Datawind app store that gives you a curated pick of must-haves.
Camera: The rear camera is okay, but lacks detail. It seems to have some focus issues too, especially when the subject is close. The front camera is passable.
Battery: The battery is not one of the phone’s strong points. After all, how much load can a 1600mAh battery take. A 5-inch smartphone needs at least 2000mAh if you ask me.
Verdict: This is undoubtedly among the cheapest 3G phablets you can buy in India. There are cheaper 5-inch phone, even Datawind has launched two, but on 2G. If price is that much of a concern for you, this is a phone you can consider. However, people have often complained of issues with the after sales service of companies like Datawind and that is something I cannot guarantee. Overall, this is a usable phone, but there are issues with its battery and screen. It also gives you decent specifications, at least on paper. Yes, there could be an opportunity here for Datawind as well as its customers.