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Friday, October 14, 2011

Micromax A70: Android for the masses?

Micromax claims that in Andro 70 it has a device that can offer consumers a compelling Android experience at an “affordable” price.
NEW DELHI: One of the biggest bets Google made three years ago when it decided to go ahead with Android's 'free-for-all' model was that manufacturers would put the operating software on a diverse set of hardware and would compete with each other to bring down the prices of handsets. This, Google hoped, would give Android an edge in the market.

It took some time but gradually low-cost smartphones have started appearing in the market. Of course, given the leeway Android allows phone manufacturers in choosing hardware means that some of these low-cost options are going to be downright unusable. But some can be good value for money. It's all about making the right choices and cutting the cost in right areas.

Micromax claims that in Andro 70 it has a device that can offer consumers a compelling Android experience at an "affordable" price. Remember the "I can afford this phone" dig the company took at one 'fruity device' a few weeks ago? We put A70 through paces to check if it is the smartphones masses are waiting for...

Looks good

Barring aluminum bezel around the 3.2-inch screen, the body of A70 is build using average looking plastic. But it's not as bad as it sounds. The build quality is good and the fact that it has matte feel gives it a classy look. There are no creaking parts and the phone is put together well.

In fact, for its price it is built quite tastefully and thoughtfully. Micro USB port on the top has a small cover so that dirt and pocket lint doesn't collect in it. The volume rocker is in appropriate place on the top right and has a chrome finish to it for added style. Micromax has also put a separate button for camera shutter, something that even most high-end Android smartphones lack.

With a thickness of 13.5mm, A70 is not going to win any laurels from those with an eye for anything sleek and thin. But it gets the job done. The curves on A70 and weight of just 85 grams mean it's comfortable to hold. Apart from the four capacitive touch buttons - back, options, search and home - under the screen, A70 also has a round physical button. From the looks, it gives the impression of being a trackball. But it's just a plain home button. It is of little use and A70 could have done perfectly fine without it.

The phone is powered by 600Mhz processor. It has 256MB RAM, 160MB user-accessible internal storage with option for micro SD card up to 32GB. The screen resolution is 320 x 480 pixels. On paper, this is a good package for its price.

Customized for India

A70 is powered by Android 2.2, or Froyo, as it is known among the folks who keep a track of such things. Micromax has not changed Froyo much on A70 but has, quite thoughtfully, preloaded several apps, including its own market app called Mi-Apps, on it. Of these, miRoamer, an app that connects to web radio stations, Saavn, which streams popular Bollywood songs, and NewsHunt that connects to various Indian newspapers, including Hindi and vernacular papers, are noteworthy.

On our review sample, the Google apps - Gmail, Navigation, Places etc - were missing. But Micromax has told us that the apps are preloaded in the handsets available in the market.

Some hits, some misses

Despite its not-so-cutting-edge hardware, A70 performs surprisingly well out of the box. It's not a speed demon but offers decent smartphone experience. Web browsing on A70 is good. It can't play flash videos and animations but scrolling through pages and pinch-to-zoom work very well. GPS is functional and in our use gave us no reason to complain.

Casual gaming is possible on A70 though frame rate will not always be smooth. Angry Birds and Moto Racer were playable but Angry Birds Rio, which is more demanding due to better graphics and explosions, taxed the phone and slowed it down.

On most budget phones, screen is often a huge compromise. On A70, however, Micromax has managed to put quite good screen. It is amply bright and displays nice colours. The touch sensitivity, though not buttery smooth, is functional. A70 lacks an ambience light sensor. This means users may have to manually set the brightness depending on the lighting conditions. It's not a big deal, though.

A70 has a 5MP camera. There is no flash and no tap-to-focus. Performance of camera is average. Shots taken in bright sunlight were detailed, albeit with dull colours. The performance indoors was less than satisfactory. For videos, A70 camera is plain disappointing. The resolution at which videos are recorded is very low and the quality is very poor.

Video playback is also disappointing. During our tests A70 could not play any video file unless we re-encoded it to a lower resolution - read 640X400 - and low-profile format. Though given the hardware in A70 and its price, it would have been miracle had it managed to play anything with a resolution of 720P or more.

Battery is the strong point of A70. It is rated for 1450 mAh, which is very good for a phone with 3.2-inch screen. With some browsing, apps like Gmail and Twitter on real-time notification and some gaming, the battery on A70 lasted for around 10 to 12 hours on 3G.

Worth the money?

Yes, it is. A70 has its share of issues - camera in particular - but with an MRP of Rs 7,999 - market price is even less - it offers incredible value. It doesn't dazzle with speed or features. But it gets the basic, which is screen and overall responsiveness of the phone, right.

Froyo on A70 is works very well, providing good experience when it comes to common tasks like emails, social networking, light browsing on the go, navigation and casual gaming. If you are out in the market, hoping to buy your first smartphone and do not plan to spend more than Rs 10,000, give A70 a serious consideration. It deserves it.


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