It is raining Android Ones. Hallelujah. Well, that has been the sentiment in our quarter as we have received each of the Android One devices that were unveiled last week by Google. Yes, we have in our possession (review-oriented, we assure you) – drum roll – the Micromax Canvas A1, the Karbonn Sparkle V and the Spice Dream Uno. All three run Android One. All three were showcased at the Google Android One event in Delhi.
And having spent a bit of time with them, we can testify that all three are shockingly alike when it comes to their Android One souls and hardware. I mean – 4.5-inch display of 854 x 480 resolution? Check. Quad core MediaTek processor? Check. 1 GB RAM? Check. Dual SIM? Check. 4GB storage (expandable)? Check. 1700mAh battery? Check. The latest Android? Check. Assured updates to newer versions of Android? Check.
You see where we are getting? It is like one massive Android One clone army.
Which is why, ah, design matters. For while, Android One may own the digital soul of these devices, their designers are relatively unencumbered by such burdens. And we reckon design could be one of the key differentiators between these three devices. A more detailed review will doubtlessly tell us more, but as that is a few days away (it takes time to do a review, you know), here are our very basic hands-on impressions of Android One’s Awesome Threesome.
In the pictures below, the Karbonn Sparkle V is on the extreme left or on the top, the Micromax Canvas A1 is in the middle, and the Spice Dream Uno is on the extreme right or on the bottom. This is not a ranking done in any sort of priority – we just laid them out like that!
In terms of packaging, Micromax has gone for the mini pizza box style of packaging, while both Spice and Karbonn have opted for the shoebox pattern. And interestingly, Micromax have not even put a picture of their device on the packaging, and pretty much stresses the brand name and Android One angle angle. The Spice and Karbonn packages are more routine to be honest. No, we know no one buys a phone based purely on the box it comes in, but Micromax have scored one here, we think.
In terms of handling, all the three devices were comfortable to hold and marked a refeshing change from the trend of phones that insist on trying to stretch your palms. We think the Canvas A1 had the cleanest finish of the three, though, and came closest to a premium look.
From the front, the difference between the phones is pretty well zero – they are all pretty close to the same length, with “chins” below their displays and a camera and spherical speaker grille on the centre above the display.
Move on the sides and while once again you will be struck by similarities (power/display on/off button above volume rocker, both on right side, and left side totally bare) you will see Karbonn having gone for a slighly more ‘boxish’ look. While the Canvas A1 and Dream Uno kind of curve outwards towards the back, the Sparkle V has a flatter look. And hell, the colours of the Sparkle V make a difference – the red unit with black buttons on the side will catch eyes. A word about the volume rocker and power/display button – in the Canvas A1 and the Sparkle V, they are attached to the back cover, while in the case of the Dream Uno, they are not and are part of the main body.
Don’t try to find any massive differentials on the top and base on the phones – the former houses the 3.5mm jack and the base the microUSB port. Oh the symmetry!
So we come to the REAL point of distinction between the three devices in visual terms – the backs (we almost said “rears,” whoops!). There is a general symmetry here too – yes, the 5.0-megapixel cameras with flashes just below them are positioned in the top left corners of all three devices, the brandnames of the manufacturers are in the upper middle parts and on the lower part, you find the Android One logo (name) with a speaker grille beneath it. But there the similarity ends. As we pointed out in our hands on with the Canvas A1, Micromax has made the most of the back, using a spherical disc to encase the camera and flash. Karbonn too has placed a rectangular box around the camera and flash, while Spice has opted to keep things plain – the result is that both the Canvas A1 and Sparkle V have cameras that just out a bit but hey, they catch the eye. Micromax also has put in a sparkling metallish logo, while Karbonn hopes to grab attention with its colourful back panels (the red one looks nice, we must admit). Karbonn has even tried to grab some attention with the speaker grille below the Android One logo, keeping it in the form on a straight black line, while Micromax and Spice have gone for small spheres. Micromax also has managed to highlight the Android One logo most prominently. On the back cover stakes, we really think it is between the Canvas A1 and the Sparkle V. Spice has gone for the most plain look of the lot, which is not a bad thing either – it will definitely appeal to the sober “I use my phone and don’t flaunt it” types, and there are plenty of those around.
The interfaces are pretty much the same and we did not see any sensational difference in display quality, although some people told us that they felt the Canvas A1 display seemed brighter – we suspect it might be the wallpaper, though. All three devices are on Android KitKat and the only apps that come apart from the Google ones are those related to their manufacturers or sellers: so you might have an Amazon, Flipkart or Snapdeal app or a Micromax Live app.
Peel off the back covers and we are back in clone land again, with similar battery, SIM cards and microSD card arrangements. There is a subtle difference in the back covers though – the ones on the Canvas A1 and Sparkle V contain the volume buttons while the volume buttons are a part of the main unit in the Dream Uno.
Right, so there we are with our initial hands on impressions. And if we had to sum matters up, we would say that in terms of appearance both Micromax and Karbonn have tried to be a bit different while Spice has stuck to a more conservative path – a surprise, given the fact that the company’s Stellar Mi-526 had a very catchy design. We think they are all three pretty smart devices, but if pushed to choose between them in terms of looks, we would go for the Canvas A1, the Sparkle V and the Dream Uno in descending order. Mind you, we can see a lot of people like the Dream Uno too – it has something basic and sober that will appeal to those who prefer their Android devices to be as unadorned as the software that runs on them.
And now to review these and tell you more in terms of performance. Stay tuned.