One of the most remarkable things about the launch of the Mark 1 phone by CREO was the fact that there was little talk of the design or the hardware of the device – the Bengaluru-based company is looking to make a mark (pun intended) with the software on the phone, Fuel OS, which will be regularly refreshed, justifying its “new phone every month” claim. However, that does not mean that the Mark 1 is your run-of-the-mill byte-bearing prototype (anyone remember the eyesore that was the G1?). No, while software might be the core strength of the Mark 1 (read the five most interesting features of Fuel OS here), the folks at CREO have also put some serious work into the appearance of its bearer, the Mark 1 phone.
The Mark 1 is a big, glossy, glassy, classy phone. At a time when the likes of Xiaomi and Oppo are trying to squeeze 5.5 inch displays into smaller frames, the Mark 1 is comfortably on the larger side at 155.4 mm in length and 76.1 mm in width, although it is still smaller than the iPhone 6S Plus’ respective proportions of 158.2 mm and 77.9 mm. At 8.7 mm in thickness it is svelte rather than super slim, and its 190 gramme weight is a bit on the hefty side (the iPhone 6S Plus, which we consider one of the heavier devices around, is just 2 grammes more at 192 grammes).
The front and back of the phone are jet black glass – so black that but for the CREO logo and the camera on the back, distinguishing between them can be a bit of a task unless you hit the power button. Yes, both will pick up smudges so we recommend keeping a cloth handy, but we cannot deny that it does look very good indeed and a far cry from the golden hues that are raining down on us these days, with and without rose infusion. The front of the phone features a 5.5 inch display and has three totally customisable touch buttons beneath it and an earpiece and 8.0-megapixel front facing camera above it. The back has the CREO logo and on the left corner a 21.0-megapixel camera with dual LED flash. A sturdy metal band runs along the sides of the phone, with the SIM card slots on the left, and three circular buttons on the right – one each for volume and one for the display/power (marked by a tiny orange line on it). Right on top is the 3.5 mm audio jack, and the base holds the micro USB port flanked by speaker grilles.
It is not super compact (it will stretch small palms, we suspect), it might be a bit on the slippery side and it is not lightweight, but the design of the buttons and that jet black front and back give the Mark 1 a very distinct and classy appearance. And its weight actually gives it a very solid feel – you don’t feel as scared of dropping it as you would a Lenovo Vibe S1 or a Mi 5 (dropping it is not recommended, though).
There is some decent hardware beneath that very distinct hood as well. The 5.5 inch display has a quad HD resolution, making the Mark 1 the most affordable device to offer that feature. And from what we have seen so far, the display is one of the strong points of the phone – very bright and with a 538 ppi pixel density that makes it a joy to read text on it. Powering the phone is a MediaTek Helio X10 processor, with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage which is expandable using a microSD card. The device comes with a front facing 8.0-megapixel camera (which supports selfie panorama shots in an interesting 3D picture mode), and a 21.0-megapixel camera at the back. Connectivity options include dual SIM, 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS (no NFC or infra-red). And of course, running on top of this is Fuel OS, which is based on Android 5.1, and is very close to stock Android in terms of appearance and handling. CREO has thrown in some very interesting features, including Sense, which is a powerful search function accessible by just double tapping the home button on the phone; Echo, an answering machine baked into the phone’s software; and Retriever, which allows you to find the location of your phone even if someone has stolen and reset it. And every month will see more features added to it, according to the company. Making sure all this ticks along smoothly for a while is a 3100 mAh battery with support for quick charging.
Good hardware, classy looks and innovative software – the Mark 1 does seem to offer a fair bit for the Rs 19,999 price tag that it carries. Yes, it will go toe to toe against the likes of the Moto X Play and the Lenovo Vibe X3, but judging from what we have seen in our brief acquaintance with the device, it might well hold its own. More in our detailed review on which we are working away at the moment. Right now, we can safely say that the Mark 1 is a welcome addition to the highly competitive Indian phone market. Just how much edge its software will give it over some very high-profile rivals will be revealed in the days to come, but as of now, it definitely has the looks and the innards to stand tall… and not just because it is a big phone!