Is it any different from the Spice Dream Uno? or from the Karbonn Sparkle V? Aren’t the Android One phones similar to each other, in every aspect? They absolutely are, with the specs and almost with the pricing as well. But, there lies a little difference in two aspects, the design and camera. Design, after all is the manufacturer’s choice, but with camera, we aren’t talking about the megapixel count – it is the capture quality that differs a little, at least for us. But, can the Micromax Canvas A1 live up to the expectations, and claim to be one of those devices worth the price Microsoft is asking for it? Let’s find out.
Like I said earlier in the Spice Dream Uno review, the Android One series is started to promote Android, and give the users an experience of Stock Android ROM, without the heavy interface and pre-loaded bloatware. The experience as always, is good on Android’s stock ROM but did Micromax put in enough to give a good user experience?
Design, Form Factor
The Canvas A1’s design, to start off, is a little different from the other Android One phones, especially with the backplate, but the comfort and feel that it gives for the user is no different. The 4.5-inch screen makes it comfortable enough to hold, and it doesn’t feel heavy at all. It has the similar curvy design, polycarbonate backplate and doesn’t get better than the Spice counterpart, because the fingerprints and dust can freely collect over there. It is a hard task to remove that, as simple brushing off doesn’t make the back cover clean.
And, note that I would be using the word “similar” several times in this review, as that is what it is when we talk of comparison between the Canvas A1 and the two other Android One phones. Just the same earpiece on the front top and speaker grill towards the bottom on the backplate, and what’s different clearly is the camera section. The same 5MP camera lies within a big circular brushed aluminum area, and that particular section is a little raised to demarcate itself. The physical buttons are located on the right – power, volume rocker.
The MicroUSB port is in the bottom, alongside a Mic and on the top, there is a 3.5mm headset jack. The back cover is removable, and it there’s a removable 1700 mAh battery, two MicroSIM card slots and a MicroSD card slot, all under the hood. Overall with the design, no difference from the Spice Dream Uno and we had liked that as well, for the light weight and comfort while holding it.
The FWVGA resolution display is not impressive at all, but it doesn’t disappoint and can be called decent. Micromax as a brand was known to be better than Spice and Karbonn, and Spice had impressed with the touch response and the touchscreen quality, and the response is no different from the Canvas A1. What we noticed with the brightness is that the Canvas A1’s brightness sensors worked even better than the one in the Spice unit.
The brightness was not great though, and the viewing angles as well. Only a few bright colors were clear under the sunlight, and one might struggle reading the text in a proper day light. The front touch buttons are a part of the display, hiding themselves within any app. Just like with Spice, Micromax has done a good work with the design and display, and the sensors worked better in the Micromax unite.
OS, Interface & Apps
Running the Android 4.4.4 latest KitKat OS, the Canvas A1 has the stock ROM for the neat experience. For a user who has played around with Android OS quite well earlier too, this won’t be an interesting OS at all. But for someone who is new to Android OS, it is the best interface which asks no time before letting the users get acquainted with it. Two big advantages for the Android One users – the next major update (Android L) is guaranteed for this device, and these phones with the stock ROM have a very less bloatware (almost none from the brand, except for Amazon, askme, M! Live apart from the Google Play Services apps. Unlike the Spice Cloud app, there isn’t anything as such for a cloud backup of data in the Micromax A1, but you do have alternatives such as Dropbox (if you wish to download from Play Store).
For a Mediatek quad-core chipset that is not expected to give the best performance, it is still very decent. We tried playing several games, the very basic ones to even the ones that would show some lag on entry-level devices, i.e. Subway Surfers, Temple Run 2 and the phone didn’t break a sweat even after playing the games for a considerable amount of time. Moreover, the 1GB RAM was good enough to handle several apps in the background while working on one. Larger games can be played too, but if we want the phone to play it the same way a flagship high-end device does, we are asking a lot.
For a comparison, the Micromax Canvas A1 did an overall better performance, app loading time was lesser than the Spice Dream Uno. The amount of RAM available to the user without any app running, is not really different but still the Micromax’s Android One device gets a vote for the performance against the Spice’s counterpart.
The 5MP camera seems to be just the one we saw in the other Android One devices, and the capture quality is no different at all. Poor low light captures, decent ones on bright conditions but even little shakes bring out blurry pictures, and that is well expected.
Camera capture with / without flash
The video quality is not great, although the numbers say it is 1080p Full HD video recording possible. Even little shakes were making too much noise, and the subject is never focused in the video recording, in the bright light conditions where we tested it. Hey, there’s a front camera as well. Is that good? No. At least not like any 2MP camera would look like, as there is a lot of noise, and the only good thing about it – assisting in video calling.
Speakers, Connectivity and Battery
Another plus for the Micromax Canvas A1, and a reason to stay on the top is the speakers that gave better results at the same time when playing music on the Spice Dream Uno. The speakers on the back of the phone do put out restricted sound when placed with screen facing up, but the sound output level is still good, and there’s no distortion seen on the highest volume level in the device. While in the hand, the speaker gets placed exactly where the device rests on the palm and thus, the volume output is restricted a little.
Interestingly, when we took out the two Android One smartphones at a place little far from an available Wi-Fi hotspot, the Spice device could catch the network and keep it stable but there were fluctuations and the signal was lost with the Wi-Fi network once, at the same distance. The mobile network though, was a lot better and the call quality was good as well. For calling on 3G network, there was a lot of fluctuation and a couple times, the call dropped (we were on low signal area) twice but on 2G, the calling as well as the data network connectivity was very stable.
Does the Canvas A1 give the user a full day’s usage on the 1700 mAh battery? It indeed does, but it is when you don’t stick your phone against your eyes all the time. Normal calling, little web browsing, messaging, social networking is what comprises a daily standard usage, except if you are much into playing games and movies. For the standard usage, the smartphone gives a perfect usage for the entire day without running out of power.
The Android One project did hit at the right spot, in a segment where finding decent smartphones for budget-minded users was very hard. While we would rate the Micromax Canvas A1 higher than Spice Dream Uno, the former doesn’t climb to the top of the chart, as there are still some very well performing smartphones in the same price range (a quick mention – Xiaomi Redmi 1s, although not easily available). But again, the Xiaomi’s phones with MIUI cannot impress every new user out there, and that is where the Android’s stock ROM can play a role in giving a very good user experience to the users.
Another worthy mention is Karbonn Sparkle V, the third phone in Android One series, and there’s Moto E as well, but the camera in the Canvas A1 is better than on these two.