The Android One project kicked off in India, and with three smartphones to start with. It is a collaboration of seven companies together, as Google binds with Micromax, Spice and Karbonn who are selling their smartphones on online stores Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal. We have been testing the Spice’s Android One smartphone, the Spice Dream Uno Mi-498 to the core, and following are our thoughts about the device.
Like I said in the Spice Mi-498 hands-on, the Spice Dream Uno is one of the only devices I liked from Spice, because most of their phones are just a piece of almost nothing, with issues in one or the other aspects. But the Dream Uno kept me interested, and it actually was giving a good user experience, thanks to the simple Android stock ROM, but there are a few issues that I faced during this one week of usage. Down the line, this could go up because any smartphone is the best at performance, only when it is new.
Comfortable in hand, the Spice Dream Uno has a curvy design on all sides and the polycarbonate back gives a smooth feel, though the material makes it look cheap and it retains fingerprints and dust, just like the front screen area does. There is no easy way than to press and rub the back cover, in order to clean it from those marks and stains. On the front, the earpiece is placed as a circular grill just beside the front camera. On the back, there is a speaker grill, and the camera with LED flash are towards the top. Check the Spice Dream Uno design overview to know our thoughts about the design.
The display is decent enough, and although the resolution is poor (FWVGA display), the brightness is not really bad and the color reproduction on the display is decent. The only major issue was that the text and colors were not clearly visible in daylight under the sun. The touchscreen and the response is surprisingly good, and the “surprise” because earlier there were some disappointing experiences with the poor touch response from Spice phones priced in the similar range. The light sensor for automatic brightness did work well, but for some reason, under the bright sunlight it couldn’t take the brightness to maximum and I had to force that by removing the automatic brightness option.
With the 4.5-inch screen, you aren’t getting the entire display area to use because the three bottom system buttons are a part of the display, and they stay there for most of the time, unless you are within some app, where these buttons go hidden.
For the design and display, Spice has done a good job (under the eyes of Google) and there is nothing really bad except for the rear speakers and the fingerprint magnet body, because the display could not be better than this for the price we are paying.
The operating system in the Spice Android One phone is Android 4.4.2 KitKat with the stock ROM, the big reason why this series has emerged. Google wants to penetrate into the rural areas where the smartphone usage is very low, and with the Android One project, Google wants to make the users get their hand on smartphones, and get a good user experience. From a personal view, the vanilla UI that comes in these devices, is one the easiest to use, and the first time users won’t be confused at all. It surely could be a boring one for those who have the colorful and vibrant interfaces in several other devices, but this is Android and you have no limits.
Moreover, although this might not be really important for the first-time users, the Android L update (next version) is coming in the near future and Google is going to provide the software support for 2 years. The current version of Android running in this phone is Android 4.4.4 KitKat, and there are some important pre-installed apps in it – All the Google Play Services apps (Gmail, Chrome, Google Camera, Google, Google+, Hangouts, Keep, Maps, Photos, Play Books, Play Games, Play Games, Play Music, Google Translate and Youtube), and there is Spice Cloud with 10GB cloud backup.
The performance is not bad at all, with the Spice Dream Uno having a quad-core Mediatek chipset with 1GB RAM. Multitasking is possible with ease, and I could see at least 6 apps running on the background without any issue, although there are some very little lags while trying to shift from a basic app to a heavy game. The good thing is, you are actually able to resume to the same point where you were in the app that you had switched from. About 650 MB of RAM was available initially after a fresh restart, and for 1GB of RAM, that is good enough.
We tried playing a few games such as Subway Surf, Temple Run 2 and such not-so-heavy ones and the phone could easily play these without any issue. There were no noticeable lags as such, although this is a little early judging because the performance gets lower with time, but still whatever a user expects from a basic smartphone, is all available in the Spice Dream Uno. For those who have a good knowledge about it, they can install even larger games such as Asphalt 8, and the gaming isn’t really disappointing but in this particular game, we noticed some slowing down.
If we really had to take benchmark scores into consideration, the device has got some very good scores in AnTuTu, Quadrant Standard and Vellamo benchmarks, but let us put more focus on the actual performance of the device. Video playback too is very decent, and the speaker volume level was better than expected.
The 5MP rear camera of the Spice Dream Uno can capture decent pictures, but there is noticeable noise, unnecessary exposure on the pictures in any light condition. The camera samples below can explain it better.
The camera can even capture 1080p Full HD videos at 30 fps but still the quality is not really appreciable, thanks to the shakes that cannot be much controlled. In this case, the photo captures are better in quality than the video recording, by a long mile.
The speakers have an odd placement, i.e. on the back bottom where the sound could be restricted when the phone is laid flat on any surface. But here, the sound output was still good, not just with the quality but the volume levels. With the connectivity, there are no issues as such and everything was very well functioning, and the network signal reception was good, as we didn’t notice much break or a call drop in low signal area.
The Wi-Fi reception was not great, compared to the Xiaomi Redmi 1s and even the Asus Zenfone 4, all of them tested at the same time.
Finally, the battery is very much decent and the 1700 mAh battery is enough to take you through the entire day if you don’t try to do something like watching videos, browsing the web for hours. The charging from 0 to 100 percent took about 1 hour 35 minutes, and that was the direct power charging while charging it using the USB charging with laptop took about 20 minutes extra on average. Around 19 hours was the time the battery could survive, on regular calling and very little usage of Wi-Fi on browser, although for the entire day we had the Wi-Fi turned On.
This is the segment that is showing huge number of devices now, after a long time of scarcity of decent phones. But now, there are some good number of phones and surely the Spice Dream Uno can be one among the top five, but not the best. The phone has a decent performance and a good design, but the camera isn’t great. Still, for the price you are paying for the Dream Uno, this is a device one can take without a double thought, if there is no heavy use and a pure Android experience with no hassles is what you need.
Alternatives, there are many of them right now. Xiaomi’s Redmi 1s would stay on the top of the list, but again it can be in the list of devices which are hardly available in the market. Micromax’s Canvas A1 is another phone with similar price and that too is a part of the Android One project. Motorola’s Moto E is a decent contender but now, the camera isn’t as good as the ones in these Android One series phones.