Android has seen a phenomenal growth in developing countries in the past few years, especially in India where all the national phone manufacturers and several other international OEMs have jumped on to the Android board.
One such company which has benefited from this boom is Micromax. After seeing decent success with its cheap Android and Java handsets, it has launched two budget-friendly smartphones into the market — the A90 Superfone Pixel and the A100 Superfone Canvas. Finding the Micromax A100 Superfone quite interesting, we managed to get our hands on it and here’s our review.
LARGE AND SLIPPERY
The Micromax A100 Superfone Canvas is a giant piece of technology. As usual, the volume rocker buttons are present on the left while the power button is present on the right. There are no physical buttons and Micromax has decidedly gone with virtual buttons, which looks pretty awesome in my opinion. There’s a microUSB port present at the bottom, but is oppositely fitted for some strange reason.
We wish the phone’s ergonomics was a little better, but we cannot complain given the low price point of this phone. It is built with plastic and so is very slippery.
MEDIOCRE DISPLAY FOR SUCH A LARGE SCREEN
The Micromax A100 Superfone Canvas sports a massive 5-inch display, but packs in a resolution of only 480 x 854 pixels, which is very low considering the large size of the screen. As a result, there’s a bit of haziness in the appearance of pixels in the screen. On a contrast note, the Micromax A90 has the same screen resolution even though it has a smaller screen size of 4.3 inches and so is much sharper than the A100.
The screen is a TFT display and so we were in a bit disappointment, especially with its touch responsiveness, which is of mediocre quality. The colors appear a bit washed out and the screen is barely visible under sunlight even when the brightness level is maxed out. But, again, it’s a budget phone so we’ll have to over-look these flaws.
Perhaps the worst part of the screen is the absence of a scratch-resistant glass layer and so you’ll have to spend some extra bucks on buying a screen guard.
PURE VANILLA ANDROID WITH SOME TWEAKS
The Micromax A100 Superfone Canvas runs on vanilla Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.4, to be precise) and, thankfully, Micromax has notforced any custom skin atopAndroid and a plethora of pre-installed apps like other manufacturers do such as Samsung (Touchwiz), HTC (Sense), etcetera, apart from a few tweaks.
The phone has three virtual (on-screen) buttons — back, home and recent apps (for multitasking). Talking about the customizations that Micromax has made, let’s start with the notification window, which has been one of THE reasons to get an Android device.
Micromax has added a set of hardware toggle buttons including WiFi, Bluetooth, Brightness, Orientation, Data, etc., which can be scrolled horizontally to reveal more buttons. Although the implementation is good, the design, however, is glossy and very gingerbread-ish. In fact, it’s ugly. It’s a very good example of how not to design for Android 4+. Micromax, you got to hire some good graphic designers.
Moving on, the browser has also been tweaked and a nifty gesture has been added to change tabs by simply swiping from the edge. Other software changes include dual-SIM support in the messaging app, which adds two separate send button for the two SIMs. In a similar fashion, the phone app has also been modified to add two call buttons and a T9 prediction in the dialer.
Overall, the UI is good, but the phone has a serious problem with auto-rotation of the display. The display takes a lot of time to change orientation. I believe that this problem has more to do with the phone’s software than the hardware since orientation change works perfectly when using the camera.
NOT VERY SMOOTH, BUT SMOOTHER THAN WHAT’S EXPECTED FROM A BUDGET PHONE
For the nerds, the A100 features a 1 GHz Scorpion processor (single core) and an Adreno 200 GPU chip inside it. While a single core processor may sound insanely slow in a world where quad core processors have become a norm for high-end smartphones, Micromax A100 Superfone Canvas manages to work somewhat quite smoothly.
App drawer, gallery, browser, messaging and pretty much other part of the OS work nicely, for which Micromax’s decision of not including its own skin on top of vanilla Android like other manufacturers (Touchwiz by Samsung, Sense by HTC, etc.) should be thanked for. There are a few visualartifacts that appear often and apps take some time to load,but the UI is overall decently responsive.
The phone, however, lags heavily when the phone is immediately woken up from sleep mode, like when unlocking the display, opening app drawer or answering an incoming call. It seems as if Micromax has done this intentionally to save battery by reducing the processor speed while the phone is in idle mode. I found this quite frustrating, but we cannot complain considering the low price of the phone.
It’s interesting to note that the phone’s little brother, the Micromax A90, packs in almost the same CPU chip inside it, but manages to outperform it in terms of UI responsiveness. This is because of the large size of A100’s screen, which requires more horsepower from the CPU.
GOOD FOR CASUAL GAMING, POOR FOR GRAPHICS INTENSE GAMING
Talking about the performance of games, the Micromax A100 Superfone Canvas manages to run casual games quite nicely such as Angry Birds, World of Goo, Fieldrunners HD, GunsNGlory WW2 and EDGE. The phone, however, lagged miserably while trying to run graphics intense games such as Temple Run Brave, Battleheart, etc., which was expected.
And Video Playback?
The Micromax A100 Superfone Canvas, to our surprise, can play 720p videos quite smoothly. If you’re interested in watching videos on the large screen then you won’t be in any disappointment.
SUBPAR PHOTO QUALITY AND CAMERA PERFORMANCE
The Micromax A100 sports a 5MP rear (primary) camera and an LED flash. Unfortunately, there’s no secondary camera present at the front. The camera takes photographs of subpar quality, which usually have high amount of noise, especially when lighting conditions aren’t very good.
These books are not mine.
Next, its video recording capabilities. For some weird reason, Micromax has included a separate Camera app in the phone as well even though the default camera app is capable of doing the same too. But, interestingly, the separate video recording app is able to record videos at a better frame rate and better quality.
Performance wise, the camera is capable of taking 480p [email protected] 26fps. For the laymen, anything below 30fps (frames per second) is not considered as smooth since the human eye is easily able to detect frames animating at 29fps or below.
Battery life is where the Micromax A100 Superfone Canvas really excels at as compared to other smartphones. I’ll break down the battery life into parts:
- Light Usage (few calls, texting, capturing photos): One and a half days
- Moderate Usage (browsing over WiFi, light gaming, texting): Almost a day
- Heavy Usage (browsing over 3G, heavy gaming, calling, watching videos): 6-7 hours
Specifications wise, it has a massive 2000mAh battery that is responsible for the phone’s impressive battery life.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
The Micromax A100 is a mediocre device running an excellent software (Android 4.0) with mediocre customizations, but bundled with hardware of subpar quality. We wish the camera and the display were a bit better, but we are restrained from complaining because of the phone’s insanely low price tag of just $200 or ₹10,000, which is perhaps the phone’s best feature.
Judging by its hardware and software, we’re giving it a rating of 4 + 2 (for low price), which totals to a final score of 6/10.
Should You Buy it?
Yes, if your budget is limited and you’re a fan of phones having giant screens, or ‘phablets’ as the hipsters popularly call them.
However, if a large screen is not what you wish for then there are two more phones available in this price range, which are certainly better than the A100. The first is Micromax’s own A90 Superfone Pixel which sports a smaller 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display and so is faster than the A100 despite having the same CPU. The second option is the Sony Xperia Tipo, which delivers a better performance than these two phones by Micromax, but has a smaller screen size of just 3.2-inches.
Feel free to drop in have any question related the Micromax A90 or smartphones in general.