There are some storms when they hit us, they change our world. Brands like Xiaomi, OnePlus, Motorola have achieved this to an extent in the mid and lower mid-budget range of smartphones. They made affordable Android desirable again. Since then the competition has only heated up more in this space, where more and more brands have targetted the sub Rs 10,000 category in order to make goodness of Android available to a larger mass of India.
Hyve is one such brand that has taken upon itself to bring affordable Android devices to the masses. Based in India, Hyve is representing the Indian front in a price segment, that has so far been dominated by our Chinese friends. We checked out the Hyve Storm, the lowest product in the price range as of July 2016, which also includes the Hyve Buzz. Both the devices are recently launched, and the brand obviously has a long way to go before being heralded as the next big thing. But, how are our first impressions of the brand Hyve, let’s find out as we review the Hyve Storm.
Packaging, Box Contents and Availability
The Storm comes in a typical fat cardboard box with several monikers of hexagons on it. The box is primarily black in colour with yellow detailing and silver fonts. This gives the box a fairly unique look. You have the specifications as well as other important information like the IMEI number, etc written on the box clearly so that you would know what you are getting. Opening the box, you are greeted by the phone itself living in a cardboard depression. Also included in the box are your usual set of documentations, a screen protector, in-ear headphones with in-built microphone, a Micro USB to USB cable and a 1A output charger. Just like the phone body, these accessories are also white in colour.
The phone is available for Rs 8,499 and you can pick it from the likes of Amazon, Flipkart or Hyve’s own site. We did try and look for the phone offline, but their retailers at least here in Mumbai were clueless about the brand. In the online space, the phone was available without much of a hiccup as seen here.
Construction and Build Quality
The Hyve Storm is a smartphone, largely built out of plastic. The sides of the phone have a metallic strip that runs across the perimeter, which adds a premium look. The side trim has a chamfered edge so overall the phone looks fairly good when you hold it. The plastic on the back has a textured finish rather than a glossy back and that adds grip and does a good job at hiding the fingerprints.
The front of the phone has a 5-inch display with MiraVision, with a resolution of 720P. Above the display, you have the earpiece, the camera right next to it and the proximity and ambient light sensor towards the left. Below the display are the three capacitive buttons, which unfortunately do not light up. On the bottom chin, you have the Micro USB port towards the left alongside the microphone, divided by the plastic antennae lines. Towards the top right, you have the 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side of the phone features the power button, while the left side is the volume rocker. On the back, you have the 13MP ISOCELL camera and a single LED flash light. Towards the end of the backside, you have the Hyve logo engraved and a single speaker grille.
Since the back of the phone is curved, ever so slightly, the phone fits and sits well on the hands but struggles when on the table. It is especially tedious when you have to touch something towards the sides of the phone as it causes the phone to rock all over the place. Since the back of the phone is removable, you have to be careful of putting all the clicks in place, though we did notice a very minor hairline gap towards the 3.5mm headphone jack between the back and the body.
The chamfer and the metallic strip does pick its share of scratches, so you may want to be careful there. Other than that the phone sits well in the hand, feels just about heavy enough so that you do not lose it off and other than a minor creek when applying torsional force, does not feel like susceptible to failure. The overall design of the phone is very similar to a Mi4, if you have used one here.
Display and Screen
The display on the device is a 5-inch panel with 720P resolution. The panel follows sRGB convention so the colours are generally true, even though not being very bright. The brand claims to have enhanced the outdoor visibility on the panel so that direct visibility under the sun is good and this holds true. The viewing angles are good, and overall the phone’s display is about a 7 on 10. Due to the panel being 720P, you do see the pixels, but thanks to a good colour calibration that you help yourself with, you would not be too fussed, unless you just cannot do without 1080P panel.
There was no colour bleeding of any sort on the phone, though we were not really happy with the default colour calibration. The display was too yellow for our liking, though as we mentioned earlier, you can go ahead and recalibrate the display according to you. You will need to go into Display Settings and in there look for MiraVision. Here you can either tune the display according to your wish by adjusting the contrast, saturation, brightness, temperature and more or simply use a standard mode. We felt this made a world of a difference to the way the display looked and would highly recommend it to someone who is looking to use this phone.
Software and Performance
The good part about the phone is the fact that it comes with practically Stock Android experience. Other than duplicate Hyve Care apps, there is not a single app that could be called a bloatware. The Hyve Care app basically ties you up with Servify, who provide an insurance cover for your phone alongside benefits like pick and drop in case there is a repair that is required. You can book your repair right from the app so that is a neat touch.
Other than that, you will feel quite at home if you use the phone if you have had any experience of using a Nexus or a stock Android phone. There is no duplication of apps here, so the Google Play app is the default music app, the Google keyboard is the default keyboard and the Google Now Launcher is the default launcher. Sadly, the phone is still running the age old Android 5.1, so there is no Doze or Tap on Now, but Hyve does mention on their site that they will update the phone to Marshmallow in due course, without any specific commitment. There is an FM Radio app that is built into the phone and you have a few other neat tricks like Scheduled power on or off that is built in. There is no NFC here, though you do have slot for two SIM cards. Since the SIM cards cannot be accessed without removing the battery, the SIMs are not hot swappable. You do have a dedicated slot for a MicroSD card here, allowing you to add on to the 16GB internal storage on the phone.
There is 2 GB RAM, which although enough for most tasks, though if you really push the phone into major multitasking channels like using WhatsApp, Telegram and also playing Pokemon Go, it really panics. We ran a few benchmark tests and the MediaTek 6735 chip stayed true to its performance that we have seen on several devices previously. The Quadrant score, for example, was 11,496, which is bang on average. This translated into real life too as some of the easy on memory apps did well, but games like FIFA 2015 did struggle to get through. The phone did get a fair bit warm and lose the battery scores rapidly too.
Charging was slow and it took us about 2 and a half hours to charge the phone from zero to hundred. The bad thing other than the charging speed was that when the phone was absolutely dead, and we connected the charger it showed no sign of life until about 10 minutes ago when the battery bar came to light. The call reception was generally good, though surprisingly, the person on the other end felt a strange echo when we were talking, more likely because of the network than anything related to do with the phone. The sound output gets muffled because of the position of the speaker, especially when the phone is facing the bottom down. The sound output is nothing too loud to start with either, and cracks if you reduce the volume by long pressing the volume rocker, all the way down. The Battery on the phone lasted us about 16 hours with a 3 hour Screen on Time, where we were partially on 3G and partially on WiFi, which is decent. Since the phone comes with a replaceable battery, you can always carry a spare unit with you.
The Camera app is where Hyve have done some customizations. This is not the Google Camera app so you may have a bit of a curve to learn. When you open the app for the first time, you get a demo so that you learn how to use the app. There are a few settings right on the top, so things like Panorama, Beauty Mode, stitched shots are all there. By default, the camera takes pictures in 13MP. The app also gives you options to set the White Balance, Scene Mode and other colour effects.
Overall, while the app is functional, you would not call is well designed. It is like, basically you are presented with pretty much everything you would want only because you have to be. There is HDR Mode and gesture capture, where the victory sign will auto trigger the shutter. The performance of the camera in itself is fairly average. More often than not the photos came out to be more exposed than the real scene was. This could be due to aggressive post-processing algos. The image details are fairly average, though micro shots are clearly better than the more longer shots. There is a minor shutter delay that we noticed, moving the camera in this period causes the photo to blur out bad.
Video recording is fairly average too, given that there is no OIS here, the videos do come to be little shaky while the audio is not too great. All and all, if you want to just share an odd Instagram or a Facebook picture, the camera will get the job done, anything more serious and you would be setting yourself up for disappointment.
As you must have guessed from the title that the Hyve Storm is an average smartphone. We would recommend you to save a little more and perhaps pick a Redmi Note 3 or even the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus or the Le 1s/Le 2simply as those devices bring a little more complete experience. The Storm, while able to do pretty much everything does not really excel at anything. It is not a bad device, but not a particularly jaw dropper either. Add to the fact that it is not the most available product in the market offline, we would like to give the phone a pass.
Note from the brand:
Camera: The camera support PDAF, something that is mostly missing with phones in this price range. An OTA update that we pushed last week has immensely improved the camera.
Display colour calibration: The default calibration was done to remain true to the sRGB colour calibration. Although we agree that a few customers found it yellow and hence we will be changing the colour temperature in our next update. However, users are free to change the colour temperature using MiraVision.
About OS & The Marshmallow Update: The update is in the works and will be released soon. We are committed to deliver this asap to our customers. Hyve is amongst the first Indian brands to have an official partnership with Google to manufacture devices which are both Android compliant and have passed over 200K tests for stability and compatibility. 95% of phones sold in India (by Indian brands) do not comply with these strict standards. This relates to a substandard Android experience i.e. unstable OS, high RAM usage, incompatibility with apps, zero security updates and added background data farming. We wish to change this and we will.
Memory: Our optimizations have enabled us to provide 1.5 times more free memory as compared to any other brand. For example other brands with 2GB RAM have 800-900MB available on fresh install. Storm has approx. 1.3-1.4GB available.
Besides the regular specs and OS, what we have really concentrated on is getting the best components and not comprising on quality and stability. We have also not used the general practise of modifying the camera sensors to show a higher pixel count when the hardware is on a lower side, something that is rampant for phones in this price range. We wish to be true to our customers.