March 6, 2013

MICROMAX ANDRO A60 REVIEW


This was inevitable - the feature-stuffing, wallet-friendly Indo-china phones were in desperate need of a redesign of their annoying user interface; Google is their only answer. The search giant's popular mobile operating system - Android - is open source, thus free for anybody to take and slap onto their hardware.

What fantastic ingredients - the Chinese ability to manufacture something insanely cost-effective, the decent UI experience from one of the most flourishing smartphone OSes, the front-face and customer support of a desi company. That's exactly what we have today for test today and it's called the Micromax Andro A60. But then you can't really have everything now can you? What did you think this is, fairyland?

Design and Build
The Micromax Andro A60 has a unique shape - a body that tapers in width as you go from top to bottom. Other than the obvious unique look that it offers, it actually feels pretty comfy to cup in one hand. The dimensions are quite easy to pocket and the weight not too much to weigh your shirt pocket down. The build quality feels a little cheap, but fortunately it is not too weak and it dos not make any creaking sounds. 

Micromax Andro A60 front


The 2.8-inch screen has become a typical size for any Android that's below the Rs. 10,000 mark. It has a QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) resolution that, although is acceptable for a screen of this size (and price), it makes the fonts appear a little blurry thus hampering readability as compared to a standard HVGA (320 x 480 pixel) display. The sunlight legibility is not good, as I could barely read what was on the screen under direct sunlight. But what kills it the most is its stylus-friendly resistive nature.

However, of all the resistive screens we've used, this is definitely much better. The Andro A60's screen isn't entirely unusable, provided you put just a little bit more pressure and make effective use of your fingernails. There are times when you struggle to type a message on those small keys, and sometimes it will move the exact opposite way you want to scroll.  
Micromax Andro A60

Micromax Andro A60 top

Compare that to a capacitive screen of the same size, and I can guarantee you'll find the a big difference. The accuracy is much better and you have to apply little pressure on the screen. The three buttons below the screen also seem to have a resistive layer underneath, as it responds more to hard presses than gentle thumb taps. The saving grace is the four-way direction pad that helps in fine cursor movements. There's also the call accept and end button, which also act as the power/lock key).  
Micromax Andro A60

Micromax Andro A60 side


Fortunately, there are volume control buttons to the left (many Indo-china phones don't have them). A microUSB port at the bottom, a 3.5mm jack at the top.  

User Interface
The Micromax Andro A60 runs Android 2.1, which a few months ago would have been appreciated, but with Google racing ahead with its OS updates, the situation is a bit different now. Hey, at least it isn't running Android 1.6, right? The Andro has a 600 MHz processor, and that coupled with a low-resolution QVGA display like we've seen before, makes the interface fly. The interface is pretty smooth in its actions for the most part.

All the basic Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps work just fine. But shockingly, the phone does not have the Google Talk client built-in. Every Android phone we've tried till now has that, and it is very weird that they chose not to have it with the Andro A60. You can't even find it if you search for it on the Android Market. So, you'll have to rely on third party chat apps like Fring or Nimbuzz to get your dose of Gtalk. Or maybe they didn't include Gtalk due to its average typing skills.

The stock Android QWERTY keyboard on the Andro A60 is replaced by a third party "XT9" (and not Swype as mentioned on the box); although it does have a Swype-like word tracing feature to ease typing. But the word prediction is nowhere as accurate as Swype was in our usage. The hard-to-press screen and the small width make it only worse.

Most of the apps we liked worked fine, Angry birds too was playable. Unfortunately, Rock Player couldn't play the DivX videos off the memory card for some reason. That's funny since many other Android phones with the exact same processor were able to play without a glitch.

The GPS chip was able to instantly get a lock onto our location on Google Maps. Browsing the net was a decent affair, but the somewhat blurry fonts and no multi-touch gestures mar the experience.


Performance

The Micromax Andro A60's network reception was average, as it did drop calls a few times. The caller's voice from the earpiece isn't entirely clear; making you push the phone harder to your ear (unintentional rhyme). Callers also told me that my voice wasn't as clear as usual. One more thing to note, in a world where the cheapest of branded phones support all four bands (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), the Micromax A60 is just a dual-band phone (900/1800 MHz). So be wary of this if you travel to the United States, Canada and a few other countries  often, or ever will, as the phone might not work there.
 
Speaking of multi-media, the phone is strictly average. The pair of bundled in-earphones deliver a sub-par listening experience. The maximum volume will not be enough for people who like to blast their eardrums. Even after connecting a better pair, there wasn't any great improvement in quality, which suggests that the phone itself is at fault in delivering good quality audio.

It is stated on the box that the Andro A60 has a 3.2 megapixel "autofocus" camera. This in fact, is just a sham as the camera does not actually adjust its focal length on holding the virtual shutter button on the screen, but it rather simply put those green border lines and makes that typical sound that cameras make. There's also a very noticeable shifting of color balance before and after taking the image. In broad daylight, the images look pretty decent on the screen, but get fairly grainy in the absence of light. There is no LED flash to fill in too.

This Micromax is powered by a 1280 mAh battery. Given the low power-sucking spec-sheet, the phone actually lasted me a day and a half with a few hours of phone-calls and texting. Under heavy use (that is: phone calls + listening to music, surfing the net), it still managed to survive for a day. Considering how miserly Android phones are when it comes to battery life, we were actually happy with what the Andro A60 gave.  

Price and Verdict
Micromax Andro A60


The Micromax Andro A60 costs Rs. 6,700 as of now. That's quite an affordable price tag and I'm pretty sure it will get people flooding to the store to buy one. But should you? While this has to be the best Micromax phone I've used, and probably the most feature-rich too, but in the league of Android phones, this does not quite make the cut.

The resistive screen hinders usability, the boasting features on the box don't really deliver as they should.
And while Rs. 6,700 is a tempting tag, for just Rs. 1,800 more you get the Samsung Galaxy 5 i5503. For that price, you're getting a capacitive screen, proper Swype text input that works much better and quad-band support. Heck, we'd pay Rs. 2,000 more for that capacitive screen alone. And even though the megapixel count on the Micromax is higher than Samsung, I really doubt that's going to make any big difference (they both would be pathetic). We're not saying the Galaxy 5 is the perfect phone; there are competitors that could better it today or tomorrow.

But If I had to buy an Android phone under Rs. 10,000 today, I wouldn't buy the Micromax Andro A60.

If you can hold off your purchase for a while a new wave of cheap Androids is on their way.

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