Friday, 28 October 2011

Spice S9090 Review

Innovation is the key if any company intends to stay in rapidly evolving mobile handset market. And, if this innovation is mixed with a certain amount of creativity, the results are bound to grab eyeballs. Spice S9090 is one such product. The candybar shaped GSM device is definitely a showstopper if one factors in its clean, smooth looks, engaging user interface and a translucent display screen! Yes. You are right! The charm of this baby is its semi-transparent display screen, bound into two glass panels from front and behind. You can see right through the screen but once the display is lit up, it is capable of displaying imagery in crisp colors.

Spice Illusion S-9090 hands on

Let’s have a quick run-down of Spice S9090's tech-specs:

ñ  Translucent OLED Screen
ñ  Elegant Looks
ñ  Live Wallpapers
ñ  2MP Camera
ñ  Audio and Video Player
ñ  Stereo Bluetooth
ñ  Expandable Memory
ñ  Social Networking- Facebook

ñ  No flash with camera
ñ  Poor legibility in outdoor settings
ñ  Lacks 3.5mm audio jack

Looks and feel
Spice S9090  is a unique handset, with a sensational and fashionable look. It is actually beautiful, if handsets could be beautiful to say so. At 124 grams, and with overall dimensions of 120.5×48.5×13.1 mm, the device fits snugly into your palm. The spines bear curved look, with a miniUSB cum charging slot given on the right and volume keys on the left. Top and bottom panels are bare. The 2.4 inch translucent OLED display does its job well. You can see right through the screen, even while operating the handset. You can also figure out what's going on the screen from the back of the handset from certain angles. You may have a privacy issue to handle here.But the option to cover the backside completely with the trendy opaque back cover solves this problem. The legibility of screen is good enough indoors, but the moment we moved out in open to test the handset, the screen became totally transparent and you cannot figure out anything whats going on the screen. But the people developing the handset had sensed this beforehand and designed a back cover, which covers the upper half of the phone when deployed, making the situation manageable to  much extent. Below the screen is an alphanumeric keypad, complete with a five way D-pad and four control keys. The keypad is quite comfortable to use. Coming to the back side, The upper half is all glass, just like the front. A silver strip, dividing the handset in two halves, houses a 2MP camera and loudspeaker grill. The lower half has the battery cover, removing which reveals a 650 mAh Li-ion battery. Overall, the built quality is good and the phone is designed to last.

OS and apps
The Spice S9090 comes loaded with proprietary Spice OS. The device supports live wallpapers too.  Three live wallpapers come preloaded on the device, which can be accessed from the homescreen itself. The live wallpapers also respond to the changes in the orientation of the device through accelerometer sensor. Pressing the D-pad center button opens the menu, which has been broadly divided into nine sub menus. Every menu has an animated doodle running on the upper half of the screen. The OS runs smoothly and the animated doodles add a dynamism to the device.
On the apps front, the device comes loaded with a few apps. There is a stock WAP browser, which is quite easy to configure and gives you basic Internet access. You can also install Opera browser on the device as the phone supports JAVA apps. Utility apps include calender, alarm, calculator, weather app, answering machine, sound recorder etc. Facebook app also comes preloaded on the S9090 to take care of your SNS needs.

The device boasts of a 2MP fixed focus camera, FM radio with recording and audio/video player to satiate your entertainment needs. The performance of camera is good, as you can see in our sample pictures. You can further tweak the image quality by going through the camera settings.
Long shot

Long shot

Indoor close shot

Color reproduction

Outdoor close shot

The device lacks internal FM antenna, so you need to plug in you headset to start it. Up to 20 FM stations can be saved in the phone memory. The quality of reception is good and the phone managed to search 9 FM stations in indoors conditions. You can also record your favourite radio programs through schedule recording feature. Recordings are done in AMR, AWB and WAV formats.
Coming to the music player, lack of a 3.5 mm audio jack is a big letdown, as it limits you to use proprietary headsets only. The music player interface is pretty basic, but it can play almost all popular audio formats with ease. The audio quality of the handset is good on both the headphones as well on loudspeakers.

Our take
The Spice S9090 is a very innovative phone which can corner some sales for Spice too. The device is high on features and performance is also good. The device is available for purchase @

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Spice Mi-350 Review

Spice Mobiles, over the years, have carved a name for themselves by launching innovative and affordable handsets in the Indian handset market. The latest addition to its range of affordable Android based smartphones is Spice Mi-350. The device, intended to target first time smartphone users, provides customers an affordable yet performance loaded choice.
The device boasts of rugged build, Dual GSM network support, Mediatek MT6573 chipset with 650MHz ARM11 processor and 200MHz GPU for graphics acceleration, 3.2MP camera with DVD quality video recording and Android Gingerbread (v2.3.3).  With such specifications, the device, no doubt, towers over its competitors. 

A quick look at Mi-350’s tech specs:

·         Tri-band GSM and dual-band 3G support
·         Dual GSM (2G+3G) network support; Dual standby
·         7.2 Mbps HSDPA support
·         3.5" TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen
·         650MHz ARM 11 processor; Mediatek MT6530 chipset; 200MHz GPU
·         Android OS v2.3.3 (Gingerbread) with custom Spice UI
·         3.2MP autofocus camera, front camera; Geo-tagging, face detection
·         DVD quality videos@20fps video
·         MicroSD slot (up to 32GB)
·         Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
·         GPS with A-GPS connectivity
·         MicroUSB port (charging)
·         Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP
·         Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
·         FM radio
·         File manager preinstalled
·         SpiceGang and tons of other apps
·         Accelerometer and proximity sensor
·         Battery 1500 mAh Li-ion

·         No LED flash for camera
·         No ambient light sensor
·         No shutter key for the camera
·         No support for Adobe Flash in the web browser

Looks n feel
From the first looks, the device looks quite sturdy. Measuring 118 x 60 x 13.4 mm and weighting 135 grams, Mi-350 is quite a handful. The black coloured device has a glossy front panel, with a 3.4 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen much of it. Below the screen are three hard key buttons given for accessing option, home and back functions. Going with hard keys in era of touch buttons appeared odd. Front camera and earpiece could be found on the upper left corner of the device. A metallic ring runs around the edges, accentuating the look of the device. 
The spines are bare, except a volume rocker and camera key provided on the left panel. Power/lock key has been placed on the top, along with 3.5 mm audio jack and microUSB charging slot. Battery cover has a rubberised finish, which is quite conducive for good grip on the handset. Loudspeaker grill and 3.2MP camera has been placed on the upper half of back panel. Build quality of the phone is good but the screen is prone to getting scratches. Proximity sensor has been incorporated as well, which deactivates the screen during calls and saves battery life, but there is no ambient light sensor.
The TFT LCD display has maximum resolution of 320x480 pixels. The images appear crisp with vibrant colors. Screen legibility in sunlight is good too. The touchscreen responds beautifully. Removing the battery cover reveals a 1500 mAh Li-Ion battery, promising good battery backup. The SIM card and microSD card slots are accessible only by removing the battery.

OS and UI
Mi-350 is the first Gingerbread running smartphone in Spice’s arsenal. It comes with custom Spice user interface. Three buttons – dialler, menu and messages, have been given at the bottom of the homescreen. Small dots, representing the homescreens appear on the either side of these touch buttons and can be used to navigate through the screen panels.  Alternatively, you can also swipe horizontally across the screen to change homescreen panels. The notification bar has been further bolstered by addition of power buttons for WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Data Communication and Accelerometer sensor. You can also select the default SIM to make calls and send SMS from the notification bar itself. However, you can also access detailed SIM management settings by going to the settings menu.
Long pressing the homescreen reveals menu to add shortcuts, widgets, and folders or change wallpapers.  Live wallpapers are also supported and the 12 come preinstalled on the device. Alternatively, you can download more wallpapers from Android Marketplace if you don’t like the default bunch.
The menu is also side scrollable and you can rearrange the menu icons by long pressing the screen.
650MHz ARM 11 processor does its job well and can handle multiple applications with ease, adding to the fluidity of Gingerbread user interface.

Voice and txt
Spice Mi-350 is a dual SIM phone and can support two GSM (one 2G and one 3G) networks. Though, only one SIM remains active during a call and the other one appears online. You can select the default SIM for calling, sending SMS and for data connectivity by going to the settings option in main menu or through notification bar. The phonebook uses main memory to save the contact details so you can store virtually unlimited numbers in your phonebook. Same goes for storing SMS and MMS too.  
Pressing the dialler button at the bottom of the homescreen opens the call menu, which is divided into four tabs – phone, call log, contacts and favourites. The dialpad opens by default, with recent call list in the background. Dialling a number reveals further six options namely - mute, hold, speaker, contacts, conferencing and dialpad, for ease of access. You can go back to homescreen anytime during a call by pressing the back key. The active call menu can be retrieved again from the notifications bar.
Smart dial feature is also available and alphanumeric search can be used to look for contacts. Proximity sensor automatically switches off the screen during a call, avoiding unwanted inputs and saving precious battery charge.
The SMS menu is a typical Android affair. SMS and MMS are listed as threads in the menu. To send a new SMS, you just need to tap the compose message button provided on the top of SMS menu. Clicking on an existing SMS will open the touch keypad for typing new SMS.  Long pressing on an SMS will open the SMS management menu, where you can forward, edit or delete the selected message or the whole conversation thread. You can also copy the text from an SMS and paste it on any other menu or application across the OS platform. Adding Multimedia content like pictures, videos or sound clips automatically turns SMS into an MMS.

Data connectivity and Internet browsing
The handset comes equipped with all forms of connectivity modes to satiate your needs. For starters, the handset is 3G enabled and can be used as a mobile WiFi hotspot.  HSDPA/HSUPA speeds of up to 7.2Mbps/ 5.76Mbits are supported by the device. Furthermore, you can also hook on to WiFi network and exchange files with other devices through Bluetooth, a feature which only become available with Android Gingerbread version. A microUSB port has also been provided for charging and USB tethering purposes.
The stock Android Web browser takes care of all your Internet browsing needs and loads pages with blazing fast speed. The browser UI is pretty simple and you just need to punch in the website’s address to get going. However, the lack of Flash support in the browser cannot be justified in a Gingerbread device. This limitation forces users to watch streaming video content only on apps like YouTube and Vuclip.
The browser supports tabbed browsing and the pages can be zoomed in/out tapping on the screen itself. You can further add the website to bookmark list, or share the link with your friends through SMS/Email.

Apps and utility
One thing is for sure that Spice Mi-350 comes preloaded with truckloads of apps. Tons of apps, ranging from Google app suite to Yahoo messenger, BSE/NSE stock news, System Info, Facebook, Ibibo farms, Rail Yatra, Spice Gang etc come preloaded on the device. You can add further to the collection by going to Android Market or remove the ones you don’t like by going to the Apps manager in main menu.
We have become used to the presence of Google apps on Android devices now. The Mi-350 doesn’t deviates and comes preloaded with Gmail, Google maps and Google search apps. Having a Google account is mandatory as you won’t be able to download access Android Market and download more apps. Facebook and ibibo and Gtalk chat clients also come preloaded to take care of your SNS needs.  
Utility apps include calendar, calculator, Stopwatch, Timer and voice recorder. You also have a fully functional file browser and app manager to help you with house cleaning.

For shutterbugs, Spice Mi-350 comes armed with a 3.2MP full focus camera with maximum image resolution of 2048x1536 pixels and 8X zoom. The photo quality is very good as you can see in sample pictures.

 Close shot
Long shot
While in motion
Indoor shot

However, again on the downside, lack of flash limits the usability of camera in low light conditions. To sweeten the deal though, some goodies like geotagging and face detection have been thrown in. You can access the camera either by going to main menu or directlyby pressing the camera key on left spine.
The camera interface is pretty easy to understand. You can zoom in/zoom out of the frame by tapping on the screen itself. You can jump to video recording mode by tapping on the switch provided on the camera menu. Videos can be recorded in high quality DVD resolution (720x480 pixels).  The samples shot during the review came out to be very nice, though slight pixilation was found while recording at maximum zoom.

You need to plug in a microSD card to start shooting though as the camera uses SD card memory as default storage space.

Finally, we come to last leg of our review – the multimedia performance. The Spice Mi-350 comes with stock Gingerbread music player. The songs on SD card get automatically segregated on the basis of artists, albums, songs and playlists. You can make your own playlist by going to the playlist menu.
Sound quality is good on both the headphones as well as on the loudspeaker. You can further adjust the audio quality of handset by enabling equalizer settings and bass boost from the music player options menu.
The 3.5mm audio jack gives you freedom to use headsets of your choice with the device.
The device also come equipped with FM radio. The interface is pretty much plain. There is an automatic search option, which configures all available FM stations automatically for you. There is no internal antenna so you need to plug in your headset to start radio. 

Playing Raging Thunder on Mi-350

The Spice Mi-350 definitely packs quite a bang for bucks. It has solid built quality, lines up good hardware specifications, and backs it all with smooth performance with Android Gingerbread. Lack of flash content support in browser and LED flash in camera are definitely a dampener; but the price of the device wins the ultimate battle. There are very few decent Android powered handsets available in sub Rs 10,000 price range and The Spice Mi-350, with all its features is definitely recommended for consumers looking for their first Android touchscreen experience, but is apprehensive in venturing into uncharted territory by burning a hole in their pockets. 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Happy B’day Android Phone!

3 years passed after the birth of HTC Dream, (also called as T-Mobile G1) the world’s first commercial Android smartphone!  When it was released in the US on 22 October 2008, neither the carrier T-Mobile nor the manufacturer HTC thought that Android- the little green dude- will make such a big revolution in the mobile world!

Android was conceived by Android Inc., founded in 2003 for developing software for mobile devices. Later, Google surrogated the baby in 2005 and it stayed in the womb of Google for about 5 years. It came into interaction with the mobile world from October 21, under a free and open source software license.  A day later, it was made available to users through HTC Dream on carrier T-Mobile. The release date is globally celebrated as Android birthday!

The OS has evolved consistently with the launch of updated versions, including better features. Interestingly, all updates are christened by names of yummy desserts in alphabetical order!

Android v1.0 Angel Cake

Android v1.1 Battenberg

Android v1.5 Cupcake

Android v1.6 Donut

Android v2.0/v2.1 Éclair

Android v2.2 Froyo

Android v2.3 Gingerbread

Android v3.0/v3.1/v3.2 Honeycomb 

Android v4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Through continuous development and enhancements, the OS has given tough competition to other smartphone platforms including iOS and BlackBerry OS. It has achieved a market share of 36% percent globally (according to Gartner reports). It is gaining high impetus to capture considerable market share in India as well, especially in the high-end handset market. The growth will be driven by the impressive gaming experience, limitless apps made available to users through Android Market, and lowering prices.  ….And hope this journey will go on until Android makes an update by a name starting with Z!!

Celebrating this occasion, Saholic - a Spice Group venture- is offering really attractive discounts for all the Android phones. If you wish to upgrade your existing phone or gift someone with a great phone this Diwali, log on to and place order for the one you like most! 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Steven P. Jobs, the Apple Inc chairman and co-founder who lead the way for the personal-computer industry and changed the way people think about technology, passed away on 5th October 2011, Wednesday at the age of 56. A statement released by Apple, said Mr. Jobs "died peacefully today surrounded by his family."

The Apple brain

Jobs had been battling pancreatic cancer and a few years ago received a liver transplant. In August, he stepped down as chief executive, handing the control to longtime deputy Tim Cook. In a letter to his employees, Tim Cook mentioned “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much."
During his more than three decades career, Jobs transformed the way people interact with technology. He launched iconic products such as iPhone, iPod, and iPad, providing amazing computing and multimedia experience to Apple fans.  Let’s hope that the energy spread by him will inspire every Apple employee in future to create amazing gadgets that demystify technology.

Monday, 3 October 2011

And the Symbian saga continues..

Over last one year, Nokia has faced repeated onslaughts from smartphone market. Lack of innovation on OS front led to sharp eroding of its smartphone marketshare. Once seen as an innovative handset maker globally, Nokia’s fall from grace was an eye-opener for many, who considered operating system as secondary to hardware specifications. Jolted out of its dream, Nokia immediately set out for a course correction, ditching its famed CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallusvo, who was seen by many as ‘Steve Jobs of Nokia’ and hiring an ex Microsoft technocrat, Stephen Elop at its helm. It also allied itself with Microsoft, picking its newly launched Windows Mobile 7 as its saviour in the age of smartphones. It also announced an end to further development of hugely popular Symbian operating system as it was faring poorly among the glitzy Android powered handsets boasting capacitive touchscreens and hugely superior touch screen experience. It also hived off its Symbian development team to Convergys and also signed an agreement with it to continue providing support for devices running on Symbian OS to sometime in 2016.

However, since then, Symbian has seen three new major revisions. The first one was the launch of Symbian^3 aboard Nokia N8, which failed to grab eyeballs despite having top of the line hardware specifications. The main reason behind lukewarm response to Symbian^3 was lack of dynamism in its UI as opposed to Android and iOS operating systems. The next one was a version update to Symbian^3, code named Anna, which tried to enhance the visual appeal of Symbian^3 by adding new icons set, a new web browser and virtual QWERTY keypad in portrait mode. Released in August 2011, the update has already been made standard a wide range of devices launched this year.

                                                 Symbian Belle UI

September 2011 saw another major OS revision when Symbian Belle was showcased by Nokia aboard its latest series of smartphones – the Nokia 600, 700 and 701. The Belle further improves the looks of the UI by introducing increasing the maximum number of homescreens from 3 to 6, adding redesigned free form widgets and the most important one – making the device NFC capable.
                                     Nokia 600       Nokia 701       Nokia 700

                                                     Tour video

A new drag-down Android-esque notification bar has been added on the top of homescreen providing easy access to Bluetooth, WiFi and other notifications. However, Belle’s prime purpose appears to be Nokia’s push towards a NFC enabled mobility. The NFC or Near Field Communication is a type of wireless connection increasingly seen as a technology to convert smartphone into your mobile wallet. The technology lets two devices conduct encrypted data transfers, usually over very small distances, say a few centimeters. Hence, with NFC enabled handset, you can just swipe your handset over cash register to pay your bills.

Mobile geeks already seemed to have moved over Symbian Belle and speculations are rife in blogospere about the next update of Symbian^3, putting the release date Q2 of 2012. Wishlist is long and include WiFi hotspot capability, more intuitive UI, live wallpapers etc..etc..etc.. It may be interesting to note that Nokia may also be following the pattern of releasing OS updates in alphabetical order like Android. So, now it might be the turn of ‘Symbian C…’ to hit your smartphones! Guess on guys!Nokia phones