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.
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.