Spice is having a field day launching affordable Android smartphones in the Indian market. Following closely on the heels of Mi-350, it has now come up with Mi-350n variant of the device in India. With Android powered, dual-SIM handsets, Spice seems to be targeting those consumers who are using two connections on two different phones but don’t want to buy smartphones for both the numbers. Spice Mi-350n here appears as a natural choice for those looking for smartphones in entry level segment, but don’t want to compromise on performance either.
Spice Mi-350n features an all new design, visibly different from its predecessor. Major hardware specifications include dual GSM network support, Android Gingerbread (v2.3.4), 3.2MP camera with autofocus and DVD quality video recording @30fps, Mediatek MT6573 chipset with 650MHz ARM11 processor and 200MHz GPU for graphics acceleration.
A quick look at Mi-350n’s tech specs:
· Dual-band GSM and single band 3G support
· Dual GSM (2G+3G) network support; Dual standby
· 7.2 Mbps HSDPA, 5.76 Mbps HSUPA support
· 3.5" TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen
· 650MHz ARM 11 processor; Mediatek MT6530 chipset; 200MHz GPU
· Android OS v2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
· 3.2MP autofocus camera, front camera; face detection
· DVD quality videos@30fps video
· MicroSD slot (up to 32GB)
· GPS with A-GPS
· MicroUSB port (charging)
· Bluetooth v2.1 with EDR
· Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
· FM radio
· File manager preinstalled
· SpiceGang and tons of other apps
· Accelerometer and proximity sensor
· Battery 1400 mAh Li-ion
· No flash for camera
· No support for Adobe Flash in web browser
Look n feel
Mi-350n is an entirely new design and virtually shares no similarities with its older sibling other than size of display screen. Build quality appears to have improved from the previous model. At 116 x 61 x 12.75 mm, Mi-350n is a bit smaller than Mi-350, but weights about the same. Major part of the device is made of plastic with side spines having rubbery finish to enhance grip. The regular plastic battery cover has been replaced with a metal one, in an attempt to add some oomph to the phone, but succeeds only partially while adding unnecessary weight to the device.
The front panel is dominated by a 3.5 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen. Below it are three hard keys for accessing options, home and back. Multimedia control keys have also been rejigged. The volume rocker has been moved to right side panel, while USB port can now be found on the left spine, under rubber flap. Thankfully, a dedicated camera button is still there, which makes operating camera a breeze. Front camera and proximity sensor have been moved to top right corner, above the display screen. Lock/power button has been placed on top, along with a 3.5mm audio jack.
Coming to the back, the 3.2MP camera comes without flash this time too, but autofocus has been added to cheer things up. The display screen is a fingerprint magnet but you can reduce that by using scratch guard screen protectors, which are common now.
The TFT LCD display has maximum resolution of 320x480 pixels. The images appear crisp with vibrant colors. Screen legibility in sunlight is good. Removing the battery cover reveals a 1400 mAh Li-Ion battery, promising good battery backup. The SIM card and microSD card slots are not hot-swappable.
OS and UI
Mi-350n comes loaded with Android Gingerbread v2.3.4. The UI has been extensively revamped and is more user friendly. The home screen comes with four control buttons – dialler, contact, messages and menu at the bottom.
Dragging down the notification panel reveals the power tools for controlling Wi-Fi, Data connectivity, Airplane mode, GPS and Bluetooth. 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 a few come preinstalled on the device too. More wallpapers can also be downloaded from Android Market if the default ones bore you.
Tapping on the menu key on the homescreen takes you to the menu. You can browse through the menu by swiping horizontally across the screen. The apps are listed alphabetically by default.
Overall, the new UI impressed us somewhat but we felt that same old 650MHz ARM 11 processor appeared to be overburdened at some junctures. Maybe it’s time for Spice to pump up its devices with more powerful hardware.
Voice and txt
SpiceMi-350n 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.
Pressing the dialler button at the bottom of the homescreen opens the call menu, which also bears an all new look. The dialpad opens by default, with contact 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. Proximity sensor automatically switches off the screen during a call, avoiding unwanted inputs and saving you some juice.
The SMS menu is a typical Android. 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. 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 options to keep you connected. The handset is 3G enabled and can be used as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. HSDPA/HSUPA speeds of up to 7.2Mbps/ 5.76Mbits are supported by the device. You can also hook on to Wi-Fi 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. The continued lack of Flash support in the browser doesn't raise morale. This limitation forces users to watch streaming video content only on apps like YouTube and Vuclip.
Tabbed browsing is supported and the pages can be zoomed in/out tapping on the screen itself. Pinch and zoom feature is also supported though.
Coming to video calling, Skype video call is not supported yet so you'll have to make do with voice calling and hat only.
Apps and utility
Coming to applications, this one comes with loads of them preinstalled. Tons of apps, ranging from Google app suite to Yahoo messenger, BSE/NSE stock news, 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. Removing stock apps is not possible, so love them or hate them; you'll have to keep them either way until of course you decide to root your handset someday. (Not advisable though as it voids warranty of your handset)
Being an Android device, you must log in with your Google account credentials to activate Google App Suite and download apps from Android Market. Facebook and Ibibo, Nimbuzz 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 tidy up the device and remove outdated applications.
Spice Mi-350n comes armed with a 3.2MP auto focus camera with maximum image resolution of 2048x1536 pixels and 3X zoom. The photo quality is good as you can see in sample pictures.
However, lack of flash limits the usability of camera in low light conditions. To make matters lighter though, some goodies like geotagging and face detection have been thrown in. You can access the camera either by going to main menu or directly by pressing the camera key on left spine.
The camera interface is pretty easy to understand. You can zoom in/out of the frame by tapping on the screen itself. We have seen many handsets with volume keys doubling up as zoom keys but Spice has still not taken any cue it seems.
You can jump to video recording mode by tapping on the switch provided on the camera menu. Videos are recorded in high quality DVD resolution (720x480 pixels) at 30fps. The samples shot during the review came out to be very nice, though slight pixilation was found while recording at maximum zoom.
On to the last leg of this review, The Mi-350n comes with all new music player, with new icon set and interface, adding some freshness to the device here. The songs get automatically segregated on the basis of artists, albums, songs and playlists once you plug in your SD card. Making custom playlists is also possible.
Sound quality is good both on 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 comes equipped with FM radio with plain-Jane interface. 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.
We were expecting something really radical from the device in the course of our review but Spice Mi-350n came across as essentially a repacked version of the earlier model. Still, it inherits the same solid hardware specifications with some improvements in camera department, with a new UI of course. Continued lack of flash content support in browser and LED flash in camera is not appreciated, but with its price (There are very few decent Android powered handsets available in sub Rs 8,000 price range), Spice Mi-350n surely cuts a deal.