Making Android handsets affordable is the mantra Spice Mobiles has been following diligently for quite sometime now. The move appears logical too when you scan the market to find that there is a dearth of good affordable Android devices out there. India is a very price sensitive market and very few want to shell out Rs. 10K minimum on devices they may find cumbersome to operate initially. Hence providing low cost alternatives is always the way to go to convert the users to their first quality touchscreen experience.
Hence, Spice has introduced its latest warrior in Android lineup, the Spice Mi-280 to further bolster its ranks. And specs wise, we aren't complaining either! The dual-SIM device has a 2.8 inch capacitive touchscreen, runs on Android Gingerbread v2.3.4, 3.2 MP camera and 3G and WiFi etc. So, lets start with complete specification sheet of this baby!
· 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
· 2.8" TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen
· 650MHz ARM 11 processor; Mediatek MT6573 chipset
· Android OS v2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
· 3.2MP camera, front camera
· DVD quality videos@25fps 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
· SpiceGang and tons of other apps
· Accelerometer and proximity sensor
· Battery 1000 mAh Li-ion
· No flash for camera
· Plasticky build
Look n feel
Small enough to fit snugly in your palm, the Mi-280 bears essentially a utilitarian design, focused on people who find navigating through touchscreen uncomfortable. The phone chassis is entirely made of plastic. The front panel of device carries 2.8 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen. Below it are four capacitive buttons for Home, Menu, Back and Search. Other than these, two hard buttons for call and end have also been provided, along with a five way navigation key, to make navigation easier.
No extra control buttons have been provided on side spines, save a volume rocker on left side, as majority of the functions can be accessed from the hard keys given on the front panel itself. A microUSB port and 3.5mm audio jack have been placed on top for ease of access.
Turn the phone around and you have a 3.2MP camera without flash on the upper half on the device, expecting one on an Android phone this cheap would be a wishful thinking anyway!
The TFT LCD display works like a charm and the colour in the images appear quite lively. Using the device outdoors is not a problem as screen legibility in sunlight is good too. A 1000 mAh Li-ion battery could be found under the battery cover. SIM and microSD card slots are not hot-swappable as you'll have to remove the battery to access the slots.
OS and UI and Apps
Mi-280 runs on Android Gingerbread v2.3.4, which is a rarity when it comes to entry level smartphones. The UI has been revamped to suit the small screen. The UI animations are extremely smooth, mainly due to the power-packed Mediatek MT6573 chipset, which bundles a 650MHz processor to handle the device operations. The home screen features stock Android launcher, with three virtual buttons for accessing dialler, menu and Internet browser. You can add further widgets and application shortcuts by long pressing the homescreen.
No need for powertool widget too as shortcuts for WiFi, Bluetooth, Data connection and Airplane mode can be accessed from notification menu itself. As the handset supports dual GSM networks, you can manually set default SIM for calling, messaging and data access manually from the settings menu. There is a unified SMS inbox and call list but the calls and messages are colour-coded, to help you segregate them according to numbers with ease.
Display settings like wallpapers and widgets can be accessed from long pressing the homescreen, that’s Android default by the way. Live wallpapers are supported; a few stock types come preinstalled. We tried to run some heavy stuff by downloading some live wallpapers from Android Market and even those ran with élan.
Rest of the UI is also largely Android default with little customisation, which I guess is to keep off the unnecessary load on the device. Tapping on the menu key on the homescreen takes you to the menu. You can browse through the menu by swiping vertically across the screen.
Coming to applications, the Mi-280 comes with usual Spice App suite preloaded, which includes Yahoo messenger, BSE/NSE stock news, Facebook, Ibibo farms, ibibo and Opera browser, Rail Yatra, Spice Gang, JustDial etc. For your SNS needs, Facebook and Ebuddy also come preinstalled. Further applications can be downloaded from Android Market. You can also install third party apps from your SD card by enabling it from app settings menu.
To access Google app suite and Android Market, you must have a Google account ID with you. In case you don't have one, you can make it during the signup process itself.
Utility apps include calendar, calculator, stopwatch, timer, Alarm and voice recorder.
Playing Raging Thunder on Spice Mi-280
Playing Raging Thunder on Spice Mi-280
Spice Mi-280 is a dual SIM standby phone and can support two GSM (one 2G and one 3G) networks. To make calls, you need to press the dialler button at the bottom of the homescreen to open the call menu. The dialpad opens by default, with contact list in the background. 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 is also there to turn off the screen during call to save battery charge.
Coming to messaging, 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. Adding Multimedia content like pictures, videos or sound clips automatically turns SMS into an MMS.
The handset is 3G enabled with HSDPA/HSUPA speeds of up to 7.2Mbps/ 5.76Mbits, making internet browsing a very engaging experience. You can also hook on to a WiFi network as WiFi connectivity is also supported. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth microUSB port for charging/USB tethering.
Spice Mi-280 comes armed with a 3.2MP auto focus camera with maximum image resolution of 2048x1536 pixels and 8X zoom. Here are some sample shots we took during our review.
Full 8x digital zoom
Full 8x digital zoom
The camera lacks flash, and honestly, we don't expect one either on a budget Android device like Mi-280. The image quality is pretty good the as you can see in sample pictures, even as the sky was overclouded on a wintery afternoon, the colours still stand out, making images crispier. Other goodies include geotagging and face detection. You can click pictures either by tapping on the virtual button given onscreen or by pressing the hardware D-pad button.
Videos are recorded in high quality DVD resolution (720x480 pixels) at 25fps. The samples shot during the review came out to be very nice, though slight pixilation was found while recording at maximum zoom.
The stock Android music player comes with this device. The songs get arranged automatically on the basis of artists, albums, songs and playlists. 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 is also there, so you can use your own headsets with the device. FM radio can only be started after plugging in the headphone as its wire acts as antenna. The reception is good and Mi-280 managed to scan nine FM stations with good audio clarity.
How many dual SIM entry level Android handsets are out there in the market? The answer is very few. Barring iBall ANDi 6000 and a few earlier models of Spice, the handset we believe, should not face any competition from anybody. None of the MNC's are also coming up with dual SIM Android running devices anytime soon. So, till then, the Spice Mi-280, with its sleek design and snappy performance is but an obvious choice.