Sturdy construction; Smooth user experience; Crisp display.
Mediocre camera; Software lacks stability.
Micromax Canvas A1
Street Price: Rs 6300
Smartphone market is dominated by Google. Still, to further strengthen its lead, the search-giant is betting big on the entry-level smartphone market. In this market segment, Android has been criticised for inconsistent and mostly sluggish performance. Android skins are to be blamed for the lag and stutter. Little wonder then, the company has come up with the Android One programme that provides no non-sense smartphone experience at affordable price. The first handset to be built on this platform is the Micromax Canvas A1.
Design And Construction
Looking at the front, the Canvas A1 has nothing new to offer. It features a run-of-the-mill design with rounded corners. Considering its Rs 6300 price tag, the Canvas A1's construction is quite solid. At the same time, it is quite bulky, but that's fine for an affordable smartphone. Save for Xiaomi's Redmi 1S, most of the budget phones are quite bulky.
To keep the costs down, Micromax has done away with capacitive navigation keys. The UI navigation is taken care off by the on-screen keys. The back-panel has a rubberised feel, which offers good grip. Moreover, with its 4.5-inch screen, the phone is quite compact. There's a protrusion around the main camera. Not only it looks weird, but also makes the phone wobbly when placed on a table.
For Rs 6500, this phone offers you a 4.5-inch IPS screen with 480x854. Compared to what Micromax was churning out so far, the screen is very good. The colour reproduction is good. Viewing angles are better than the similarly priced Asus ZenFone 4. What's missing here is the Gorilla Glass protection, but Micromax does throw-in a free scratch-guard. Overall, the Canvas A1 offers a very good screen at an affordable price.
Domestic phone manufacturers prefer MediaTek chipsets due to its low-cost. On the flipside though, these chips (System on Chip) fail to deliver consistent performance. So we were expecting Google to push for more reliable affordable Snapdragon chips from Qualcomm, but that didn't happen. So like any affordable Android phone, the A1 is powered by a MediaTek MT6582 chipset. The processor is clocked at 1.3 GHz. other specifications include 1 GB RAM, a 5 megapixel 'autofocus' camera, 4 GB internal storage, microSD card slot, Wi-Fi, dual-SIM, and 1700 mAh battery. And for Selfie lovers, you get a 2 megapixel front-facing snapper.
The Canvas A1 runs Android 4.4.4 (Kitkat) out-of-the-box. The interface looks very similar to what you get on the Moto G. This means that there's hardly any customisation or bloatware on this handset. This has a positive impact on the performance. Going through Menus and switching between apps feels a lot smoother compared to non-Android One handsets. However, we did notice random app crashes and reboots in our week's usage. Let's hope, these bugs will be iron out with a software update. Overall, the phone offers delivers very good smartphone experience at a budget price.
The handset handles most casual games without an issue. However, we noticed significant sluggishness while playing Smash Hit. In comparison, the similarly priced ZenFone 4 runs Real racing 3. So if you're into gaming, you know what handset to buy. We also ran a couple of synthetic benchmarking tools, and here are the results.
The bundled earphones look exactly like Nokia's IEMs. We are not going to complain though, as most companies don't even bother to ship earphones with entry-level handsets. The sound quality is good for the price. As usual, you get plenty of equaliser settings to play around with. Moving on to video playback, the handset runs 720p videos effortlessly. With some high bit-rate 1080p videos, it struggles a bit.
Popular entry-level handsets such as the Moto E and Lumia 530 pack in frustrating to use fixed-focus cameras. These are the ones where you try to focus on the right area, and the moment is gone. Thankfully, the Canvas A1 is equipped with a 5 megapixel fixed-focus camera.
It offers many modes including Lens Blur, Photosphere, Panorama, and HDR. However, the Lens Blur and HDR doesn't produce good results on this handset. In terms of image quality, the colours look decent, but the visual noise levels are too high. In short, the camera is good for sharing images on Instagram, but not for viewing it on PC. In video recording, the phone records 720p clips at 30 fps. The playback is quite decent.
Telephony And Messaging
The Canvas A1 is a dual-SIM handset with support for micro-SIMs. The phone's network reception was good. Compared to most budget Android, this phone's on-board keyboard is quite responsive.
The 1700 mAh battery last for a day and half. However, if you use 3G a lot, then you'll have to charge the phone every evening.
Google is committed to bring good smartphone experience to masses, and Android One is a right step in that direction. Compared to earlier budget Android devices, the Canvas runs quite smooth. In terms of hardware, the handset is sturdy and offers a good screen. There are a few let-downs such as a mediocre camera and not-so-stable software. Still, taking its price into consideration, the Micromax Canvas A1 is a good choice for first-time smartphone users.
Design and Build Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 4/5