On the very first day of this year we reported about the launch of the cheapest Android 2.3 mobile, the spice MI 280, in India. I was so excited about reviewing it that I couldn’t hold myself to wait for the review sample from the company and I purchased one. Another reason to make a purchase was that now I would be able to provide answers to ongoing questions as well (e.g. does this game plays on it or does this software work on it etc.), which actually is not possible with the review sample as we have to return the same to the company after reviewing. (P.S. Please don’t expect this in case of every mobile )
Now when I have used it for around a week, here goes my first hand review on this.
Spice MI-280 is made for affordability, so don’t expect that the specification will blow you out. It’s purely made for those who just want to taste Android and want to use it for their web activities (e.g Net surfing, social networking etc) along with the casual multimedia usage. Its not made for those who want an Android for Gaming, Camera and full blown multimedia stuffs. For movie seekers, you can watch movies on it, both Audio and Video are average.
- 2.8 inch, 320 x 240 px, 65k Capacitive Touchscreen
- Dual SIM (GSM+GSM)
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread
- 3.2 Megapixel Camera with fixed focus
- VGA Front camera for video calling
- CPU: 650 MHz, GPU – Equivalent to 200MHz
- 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS
- Internal Memory: 134 MB, expandable up to 32GB
- 1000 mAH battery
- View full specifications
- Low resolution and low colors on screen
- Average camera
Most of the buttons are located on the front itself. It accommodates the front camera, 2.8 inch screen, 4 capacitive buttons below the screen and three hardware buttons (call, end and the five way navigation key). The end button doubles as the lock key and I couldn’t figure the much use of 5-way navigation key as the capacitive touchscreens are always good in scrolling, tapping etc.
There’s a volume rocker in the left and 3.5 mm jack & connectivity port on the top. There’s nothing on right and bottom of the mobile. Important to mention that there is no dedicated camera key.
The built of mobile is not very sturdy and the back panel (the battery cover), made of plastic looks flimsy when you separate it from the body. It doesn’t give a very costly look but doesn’t look very cheap as well (something like Samsung Corby mobiles, if you remember).
Display and Touch:
To make the Spice MI 280 affordable, display is one of the area where most of the compromises have been done. It has a low resolution (320×240 px) and very low colors on the screen (65k colors) which up to very much extent ruin out the enjoyment of Android. The screen is not at all optimal to play high end games (like Asphalt, NFS etc). However it supported light games such as Angry Birds, Speed car (a motion based car racing game) etc.
Unlike other sub 5k Android mobiles Spice MI280 posses a capacitive touchscreen. The screen is responsive to touches, pinch and zoom, scrolling etc. I noticed some lag while scrolling call logs and the Internet browser, which was unexpected.
User interface and Performance
The user interface is somehow different to other Android mobiles. When you press the unlock button, by default you are greeted with a lock icon in multi-colored circle. You need to pull out the lock from circle to unlock the screen. Then you have 5 different scrollable home screens which can be configured with icons as per your need.
When you peep into the menu, by default its vertically scrollable, not horizontally. In menu you will find a few pre installed apps like Delhi Metro, Tradus, Spice gang, Indian rail etc. These can’t be removed without rooting the mobile phone.
The front camera for video call works fine but only in ambient light conditions. In every Android mobile’s review, I have been asked by the readers, whether Skype works perfectly or not. In this case I guess no. While Installing the Skype, a message popped up saying, ” Skype is Incompatible with the System, Continue the Installation anyway?”. After the installation, I opened the application and put the login credentials. The moment I clicked sign in, the app got closed. I could not find another option in the call menu or anywhere else to make a call with Skype.
The default keyboard is just fine but doesn’t support swype text input. However you can easily overcome it by installing any of the keyboard app.
To be very frank, the user interface won’t give you a rich feeling. You will feel like the Android OS has been packed in cheap touchscreen mobile device. There’s definitely a bit lagging at times which shouldn’t be considering a 650 Mhz CPU + GPU running just a 65k colored screen.
For a better idea of user interface consider watching our Video review of Spice MI280 on Youtube
Multimedia and Camera
In case of multimedia, the audio quality and video quality is average. You can watch movies and YouTube videos while on the go, but don’t expect a great feeling.
The camera is also average. There is no auto focus or led flash for camera. Click here for the photo samples and here for the video sample.
How can a 1000 mAH battery withstand the Android. Battery drains out very quickly while using apps. On minimal usage, it hardly survived a day.
Final words : Should you buy it?
Buy it if you want to use Android just to taste it. This phone does well in terms of web usability. It will also fulfill your multimedia buds up to some extent.
Don’t buy it if you want to purchase Android for gaming, using heavy apps (like skype) and a great multimedia experience. You will be disappointed. Better increase your budget a bit or hold for some better options in this price range.
Feel free to ask anything through comments. I have decided to use this mobile for some more days so it won’t be tough for me to answer your questions.
Update: 21 Jan 2012:
The mobile set used in review is for sale @ Rs. 4500 (Learn more) Sold