A few months ago, when you talked of phablets (phones with displays of five inches and above), most people thought you were referring to Samsung’s bestselling and iconic Galaxy Note series, which literally invented the phablet segment. Today, that segment is getting noticeably more crowded. And a whole lot more affordable.
Leading the affordable phablet surge is Micromax which has come out with no fewer than three phablets in the past six months —the A100 Canvas, the A110 Canvas 2 and most recently, the A116 Canvas HD. All of these have sported 5-inch displays, decent processors, recent flavours of Android and most notably, amazingly low price tags.
If that sounds a bit difficult to believe, consider the Canvas HD. It comes with a 5.0-inch capacitive LCD display of 1280 x 720 resolution, a 1.2 GHz quad core processor from MediaTek, dual cameras (including an 8.0-megapixel camera with autofocus on the rear), 1 GB RAM, dual SIM connectivity, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and 4GB onboard storage which can be expanded to 32 GB using a microSD card.
It also comes with one of the newer versions of Android running on top of it — 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) with an update to 4.2 being evidently in the works. All this for an introductory price of Rs 13,990! And it is not just a paper tiger either. The phone actually works and although a trifle plasticky, does look decent enough. It won’t turn as many heads as the Canvas 2 (whose black back was infinitely easier on the eye than the white one on its successor) but it is by no means an eyesore.
The display which has a pixel density of 294 ppi (the iPhone 5 has 326, to give you an idea) is great for viewing Web pages, videos and images, and thanks to its size, makes typing easy (we still recommend grabbing Swype beta for free if you prefer one-handed use, though). And while we know a few tech experts who snigger at MediaTek’s processors, the stark fact is that we faced no major slowdowns as we zipped from menu to menu and from app to app.
Yes, we even played the graphic-guzzling Shadowgun on it and our experience was very good indeed. There is complete access to the Google Play store for app download addicts. Sound quality is acceptably loud through the speakers and more than decent on headphones. Yes, we would recommend not spending too much time away from a power socket, as battery does tend to drain a bit fast but then that is par for the course when you invest in a large display phone which is not the Note 2.
There are other niggles too. The camera packs in the megapixels but its performance remains iffy with neither the greatest colours nor details in still or video mode (we actually think that the Canvas 2 had a better camera). Network reception tended to drop off in weak signal areas, and call quality is mediocre rather than great. But a low price tag makes one more forgiving and truth be told, we have seen worse from brands that cost more and deliver lesser.
All said and done, the Micromax Canvas HD is not the greatest value for money smartphone out there — we still think the Lumia 510 gets our vote in that department — but it still delivers a magnificent dollop of smarty goodness at a price that is ridiculously low. Its greatest achievement, however, is likely to be twofold — respectability for Indian smartphone brands, and a general reduction in prices in the large screen smartphone market. No, we do not think it is a coincidence that a better known brand released a lower priced dual SIM large screen smartphone shortly after the Canvas HD was announced. Yes, we can hear consumers cheering. We confess we are, too.