Monday, September 20, 2010

Spice Mi-300


Spice Mobile Ltd. launched a sub-Rs. 10,000 Android-based mobile phone, with specifications found in mid-range mobile phones, the Spice MI 300. Since one of our editors, Daniel D, purchased it more than a week ago, we can go ahead and provide a full review of its features, and how it handles in everyday use.

1. Hardware - Look, feel and design
You can read several reviews and user opinions online that state that the phone feels cheap. Our opinion? It doesn't. The phone is fully plastic, with no metal trim or finish - but the phone doesn't feel downright cheap. It feels like a decent mid-range phone. It does, however, feel light. Extremely. For a mobile phone of this size, packed with the features that it does have, one expects a lot more weight. Keeping it at this weight has made us more careful in its handling - we try to keep it safe. Again, this may be just our personal opinion, but that's how it feels. From the front, the design looks sleek. Yes, though the manufacturer is Spice, the front design does look really sleek. At times, when a pair of headphones is connected, the device is very reminescent of an iPod Touch or even an iPhone 3G/3GS . It does turn heads - every single person who has come across it has ooh-ed, and ah-ed and commented of how nice the phone looks.

Spice Mi-300 - Hardware, bottom



Spice Mi-300 - Hardware, left side



Spice Mi-300 - Hardware, right side



Spice Mi-300 - Hardware, top



Round back, there is a tiny green Android logo. We would have preferred the logo to be larger slightly, but whatever. The white plastic bezel that covers the sides of the phone could have been differently coloured, but it's something that we can live with. The capacitive touch buttons below the touchscreen are very responsive, in some cases, being too responsive. The trackball is well-executed, thankfully, unlike certain bad examples in Blackberry imitations that we have seen. The volume +/- buttons, the Power button, the Green and Red call buttons fit very well with the overall design, and have no complaints in their usage.

Spice Mi-300 - Hardware, buttons



Spice Mi-300 - Hardware, 5 MP Camera



Spice Mi-300 - Hardware, Spice logo



The screen is a HVGA 320 x 480 3.2 " multi-touch, capacitive display. In case you missed it - there were two nuggets in the previous sentence - the screen resolution, and multi-touch. There have been reports of the screen being non-multi touch, but we have posted a video on our YouTube channel (see below) to demonstrate the multi-touch within the default browser, which works well within the Gallery (photos) application as well. The screen resolution is 320 x 480, which means all the Apps present in the Android Market (for India) would work fine on this phone. If you don't know, the HTC Wildfire, the HTC Tattoo, the Samsung Galaxy 5, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini/Mini Pro - all are fitted with a QVGA 240 x 320 display - which means that Apps that do not specifically state compatibility with that resolution would not even show up when you browse the Android Market on those devices. This gives the Spice MI 300 a huge advantage over the much-pricier competition.





With respect to the 3.5mm audio jack, there is a slight gap at towards the rear of the phone that is evident when a 3.5mm headset is plugged in. This appears to be due to the slant of the top edge of the phone, and it doesn't create any issues while actually listening to audio or making and receiving phone calls. However, it does hinder the overall "perfectness" of the phone.

2. Software - Android 1.6

Spice Mi-300 - Desk Clock



The Indian Geek is planning to review Android thoroughly in the near-future, so for the purpose of this review, we will stick to how the OS feels and works on the Spice MI 300 alone.

Personally, we don't like too much of pre-loaded Apps, or heavy UI customizations that make the phone lag. In this respect, the Spice MI 300 scores a huge plus. The UI is skinned, but slightly. And the preloaded Apps contain some useful stuff that is otherwise available as paid Apps in the US Android Market.

To begin, the Spice MI 300 has 5 homescreens, which is welcome to create a number of shortcuts and widgets and what-nots that you may want to have on your mobile phone. There are a few Bollywood-esque wallpapers, which are quite sharp - you could use these to show off the capabilities of the screen, if you like. The UI is extremely responsive - we cannot stress this enough. Considering that we've seen numerous poorly-executed touchscreens from devices that cost Rs. 5,000 (LG Cookie) to Rs. 20,000 (Nokia N97), it has been a pleasure and a joy to use the touchscreen on the Spice MI 300. There is not much lag when using the phone, as long as enough RAM is available. Although the Spice MI 300 is stated by certain online websites to contain 256 MB RAM, we could see only 156 MB accessible for running Applications; of this 156 MB, the maximum amount of RAM that we have seen available for opening new Applications is roughly 60 MB or so, after having killed all the Applications that start up when you power on the phone. We definitely would recommend that you download and install the Advanced Task Killer from the Market, and diligently use it to conserve RAM memory, and the battery. We do not understand why preloaded Apps such as Socially, and Spice Sangeeth have to start themselves everytime that the phone is switched on. A point to be noted here is that the phone did freeze and restart itself a few times before we went ahead and installed the Advanced Task Killer; even with it installed, only enabling Auto-Kill mode to "moderate" did the trick. If the Spice MI 300 with atleast 156 MB of RAM could suffer this fate, we hate to imagine the troubles that would be plagueing the Samsung Galaxy 5 (i5503), which has only 128 MB of RAM.

Of the pre-installed Apps, the most useful has been the Keyboard that Spice has chosen to install, instead of the stock Android keyboard. This keyboard can help you type really fast, in the matter of a few days. The feature where you can swipe down on letters to insert alternate characters like numbers and symbols just makes for really fast typing. After fooling around with the Slide IT keyboard from the Android Market, (which is very much like Swype) we went back to the default Touch Pal keyboard, since it seems to make typing faster when using symbols and numbers. The next most useful App would be the RoadSync utility. This App synchronizes your Spice MI 300 with Exchange, over the air. You could go ahead and purchase the full App, but the free version works just fine for synchronising Work e-mail and calendar information. Synchronisation schedule can be managed, and your whole work-life-on-the-go becomes a cinch. Documents-to-Go and Socially are other welcome additions. But for the life of us, we couldn't get the Socially app working fully. Let us explain : We were able to configure it, set it up, and it went on it's way to synchronizing and mapping Facebook contacts with the phone's built-in contacts. Pretty soon, it crashed. Outright. And on every restart of the phone, it crashed. We deleted all cached data for the Socially App, restarted the phone and tried again - with the same result. We're hoping that the 2.1 OS upgrade would enable us to download the Socially App from the Market, and thereby making it fully useable. Let's see. On the other end of the spectrum, the worst pre-installed Apps are the two Spice applications - one of which is just a web shortcut - as we doubt if anyone out there would really use it. If you would use the Spice Sangeeth app to gain access to ringtones from your specific network provider (Airtel/Vodafone/etc) then it's useful, we guess. There are two pre-installed games, which aren't worth mentioning - but with the Market open, we were able to download and install all and any available games. Our Youtube video of the Spice Mi-300 running a 3D game, Raging Thunder Lite, is below.





3. Media - Camera, Audio, Video

Spice Mi-300 - Camera interface



The 5 MP Autofocus w/ LED flash rear camera has been a huge debate online. True, the camera does not deliver the output that high-end mobile phones with price tags Rs. 20,000 and above. But it does deliver better photos than a 2 MP fixed focus camera found in featurephones, and 3.2 MP fixed-focus cameras that are found in the LG Cookie-esque mobile phones. While picture quality was not stunning, the video-capture quality was definitely above-par on a budget phone. The flash is also good enough for low-light or no-light photos. Just don't expect to be capturing any close-ups with this camera.

Audio output from the speaker is not as loud as the LG Cookie (which is one of the loudest phones that we have handled), though it is pretty loud. A simple message tone could be heard in a crowded room with the mobile phone inside the pocket of a pair of jeans. It's loud enough, and very clear. With headphones, the music just gets better. There is an audible audio "snag" (we don't know how else to describe it!) when you try picking up an incoming call while listening to music over the earphones; this could be just the switch happening. We have not experienced this "snag" anywhere else.

For video, Spice bundles a 2 GB microSD card that is preloaded with 10 videos. The High Quality versions of these videos at 320 x 240, do look stunning on this screen. But we're not going to be watching only those 10 videos all the time are we? Well, Handbrake helped in converting videos to the format for the Spice MI 300. After 2 or 3 attempts, we had converted full-length video to a format which looked superbly crisp and clear on the Spice MI 300.

The Apps that are built-in for Media and Video are not good, but not great. DoubleTwist from the Android Market is an excellent replacement, especially since it handles audio and video from one interface.

4. Other stuff - Battery, Sensors, Touchscreen

Spice Mi-300 - Web browsing



The battery is consumed quickly when using Wi-Fi, and extremely quickly when the digital compass is used. For examply, half an hour of Wi-Fi usage could use up upto 10 % of the phone's total battery usage over a period of 7-8 hours; but just 15 seconds of using the digital compass could use up over 50 % of the battery usage for the same 7-8 hours. So if you're using applications like Google Sky Maps or the Layar augmented reality browser, use with caution : it will eat up the battery in no time. Listening to music does not use up the battery much at all, which is good, as most users tend to use their phones for listening to music on-the-go, or all the time. If the battery is fully charged, with minimal Wi-Fi usage, and other sensors, it could last for a little more than a day in everyday use. With full-fledged Wi-Fi browsing and downloading of data, the battery would not last more than 4-6 hours.

The Ambient light sensor is not very useful - we switched it off, and went with manually configuring the brightness using the Android Settings widget on the homescreen. The Proximity sensor is right on target - no lag in disabling or re-enabling the display when bringing the phone close to the ear, or away from the ear. The orientation sensor is also very responsive, except when attempting to use Google Gesture search. After struggling to find the sweet spot between sensitivity for Gesture search, and trying to enable it, Gesture search was uninstalled on our phone. You can view our Youtube video of Gesture search working on the phone, below.





As mentioned in the Hardware section, the touchsreen is responsive. We can't stress this enough. The touchscreen is so responsive that people who are used to the LG Cookies, the Samsung Stars, Corbys, and the Nokia Symbian touchscreen-based phones are really taken aback when they use this phone. Whispers of "like the iPhone" are not uncommon. The touchscreen is definitely a huge plus for the Spice MI 300.

5. Wrap-Up
Overall, the Spice MI 300 has a decent specifications-list for the price - Rs. 9,990. It can be purchased at Global Access and Hotspot Mobile stores in India. We definitely would recommend that you get the Rs. 799/- additional warranty, if available, which provides a 2-year coverage against damage, liquid spillage over and above the standard 1-year warranty.

The question is : Is this the mobile phone for you? There is no easy answer to that question. If you have decided to purchase an Android mobile phone, and you do not want to stretch your budget by much, then this would be a great value-for-money offer. If your budget is in the Rs. 20,000/- range, then we'd suggest springing for either the Acer Liquid E, the Motorola Backflip, or the upcoming Sony Ericsson Xperia X8. If money is no object, then you might as well look at either the Motorola Milestone XT720, or the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, or the recently launched HTC Desire. The bottom line is that if your budget is Rs. 9,990/- then you would not find a better Android-based mobile phone around in India, for sometime atleast.

24 comments:

hiren said...

that was a good thourogh review...
bi m stucked between samsung galaxy 3 and this spice mi 300...
if u were given this two option wt would u hv choosen???
waitin for ur reply...thanx

pradeep said...

hi Indiangeek,



Even i have the same doubt. Wish to hear your opinion.

Galaxy 3 is a bit costly (12,000 +).But it comes from Samsung, whose mobile phones quality is proven.

At the same time, galaxy 3 screen resolution is 240 x 400 pixels(wqvga) and spice mi 300 screen resolution is 320 X 480(hvga).
--Came to know that applications in andriod market are resolution specific(atleast games). so i guess there would be less number of applications for 240 X 400 (galaxy 3 ) pixel phone as there are less phones with this Resolution.

check this out

http://androidandme.com/2009/11/news/complications-looming-for-android-developers/

The Indian Geek said...

Hello Guys,

The Samsung Galaxy 3 may be a superior phone in terms of build quality, but the screen resolution definitely makes a difference. Also, if you're hoping to use 3G on non-BSNL providers (such as Airtel or Vodafone), then be informed that currently, only the 1900 Mhz 3G band frequency has been auctioned so far. Which means that the Spice MI 300 is one of the very few Android-based handsets in India that can be used with non-BSNL 3G providers (when they do launch it). BSNL provides 2100 Mhz 3G, so if you're using BSNL - this would not be an issue.

In our opinion, the screen resolution and the 3G frequency bands make a huge difference.

Thanks,
The Indian Geek.

hiren said...

does that mean ki u would go for spice over galaxy 3???...does spice worth ignorin better build quality n samsung brand???...it is still hard for me to put faith in spice thats y m asking to many questions...

bt hey appreciate ur views on the both devices's comperison...

thanx

The Indian Geek said...

Well, Hiren, if you want value-for-money, stick with the Spice MI 300. If you're worried too much about hardware quality, you could purchase the additional Rs. 799/- warranty package from the Spice Hotspot store, which covers accidental damage, liquid spillage for two full years. I doubt if Samsung has such an offer available.

The Galaxy 3 is not a bad mobile phone - it just doesn't have the minimum standard display size for Android (HVGA) and it doesn't support the 1900 Mhz 3G.

Finally, the decision would need to be made based on the depth of your pocket, and what exactly you're looking for in a device. Even a WQVGA display-based phone could be put to great use with the Android platform.

Thank you,
The Indian Geek.

hiren said...

thanx foe the reply...that additional warranty does make sense...thanx...

awsiv said...

hi geek,
can the mi 300 play motion sensor games and 3d games based on java or android?? is it possible to install games on SD card , atleast by rooting??

The Indian Geek said...

Hi awsiv,

Thank you for stopping by our website.

The Mi-300 can play any game that we've tried playing on it till now, many of which are full-fledged 3D games, playable on the Samsung Galaxy S. Till date, we are yet to see a game that the Spice Mi-300 is unable to handle (even in the unrooted, 480 Mhz state that the Android 2.1 update leaves it in)

We must note, however, that the Talking TomCat application, (http://outfit7.com/apps/talking-tom-cat/) seems to have some hiccups now and then. Apart from that one App, we've not noticed any other issues when using Apps or Games.

We've tried playing graphics-intensive games such as Guns'n'Glory (Tower-Defense, strategy game - http://www.handy-games.com/public/list_a.php?language=en&softarea=java), Raging Thunder 2, Speed Forge 3D, Speedx 3D and several other games.

As far as installing the games onto the SD card, we've never really explored the possibility of such an option. It is definitely not possible without rooting, since there is no Android 2.2 update available from Spice. If you can get your hands on a custom modded ROM (such as CyanogenMOD) with 2.2 for this phone, then yes, it should be possible. Please keep in mind that installing (or trying to install) such custom ROMs could render your phone unusable, void the warranty, and basically give you some serious worries. :)

Hope this helped!

awsiv said...

tnx for the reply..
am planning to get spice mi300 by jan '11... is it a worthy phone to get or will there by any new android phone in market with similar features at the same price.. like huawei x6 or videocon zeus evolve..?? also please tell , till when will the introductory price of spice mi300 phone will be available??

The Indian Geek said...

Hi awsiv,

We apologise for the delayed reply. One of our own in-house "Geeks" (Dan) has purchased a Spice Mi-300 about 3 months ago, and is fully pleased with it. There are moments of frustration with the Android Operating System being not as fast as a full-fledged PC (yeah, Dan has high expectations at times!); but in his own words "I've not regretted buying a 'Spice' mobile phone"

With regard to the Videocon Zeus v7500, we like the higher-capacity bundled microSD card, and the two batteries provided. But the overall look and feel of the phone is not as good as the Spice Mi-300; plus, the Videocon Zeus costs a few thousands more.

The introductory price of Spice Mi-300 - we've no idea. Looking at how the market is adopting Android phones, we presume that Spice would not increase the price - they would definitely lose sales.

srivatsa said...

I have been using Spice MI-300 for about two months now and it is really value for money. Except that the camera is not really a 5MP one and there is no radio, rest of the features are really good. I'm currently running Android 2.1

The Indian Geek said...

Hi Srivatsa,

Thanks for stopping by our site!

We're glad to hear that you've been using the Spice Mi-300 without any issues for the past couple of months. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

The 5 MP camera on the Mi-300 is a 5 MP camera; it's just not as great quality optics or sensor, as say, a 5 MP camera in a Nokia N-series phone. The images taken by the camera have 5 Megapixels... :) And yes, the phone doesn't have built-in radio, which sadly, seems to be a deficiency in most Android phones (except the ones from Samsung, or LG, and a few others)

Also, it's nice to hear that you've upgraded your phone to 2.1.... 2.1 makes a WORLD of difference to the phone, from the 1.6 that is preloaded on it.

Please keep sharing your thoughts and opinions on other articles on our site.

Thanks!

Christopher Hsieh said...

Hi,

Good Job on the review.

I have an Mi300, about 2 months old. Didn't get the additional warranty (I didnt know it existed), but some shivering fingers in Dehradun had me drop the phone down a flight of stairs, and it survived the fall. After the accident, thought I'd experiment with it, and experiment I did, A LOT. Tried three ROMs and finally fixed on cyanogen (currently on Android 2.2 - cyanogen will be porting 2.3 to Mi300 in a few days). Obviously, a2sd is an awesome feature.

Definitely an excellent phone, worth all the money. The extra budget that anyone has, they should invest in a 16/32gig sdcard. I'm all fida over android.

The other thing that many are not aware of is that EA and Gameloft have released Hi-Res 3d games for the android. If one's geeky enough, you could get the them for 'free' (its quite a long process and involves intuitive searching), but then the originals could be bought for $0.99/Rs.44. On my Mi300, NFS and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.K work super fine, FIFA's a bit laggy, and The Sims3 also's fine in some areas and laggy in others. Other games I haven't had the time to download.

My only complaint about this phone (or any other friend's android phones I've come across so far), is the battery life. My 3yr old Nokia lasts much longer, but then again, an android is totally worth the battery drain.

Regards,

Chris
(Mumbai)

The Indian Geek said...

Wow. Chris, we are seriously pleased with the length, thought and time that has gone into your comment. We had a fun time reading it. Like you, I guess our Spice Mi-300 went through various ROMs before switching to CyanogenMOD. Actually, one of our Chief geeks, Dan, wrote this - http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/index.php?title=Commtiva_Z71:_Full_Update_Guide - after his experience of loading CyanogenMOD on it (Dan goes by the online handle, ajcfreak)

Battery drain isn't just an issue with Android phones - it's an issue with any full touchscreen modern smartphone. With Android, the issue is magnified since all Apps just run automatically in the background. We've kind of stemmed it by using the CPU tuner app (from the Market) which is available for rooted phones.

Finally, with regards to the performance, as Dan found out (http://twitter.com/#!/dan_ajcfreak/status/12847792112275456) after upgrading to CyanogenMOD's Android 2.2.1 ROM, the Spice Mi-300 can beat the stock Galaxy S for performance. And that's saying a lot.

Thanks again for your comments, Chris.

raumil said...

I cannot update my spice mi 300 from android 1.6 to 2.1 please help.

The Indian Geek said...

Hello Raumil,

Thank you for stopping by! We're sorry to hear that you're having trouble updating your Spice Mi-300 Android phone from 1.6 to 2.1

Could you let us know a little bit more about what the exact issue is, the steps you have tried, and what happens when you try those steps?

Alternatively, you could also e-mail us at admin [at] theindiangeek [dot] com

raumil said...

1. I installed the file from it's site.
2. I started setup but it would stop in between and the phone would restart.
3. Later I tried to update it manually by putting "update.zip" file in the root.
4. I restarted my phone in recovery......
and selected "apply sdcard:update.zip"
but it says

Install from sdcard...
Finding update package...
Opening update package...
Verifying update package...
Installing update...
Installation aborted...



Please help me get my phone updated.
Thanks.
Raumil
raumil_cool2@yahoo.co.in

raumil said...

"The Indian Geek" please suggest me a solution as soon as possible so i can start using the phone again.

Thank You.

The Indian Geek said...

Hey Raumil,

We've e-mailed you with some questions. Can't promise that we can help - we're not Spice Technical Support - but we'll do our best. Respond with the answers, and we'll see.

Thanks.

raumil said...

raumil_cool2@yahoo.co.in

The Indian Geek said...

That is the e-mail ID that we sent the e-mail to. It was sent at 9:48 PM last night. Anyways, please answer these questions.

1. Is your Spice Mi-300 working fine currently? Is it running the standard, Spice-provided Android 1.6 ROM?
2. What is the Operating System on the PC used to perform the update? Is it Windows XP/Vista/7 - 32-bit/64-bit ?
3. Is there any Antivirus/Firewall utility active on this PC? If so, which one?
4. Are you connecting the Spice Mi-300 directly to the PC via USB, or using a USB hub? Are you connecting it to the front, or the rear of the PC?
5. What is the make, model of the PC? Is it an assembled Desktop PC?

raumil said...

1. Yes, It is running standard Android 1. ROM
2. Windows 7 32 bit
3. Norton antivirus is on
4. Directly to the front of the PC.( I have tried the back of PC too)

The Indian Geek said...

Raumil,

We are extremely sorry for the very late response. Have you resolved the issue with the update yet? If not, we'd suggest a few things.

1. Disable your Antivirus (Norton) completely (temporarily for the duration of the update) and then try the update
2. Verify if the Spice driver software has been installed. This should come up as an auto-run dialog box as soon as the Spice Mi-300 is connected to the PC. If it doesn't, you should see the icon of a CD drive below the Computer icon in any Windows Explorer window. Check for a .EXE file inside that, and run it. Allow it to install completely, disconnect the phone, restart the PC, reconnect the phone, and then re-run the 2.1 update.

Let us know how it goes - and we're sorry for the delayed response.

lokin said...

Galaxy fit is better see the specs , it costs 9k .

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