First look at the Karbonn Sparkle V Android One smartphone

At the Android One launch, we did manage to spend some time with the Android Karbonn Sparkle V and here's our first impression.

Android One is finally here. This was Google's big launch in India, where it's hoping to bring some budget smartphones to India, with good specifications and the latest build of Android. In addition there's the promise of two-year update support for Android One smartphone buyers as well. Google has also tied up with Airtel to ensure that those who buy Android One will get 100MB per month data free for Android updates and up to 200MB per month data free for app downloads.


Android One also comes with an assured upgrade to Android L once that is officially announced. Where price is concerned, the smartphones start at Rs 6,399 for the Karbonn Sparkle V, while the Spice Dream Uno is Rs 6,299 and the Micromax Canvas A1 is priced at Rs 6,499. As far as specifications go, it's the same for all three devices. The smartphones have a FWVGA  4.5-inch display with resolution of 854x480 pixels at 218 pixels per inch, a 2 megapixel front camera and 5 megapixel shooter on the back,  Mediatek's 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 4GB memory space with microSD support upto 32 GB, 1 GB RAM, WiFi, 1700 mAh battery.


We didn't get to see the Micromax smartphone at all which was quite intriguing. However we did manage to spend some time with the Android Karbonn Sparkle V and the Spice smartphone. Here's our first impression of the Karbonn Sparkle V smartphone. We'll have more about the Spice smartphone in another story.

Karbonn Sparkle V back cover. Tech2

Karbonn Sparkle V back cover. Tech2


Design, Screen: Karbonn's smartphone for Android One is called the Sparkle V and this one is available in an array of colours from Red to Silver, Blue, Black and White. As far as design goes there's nothing to really differentiate it from the Spice phone (which is the only other one that we saw), except that this seems just a tad bulkier and is available in various colours. Of course, it seemed brighter of the two and that's a big plus to have when there are two other rivals with the same specs.


As far as the screen is concerned, Karbonn Sparkle V has a FWVGA 4.5-inch display with a resolution of 854x480 pixels. In the sunlight, the screen was a bit too reflective making it hard to read anything on the device. Also get ready for some serious fingerprint smudges on your phone's screen because every device we saw was full of them.


The screen quality really does make you question why Google didn't push the partners to go for a slightly higher resolution on the screen. Again the fact that the Moto E comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and a splash guard makes these phones seem a bit outdated. Sure the Moto E costs around Rs 600 more, but really to the first time buyer who wants a decent smartphone within a budget of Rs 7000, the Moto E might seem a more advanced option.


As you can see, it's fingerprint smudges all over the screen. Tech2

As you can see, it's fingerprint smudges all over the screen. Tech2

Specs, processor, Memory space: This is where it gets really disappointing. The Mediatek chip clocked at 1.3 GHz is a quad-core sure, but let's face it with Chinese manufacture Xiaomi offering a Snapdragon Quad-core processor with the Redmi 1S which is priced at Rs 5999, the Android One phones again seem like they're at least a year late.


Interestingly Pichai also announced that Qualcomm would also be joining as a partner to Android One, which means Android One smartphones with Qualcomm processors might not be so far behind. What was also clear was that Android One phones with higher specs would be priced higher, once we see more of these getting launched.


With the Karbonn Sparkle V, we didn't notice any lag and yes it did function very smoothly, which can be an issue in a lot of low-end Android devices.  But the 4 GB memory bit means that you'll definitely need a microSD card for this smartphone with users getting less than 2 GB of the memory. According to this BGR report, they couldn't even take screenshots or download photos or any other media you receive on WhatsApp or any other service, without the use of an SD card. That's really, really bad news.


Google News when views on the Karbonn Sparkle.

Google News when viewed on the Karbonn Sparkle.


Camera: In an age where the number of pixels seem to be going north, Android One devices like the Karbonn Sparkle V come with a 5 megapixel rear camera and flash and a 2 megapixel front camera. When we turned on the camera, it looked like a fairly decent shot for a device that's priced at Rs 6399 and is obviously catering to the class that is aspiring to get their first Android. But the fact that the phones kept flashing the put microSD card message, meant we couldn't click anything. That is a message you truly don't want to see on your smartphone.


With the front camera, we think the selfies aren't really worth it, but from the perspective of someone who's buying their first smartphone, a front camera with 2 megapixels sounds like a great deal. Remember the Moto E doesn't have a front camera and that makes the Karbonn smartphone a choice for those who are dying to jump in on the selfie bandwagon.

What looked like a decent shot on the Karbonn Sparkle V. Sadly we couldn't take it. Tech2

What looked like a decent shot on the Karbonn Sparkle V. Sadly we couldn't take it. Tech2


Battery: The Karbonn smartphone has a 1700 mAh battery. According to Google, the talk time is 8.9 hours, Internet time on Wi-Fi is even less impressive 5.13 hours. Battery is going to be crucial in these phones, but from the looks of it, this isn't offering too much on the battery front. The good news is that the battery is removable.


Android One:  This is clearly the most important aspect to the Karbonn Sparkle V and for starters we need to see this as more than just pure Android or Android which is going to get updated.


First and foremost, Android One isn't just about getting the device into people's hands, it is also about ensuring some solid content consumption. Which is perhaps why Google has ensured that  Android One smartphones users can browse the Internet without consuming too much data. The Chrome Browser uses the latest data compression technology and users won't have to worry about a high-data usage while browsing the web.


Karbonn Sparkle V during the launch. Tech2

Karbonn Sparkle V during the launch. Tech2

In addition Google is bringing the Play NewsStand App to India with news, articles, etc from some leading publications. And given that Android One runs the latest Android 4.4.4 version, there's no doubt the app will be come to the Android One smartphones as well. So yes, Google is not only giving the software, they're also making sure that news content is more widely accessible on these smartphones.


The other big plus that is going to take place in India in the next couple of weeks is that some YouTube videos will soon be available offline. What this means is that people can store videos in the YouTube app when they are on WiFi and watch them later.


For Android One users, the ones who might very well be buying their first smartphone and are still on 2G or don't have a high-limit on their 3G data pack, this is probably going to be one of the coolest features.


In addition to this, there's Google Now, which will also show train reservation updates in India, Google translate which worked very well on the demo and of course, the biggest plus is the Android L update.


Conclusion:  In a market where Xiaomi and Moto E have been making waves, the Karbonn Sparkle V Android One doesn't excite much in terms of specs. Sure there's a front camera, but the memory space is far too low. The biggest push the Karbonn Sparkle V has is the Android One, which offers a lot to the budget user, in terms for video consumption, apps, data-saving, etc. And truly, these are the things that could make a big difference to the success of Android One phone.

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