Smartron is a brand new player in the smartphone space. The company prefers calling itself an IoT company, rather than just a smartphone company. It had released the Smartron t.book earlier, their answer to the Microsoft Surface Pro series 2-in-1s. The Smartron t.phone is the second consumer product from this Hyderabad-based company which boasts of legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar amongst its major investors.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
We are used to seeing single colour phones flooding the market, so Smartron t.phone’s dual tone colour design was a refreshing change. Coming in four colours such as Classic Grey, Metallic Pink, Steel Blue and Sunrise Orange, the phones certainly stand out from the crowd. The Orange coloured model we got for testing, looks like it was made from the same metal used in making the t.book. The orange portion occupies the majority of the rear side with the top and bottom portions still having that gray metallic feel. A silver coloured Smartron logo graces the centre on the rear side. The metal body finish feels good in the hand and we did not find the phone to be too slippery either.
A 5.5-inch Full HD display graces the front. There are no buttons on the front, just a thin bezels on the top and bottom. The phone has fine curvatures around the sharp edges. A 4MP front camera is placed beside the earpierce speaker followed by the proximity sensor. It measures just around 6.98mm thick and is quite light to behold at 149 grams. One does tend to see a definite demarcation between where the display ends and the surrounding bezel begins, thanks to a slightly raised black coloured edge surrounding the display. The fit between the rear side and its top and bottom portions isn’t the best, as we noticed slight outward protrusions on both ends.
On the left hand side, you have the dual SIM card slot (micro SIM + nano SIM), the volume rocker and power/standby buttons are present on the right hand side. The 3.5mm audio jack is present on the top and a USB Type C port is present on the base.
For the t.phone, Smartron has stuck with a generation older Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset which sports an octa-core CPU along with Adreno 430 GPU. This is paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, which is quite impressive thanks to the use of faster DDR4 memory. The phone comes with 64GB of storage and you can expand the storage to 128GB using a microSD card slot. But Smartron will also offer unlimited cloud storage (yes, unlimited cloud storage) for life, for an active Smartron user.
It runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow OS with barely any sort of custom user interface upon it. The phone does bundle the Smartron Experience app which gives you access to Smartron features such as tstore, tcloud, tcare and more.
In terms of connectivity, you get a hybrid dual SIM card slot, Wi-fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 and it has sensors such as the accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer and much more. There’s a 3000mAh battery powering the t.phone. It is non-removable and supports USB Type-C fast charging with QuickCharge 2.0. Around this price point, nowadays the fingerprint scanner has become a norm. The t.phone does not come with one though.
You get a 5.5-inch Full HD display on the Smartron t.phone. The phone comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection along with oleophobic coating to prevent any smudges from accumulating on it and we have to say, it does a good job on that front. Smartron has gone with a Super AMOLED panel which makes the colours pop out. Smartron has also added what it calls Apical assertive display technology to ensure that legibility isn’t affected outdoors. We didn’t face much issues with legibility as such. The blacks are deep and it’s a pleasure to watch videos or play games on this display. However, some may find the display a bit too over saturated as the is the case with Super AMOLED panels. You cannot adjust the colour balance in the display settings, but it has an Assertive display option to assist with legibility in the sunlight.
Smartron t.phone comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box. While Smartron hasn’t fragmented the Android OS with its own skin atop it, there is a tronX platform which ensures seamless experience across all Smartron devices irrespective of the underlying OS. Under this app, you have the tstore which connects you to Smartron’s online store; tcloud which gives you access to the cloud storage; tcare connects you to the customer care service; forum lets you ask or get your queries answered by other Smartron t.phone users and finally Services which is where Smartron is offering something unique.
The services play is four pronged – entertainment, financial, security and professional services. With regards to services, Smartron will partner with some service providers for entertainment, professional and financial services but provide its own features under the security services section such as encryption, private browsing and so on. Also, according to the founders, the services will be unique to the user who is using them and they will learn the user behaviour over time to cater to his or her needs.
At the time of review, only Hungama Digital was offered under the services section and there is nothing different about it from its app.
Call quality on the t.phone was quite good and there was no issue with the earpiece speaker. Considering it houses the Snapdragon 810 chipset along with 4GB RAM, there was no issues such as lag or phone slowdown or random shut down of apps. Even with 20 odd Chrome tabs open and a few apps running, there’s still enough headroom. The non-existent bloat and absence of unnecessary skinning really helps here.
The phone is capable of running the most heavy games with ease as well. Asphalt 8: Airborne did not show any frame-drops even at High setting. Also heat management while playing the game is quite well. The maximum temperature recorded by the Fluke thermometer was 38 degrees Celcius, which isn’t that bad. Specially when you take into consideration that this is that notorious 810 chipset that has been employed, which has marred the heat management in many a flagships in the past. However, the phone does heat up if you have it in your pockets and you don't attend to the incoming messages or miss some calls. Smartron claims to have used a later version of the chipset which has better heat management, and it shows.
The benchmark numbers are in line with other Snapdragon 810 chipset sporting phones we have tested in the past. The GFX GL Benchmark refused to run for some reason. It does get left behind by the Google Nexus 6P which has 3GB RAM. In real life usage, this phone performed as you’d expect a Rs 20k plus phone to perform.
There is a 13MP rear camera and a 4MP front-facing camera. The rear camera comes with a 1.12 micrometer pixel size, f/2.0 aperture, phase-detect auto focus, HDR for photos and much more. It is also capable of shooting 4K videos. The front-facing camera sports a 4MP sensor with 2 micrometer pixel size and f/2.0 aperture.
The camera interface is a slight modification of the Google camera app. You have three main buttons - video, camera and review images. On the top panel you have the HDR, timer, flash toggle modes with the right corner having the soft key to switch between front and rear cameras.
There is definitely an issue with locking focus on the objects even in daylight, every once in a while. This problem used to become very obvious when trying to shoot a photo/video through the Snapchat app - the phone struggled to lock focus. Daylight image quality was average, as we noticed that the sharpness in the image output wasn’t that great. When it came to fine objects while shooting landscapes there was loss in detail on 100 percent viewing. HDR mode is quite inconsistent and we noticed unnecessary darkened halos around objects. The front-facing camera did not give really pleasing sharp selfies either, despite the face being is focus.
Low light image quality is quite mediocre though as images are quite noisy. When you are selling a phone priced over Rs 20,000, camera is one aspect that needs to be paid significant attention to. We found that to be lacking in the current state on the t.phone.
The battery life on the Smartron t.phone was definitely not up to the mark. We barely got through a full work day even with just regular tasks such as surfing the web, mailing, messaging, calling and so on. If it’s a heavy day, the battery runs out within five to six hours. There wasn’t a day when we did not have to charge the device at least once during the work day. And this is true even if you keep the brightness levels around 30 percent. Even PC Mark for Android gives only around 5 hours battery life. Smartron really does need to improve its battery management prowess through future updates, else the phone is of no appeal to power users.
Verdict and Price in India
Smartron is definitely on to something interesting with its tronX platform and is offering not just a well built handset. Just the prospect of unlimited storage, makes it an interesting proposition. It definitely differs from other Indian smartphone players in this aspect. Sure, the Smartron experience centre is still in its nascent stage, but it has potential to grow into something major.
But as it stands, at Rs 22,999, the phone will be competing with established Chinese phone makers such as Xiaomi, OnePlus, Meizu, Lenovo and so on. While the build quality of the t.phone is good and performance is up to the mark, there are critical areas such as battery life and camera performance where it falters. Both these areas could be fixed with the relevant software updates, and we hope Smartron takes this up on priority.
If you already gave a Smartron t.book, then going for the Smartron t.phone makes sense as the integration via the tronX platform is a definite value add. For the rest, I would suggest waiting it out till the battery and camera issues are fixed. Either that, or there is a price drop.
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