India is a huge market place for budget smartphones, local manufacturers here sell millions of smartphones every year at affordable prices with good hardware and build quality. Most of these manufacturers even use the stock Android user interface that we all love so much on Nexus devices. However, even after being close to stock Android UI, these devices often miss out on the latest Android updates. But that looks to be changing now for good, all thanks to Google’s initiative of Android One program to build affordable Android smartphones with a solid guarantee of updates to latest Android versions for upto 2 years.
The Micromax Canvas A1 is one of the three devices that Google launched the Android One program with. All the three devices share same specifications, not a thing is different than design and build quality of these devices. So take this review also as a review of Android One devices in general.
We’ll begin the Micromax Canvas A1 review with the best things we like about it.
Micromax Canvas A1 is part of Google’s Android One program, meaning the device will get the latest Android updates directly from Google and probably right after the Nexus devices get it. And that also means you’ll have the latest version of Android on a budget phone well before 2-3 months than the high-end flagship devices from Samsung, Sony, LG, etc. does. Don’t be surprised if Canvas A1 gets the Android L update even before the likes of Galaxy S5 or Xperia Z3!
Out of the box, Canvas A1 runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat in pure Android flavor like Nexus devices does. Also, Google has promised to push Android L update to Android One devices once it’s available. Andorid L will be a major upgrade with a complete user interface overhaul and a bunch of new features and APIs for developers to build great apps.
However, surprisingly, there’s a little bloatware too on Canvas A1 and not just it, other Android One phones from Spice and Karbonn also have pre-installed apps. These apps must have supported the manufacturers in keeping device costs low, so we’re okay with them, plus you always have the option to disable pre-installed apps in the app manager. The pre-installed apps included on Canvas A1 are Amazon, Hike and AskMe.
As an add-on, Canvas A1 also has an FM Radio app which is nice, and surprising too since FM isn’t natively supported by Android and none of the Nexus devices ever supported FM either.
The stock Android experience with guaranteed updates for upto 2 years directly from Google is, perhaps, the best part of the deal if you’re looking to purchase the Canvas A1.
PERFORMANCE[quote]Canvas A1 runs as smooth as Nexus devices does[/quote]
The Micromax Canvas A1 runs on a quad-core MediaTek processor with 1GB RAM, a specification set that has long been popular among the mid-range Android devices. With Android One program now, this specification set has come down to even lower price range, but thankfully, without any compromise on performance. With the integration of stock Android from Google, the Canvas A1 runs as smooth as Nexus devices does.
The Canvas A1 handles everyday tasks like opening apps, taking pictures, multitasking, browsing web just as quick as any pricier Android phone does. Also, switching back and forth between games as heavy as Asphalt 8 is a breeze. In our test, the phone even kept Asphalt 8 paused in background and resumed right where it was left from even after 4 hours into other tasks.
On the performance front, we’re super impressed with the Canvas A1. Google, Micromax and MediaTek did a very good job at making this affordable performing smartphone.
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We didn’t expect for the Canvas A1 to feel anything glamorous in our hands, and it didn’t surprised us either. The phone feels chunky in hands but thanks to the curves all around the body line, it feels comfortable too. The volume controls and power button are placed on the right side of the phone and it’s similar in other Android One devices from Spice and Karbonn as well. USB port is at the bottom right of the device and headphone jack on top left. The back of Canvas A1 is minimal except for that ugly housing around the camera and flash. The speaker is beautifully laid out on the back in circular form with “android one” branding on top of it.[quote]We have a good feeling that Canvas A1 will endure more impact than your pricier, slim and glamorous smartphones does.[/quote]
The earpiece on front too is placed beautifully in circular form like the Nexus 5. The front camera is placed to the left of earpiece and on the right you’ve a notification LED, which came out as a surprise to us because it wasn’t mentioned anywhere before and is quite a useful thing to have. The size of notification LED is tiny though and it doesn’t fades in and out like Nexus devices does, we aren’t complaining about it but, you know, how much graceful those notification LEDs on Nexus phones look.
Canvas A1 looks and feels sturdier, you may not cry your voice out when you accidentally drop it. We haven’t done a drop test on the device and neither do we plan to, but we have a good felling that this thing will endure more impact than your pricier, slim and glamorous smartphones does.
Canvas A1 sports a 1700 mAh battery that has just as much stamina as you do. It’ll go for a day on moderate usage and require a charge by the time you go to sleep. But, for the more active smartphone users among us, the phone may not last much. The good thing is that we didn’t see any unnecessary battery drain due to some bug in software or overheating. In our three days of usage, the phone didn’t overheat at all.
The 1700 mAh battery is underwhelming for sure, but you’ve the option to swap the battery on Canvas A1 as the battery is removable like the phones in good ol’ days.
[quote]We liked the pictures taken with Lens Blur feature, and more the idea of taking DSLR like pictures from a budget phone.[/quote]
On the back, Micromax Canvas A1 has a 5 MP camera with auto-focus and stuff and on the front, a 2MP selfie shooter. In a well lit environment, the back camera of the phone takes nice photos, however, pictures taken under low light turn out noisy and lack sharpness. But surprisingly, the front camera on Canvas A1 takes less noisier pictures in low light than the main camera, all thanks to its ability to capture much deeper blacks.
Canvas A1 uses the stock camera app of Android, which has a Lens blur feature that smartly blurs the background like a DSLR camera does. We took that feature for a spin on the Canvas A1 and the results were amazingly beautiful. Do check the camera samples below for photos taken with Lens Blur.
The main camera on the phone shoots 1080p Full HD videos while the front camera is capable of shooting 720p HD videos. The video quality on the phone is fine, much like its picture quality.
The Canvas A1 falls under the budget line up where its performance matter more than its shooting capabilities. But yet, we found the camera to be enough satisfying for casual photography. We also liked the pictures taken with Lens Blur feature, and more the idea of taking DSLR like pictures from a budget phone.
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The display on Canvas A1 is probably the only place where the device shows its true budget colors. Canvas A1 features a 4.5 inch FWVGA IPS display panel with resolution of 854 x 480 (218 ppi). It’s old-school, isn’t crisp and performs bad under direct sunlight. Also, there’s no extra layer of protection on the display, so it’s very much prone to scratches if you’re not using a screen guard.
Resolution plays a huge role in how we interact with the OS, everything looks bigger and less sharper on a low resolution device and the Canvas A1 suffers from this. We hope Google ups the standard display to 720p HD in the next generation of Android One devices.
That said, the display on Canvas A1 isn’t an eyesore either. As you begin to use the phone for a couple of days, you might stop noticing its low resolution. The color reproduction and brightness levels on the phone are decent enough for everyday usage and your gaming needs.
Android One devices come with only 4GB of storage onboard and you’re not allowed to edit/modify this storage capacity. The system keeps this 4GB storage for its own needs and for the apps & games that you download. As for your media needs, an external SD Card is a must. Micromax provides an 8GB micro SD card for free with the Canvas A1 with support for upto 32GB of micro SD card.
Thanks to Amazon and Airtel, the Micromax Canvas A1 comes with a handful of offers. For Airtel prepaid customers, the company is offering free 100MB of data for software updates on the phone and 200MB free data for downloading apps from the Play Store, for each month upto 6 months. Other than that, you also get a free 8GB micro SD card and Amazon coupons worth Rs. 2000 with your purchase.
The speaker on Canvas A1 is nice and can play music decently loud.
Bundled earphone with the device are cheap. Doesn’t fit smoothly in the ear and sound is below average.
The in call voice on the phone is good. And the phone doesn’t overheat when you’re on a long call, which is an issue with Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and many other devices with non-removable battery.
The Canvas A1 fully supports mirroring device’s screen with sound to your TV via a Miracast or Chromecast dongle.
Google brought native support for printing with Android 4.4 KitKat and the Micromax Canvas A1 supports it. With compatible printers from all major brands, you’ll be able to print documents and photos directly from your phone to printer via USB cable or Cloud print.
Stock Android doesn’t support FM Radio, neither do Nexus devices. But Android One devices has support for FM Radio out of the box and it isn’t an OEM add-on. Google itself integrated support for FM Radio in Android One devices.
Canvas A1 supports dual GSM SIMs that can run simultaneously on the device.
Being a budget phone the Canvas A1 misses out on the NFC feature which we take for granted for any Android device nowadays. Also, a pedometer would have been a nice add-in too for the health conscious among us.
Oh and in case you need to know, high-end fancy features like heart-rate monitor and fingerprint sensor are neither included nor wanted or were expected on the Canvas A1.
Google’s aim behind the whole Android thing is bringing feature-rich internet enabled smartphones to the masses. And Android One is an step towards strengthening the roots of this belief. Manufacturers have already been selling budget Android devices for quite some time in India, but now with Google’s direct involvement, these budget devices are set to be more performing than ever. For a budget phone, its performance matters the most and that is now well taken care of with the Android One program.
Our most lovable thing about the Canvas A1 and Android One devices in general is Google’s guaranteed software updates for upto 2 years, and the stock Android experience. The display on the device is underwhelming for sure, but for the price it comes for, we can accept and make do with it. Moreover, you’ll stop noticing its low resolution anyway after a couple of days of usage.
The Micromaz Canvas A1 and other Android One devices are an absolute get if you’re looking for a budget phone. The device performs exceptionally well and with Google’s guarantee of updates, there’s no reason to look elsewhere in the market for a budget Android device.
- Google’s guarantee of software update to latest Android versions for upto 2 years is best part of the deal
- Device performs exceptionally well for its price
- Gaming performance is cool
- Battery goes for a day on moderate usage
- Phone doesn’t overheats at all
- Display is bad, but is do-able
- Camera is decent, both back and front
- Sound is decently loud and crisp
- Build is solid, phone feels comfortable in hand
- Go get it if you’re looking for a budget smartphone