Android phones are getting cheaper by the day with a Micromax here and a Karbonn there ensuring that users don’t really have to pay big bucks to enjoy the Android experience. Earlier, we reviewed the Micromax A70 smartphone and that phone did impress us. Now, Karbonn has come up with their new entry level A1 Android smartphone and it’s even cheaper than the A70. But, is it worth your money? Let’s have a look.

  The Karbonn A1 - quite cheap!

The Karbonn A1 – quite cheap!

Design and Build Quality

The Karbonn A1 comes in an all-black candy bar form factor. The edges are rounded off and they fit nicely into your palm. The phone does appear quite small and light at 105 grams. As part of the design, there is a matrix of white dots that runs across the back. The phone feels like it’s made out of plastic, but the build is quite sturdy and strong. The 3.5mm jack is located at the top, with the volume rocker on the left and the speaker and 3.2 MP shooter at the back of the device. The A1 has a directional keypad, as well as call and end buttons below the 2.8-inch (240 x 320 pixels) capacitive touch screen. 

Directional keypad could have made way for a bigger screen

Directional keypad could have made way for a bigger screen

Considering the Android OS has more of a touch-based interface, navigating using the keypad is much slower than just tapping on the screen. Also, there are three capacitive buttons for home, option and back. So, we have a separate back and an end button, which does make your thumb naturally press the end button to go back to the main screen. But, that bit locks the screen straightaway and it will take a little time to get used to. The microSD card is housed under the back panel and hence hot swapping is available. The phone has motion sensor, but there’s no ambient light sensor or proximity sensor. The build of the A1 is pretty good, but we’re not big fans of the directional keypad.

A side view

A side view



The Karbonn A1 runs on Android 2.2.2 and currently there’s no news on whether a Gingerbread update is available for the phone, yet. It has Android’s stock interface and navigation is a little sluggish on the 600 MHz processor. The phone starts hanging a little if around 4-5 applications are running in the background. But give it a second or two and things get back on track again. As far as typing is concerned, the screen is a little small to type smoothly using the QWERTY keyboard, but Karbonn have got a Swype-styled method of input that does help whilst typing with one hand.

The home screen - stock Android

The home screen – stock Android

An annoying thing we noticed is that the microSD removal message just sticks to the notification bar once you mount the card. There’s absolutely no way to get rid of the message. Also, every now and then the card will automatically unmount itself or will not be recognized. It seemed more like a software issue, as the Micromax Andro A60 had a similar problem. As far as benchmarks are concerned, AnTuTu gave a score of 872, while the phone scored 7.47 points in Linpack’s single thread benchmark test, which is a little lower than the Micromax A70.


The stock player easily plays back standard definition videos in MP4, as well as MP3 formats. The phone supports the H.263, H.264 and AVI video formats as well. Those wanting access to more formats will have to download a few apps off the market. However, don’t expect the phone to render 720p videos. Viewing videos on the screen isn’t the best experience and brightness levels are pretty okay as well. As far as music playback is concerned, the bundled headphones are, as expected, average and there aren’t really any audio enhancement options, but music is audible and clear and hence, we’re not complaining. The phone lacks FM Radio, so that’s a downer.

The music player interface

The music player interface

The most annoying problem whilst playing back media (and applications) from the memory card was that the phone would just abruptly stop detecting the memory card. We faced this problem a number of times and so we had to unmount and mount the microSD card back again.


As far as connectivity is concerned, there’s 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (version wasn’t mentioned, but we reckon its 2.1). Yes, 3G on a device so cheap is definitely brilliant. Built-in storage is 150 MB, but it has external memory expandable upto 32GB with the microSD card. Karbonn haven’t left out the basic connectivity options a smartphone requires, which is quite impressive. Wi-Fi had a small glitch and the phone would sometimes throw up an error, however, we believe this is more of a software issue that can be corrected if the phone gets an update. 

The back of the phone

The back of the phone

Misc. Features

The phone comes pre-installed with a car racing game called Raging Thunder II that makes use of the motion sensor in the phone. There’s an advanced task manager that helps shut down running applications and it comes quite handy as it can be placed on the home screen and a simple tap can shut the currently active applications. Besides this, everything is stock Android with standard Google apps like Gmail, Gtalk, Maps, Latitude, YouTube and Email.

Really poor camera

Really poor camera


The phone has a 3.2 megapixel camera, but there’s not much you can really do with it. The sensor in the camera is quite weak and image, as well as video recorded are very poor. There’s no autofocus, too. For both modes, exposure is not accurate and in some cases images turn out extremely dark, but in others (rare) they turn out quite bright.  The phone doesn’t have an LED flash and low light snaps are a complete no-no.  

Customizations include white balance adjustment, saturation and colour effects, which are pretty standard. The Micromax A70 had a front camera and if this model had a front camera, as well at the same price, we’d have not complained so much about the camera quality. But that’s not present and to sum it up, with the current sensor, the A1 cannot be used as your primary video or image shooting device.

No autofocus and poor image quality

No autofocus and poor image quality

Battery Life

The phone comes with an 1100mAh lithium-ion battery and we did expect the battery life to be average, not extraordinary. But the A1 disappointed us with quite poor battery life. Under normal usage, which included a little surfing over Wi-Fi and 3G, a few calls and messages, playing a few games, watching a few videos; basically the stuff you’d generally do throughout the day, the phone didn’t even last half of the day. Also, whether you’re using EDGE/3G or Wi-Fi, or both together, it takes a massive toll on your battery, so we’d suggest you ensure that these options are disabled when you’re not using them. We ran it through our loop test, too and it survived two hours of video, audio, streaming through Wi-Fi and one and a half hour of talk time. The second loop lasted ten minutes before the phone shut down. Overall, it’s a little below-average battery performance from the A1.


Cheap – only in terms of pricing


The Karbonn A1 is priced at Rs. 5,999. Now, most people must be thinking that’s a pretty sweet price for an Android phone. But, the phone does have its flaws with a poor camera, a slightly laggy interface and poor battery life. If you have a few more bucks to shell out the Micromax A70 has a better battery life and a bigger screen with a 5MP camera. If you have an extremely tight budget, you can choose between the Nokia C2-03 (priced at Rs. 4,500) which has a much better battery life or the similar spec'd Micromax Andro A60, that has all of this with a better camera. 

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