Micromax’s previous attempt at a cheap Android phone didn’t go down very well with the public. It was certainly affordable, but it was far from easy to use as the screen wasn’t responsive and it made you wonder if saving a few bucks was really worth the shoddy Android experience. The company is back with a new offering, hoping to recapture the sub-10K price bracket with the A70, a more grown up version of the A60. Let’s see if they’ve managed to pull it off.

Design and Build
Micromax have done away with the quirky, toy-like design and have stuck to a standard candy-bar form factor. The phone is quite light at just 85g with the battery and due to its rounded edges, fits snugly in your hand. Even though it’s built mostly of plastic, it feels solid and well-built. The dual-tone colours make it quite pleasing to your eyes too. Overall, the matte finish won’t easily attract fingerprints, although the same cannot be said for the screen. Apart from the standard set of shortcut buttons, we also have a physical ‘Home’ button, which wasn’t really needed. The arrangement of the shortcut buttons feels a bit odd as we are used to the back button being towards the end, whereas here it’s the first one.

Good looks and build shows Micromax has evolved over the years

Good looks and build shows Micromax has evolved over the years

The 3.2-inch capacitive screen sports a 320×480 resolution and comes with a proximity sensor, but sadly no ambient light sensor. Around the back, we have the 5MP auto-focus shooter and the speaker grill. The power/sleep, microUSB and headphone jack is placed at the top, while the volume rocker and camera shutter button takes up room on the side. The memory card and SIM slot is placed below the battery, so it’s not hot-swappable.

Neatly designed connectors

Neatly designed connectors

We really liked the design and build of the A70. It has evolved quite a bit from its predecessor and won’t be out of place amongst the other new droids in the market. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot better than Dell’s XCD35.

Features
Interface
The A70 runs on Android Froyo 2.2.1, with no news on whether it will be getting Gingerbread in the near future. The phone is powered by a 600MHz processor, which puts us off at first, but after actually using the phone, we were in for a pleasant surprise. The A70 is actually very easy to use and although the interface is not very fluid, it’s not sluggish, either. Navigating through the menus is relatively quick with slight slowdowns seen here and there. AnTuTu gave me a score of 1436, while Linpack gave a score of 6.95 points.

Stock Froyo greets you upon boot up

Stock Froyo greets you upon boot up

Micromax hasn’t really done a lot of customizations, which is fine and not something we expected. The notification bar only shows you alerts, there aren’t any toggle switches added there. What they have done is bundle a whole bunch of useful apps, so you have something to play around with straight out-of-the-box. 

Media
The stock video and audio player supports the basic MP4 and MP3 video and audio codecs. If you want a better multimedia experience, there are plenty of apps to fulfill your desires. There aren't any audio enhancement options, so the audio quality is strictly average even through EP630s. On a brighter note, the loud speaker is exactly that, loud. The quality is pretty good, as well. FM radio is also present.

World-wide radio stations at your fingertips

Worldwide radio stations at your fingertips

Micromax has also bundled along some nice multimedia apps like miRoamer, which is a streaming radio app with Shoutcast FM integration. It’s very straightforward and easy to use giving you access to hundreds of radio stations from all over the world. munduTV lets you access a mix of Indian TV channels like 9X Tashan, Zoom, Headlines Today, BBC World News, Travel XP etc.

Watch TV on-the-go with munduTV

Watch TV on-the-go with munduTV

The video quality is not the best, as it’s heavily compressed, but it’s viewable. Finally, we have an Indian radio app called Saavn. The interface is actually very well-designed, which shows you ‘Top 15’ tunes along with album art and everything.

Connectivity
The A70 does not support HSUPA, but it does support HSDPA (7.2Mbps), which is good enough for a phone under 10K. Other than that, it’s a quad-band GSM phone with Wi-Fi b/g (no ‘n’) and Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP. The built-in storage is only 160 MB, which is expandable to 32GB via microSD card.

Their attempt at a app store didn't go too well

Their attempt at an app store didn't go too well

As with any Android phone, we get the standard Google apps like Gmail, Gtalk, Maps, Latitude, YouTube and Email. Micromax has also added NewsHunt, which lets you choose from a bunch of Indian news agencies across various languages like Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, etc.

Misc. Features
There aren’t any games pre-bundled, but there are some security and productivity apps. Mobile Guard is more of a system utility app, which helps you clean up unwanted apps and free up system resources. It includes a task manager, network manager, power manager, software manager and file manager.

Clean up and optimize your phone

Clean up and optimize your phone

There’s a trial version of OfficeSuite. NetQin anti-virus helps keep your phone free of viruses and also lets you to backup your contacts and locate your lost phone. Finally, we have Mi-apps which is their own app store. It’s not great really, we’d recommend sticking with the Marketplace.

Camera
Don’t just go by the 5MP sticker on the box, the reality is that the sensor used in the camera is quite weak. The camera struggles to capture colours accurately and you end up with a very subdued image with low details. Auto-focus helps only bit, but not by much.

Standard fare of options

Standard fare of options

The standard fare of customizations are present like Exposure, White Balance, etc. The front-facing camera can be used for portrait stills of video calling through an app.

The camera sensor is unable to capture colours accurately

The camera sensor is unable to capture colours accurately

Video recording is limited to only VGA resolution, so suffice to say, it’s not the best. The recorded video is saved as 3GP format and the quality is quite bad. We can say for certain that the camera on the A70 is definitely not one of its strong points.

Battery Life
Pairing a 1450mAh battery with a small screen and slow CPU can only benefit the battery life, which clearly shows in our tests. In our video drain test, we managed almost 8hrs of battery life, which is really good. In our tech2 Loop tests that consisted of two hours of audio, two hours of video, two hours of audio streaming through Wi-Fi and 1.5 hours of talk time, the handset successfully completed one loop easily along with an extra 20min of music.

Verdict
With a market operating price of Rs.7, 999, the A70 makes for a really good buy. It offers much better value compared to the Dell XCD35 and the Spice Mi-310, as it’s one of the few Android handsets to have a front-facing camera and the only one to feature a 1450mAh battery in this price bracket. The A70 is a big improvement over the A60 and it shows that Micromax has come a long way from the days of budget Java phones. The droid has many things going for it like a responsive touchscreen, good build quality and design, dedicated camera shutter key, front-facing camera, very good battery life, easily plays SD files and a bunch of useful apps that come pre-loaded. There are little things we wish were present like an ambient light sensor or Wi-Fi ‘n’. If you’re not too picky about the camera quality being crap then the A70 is by far the best value for money Android handset in this price bracket. 

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