The camera phone has been steadily evolving and we’re up to 12 megapixels right now with features like face, smile and even blink detection technology putting them almost on the same league as some compact digicams that cost just as much. So far there have been just two 12MP camera phones that have been officially available on the market and Spice’s S-1200 is the third. They’ve managed to beat the competition’s pricing quite drastically but will it live up to their standards? Take a closer look.

Form Factor
The S-1200 is a very generic looking handset in a sort of old fashion bulky way.  From the front it’s hard to tell that this mobile packs a 12 megapixel camera with 3X optical zoom and a xenon flash. There’s no other camera on the Indian market (officially) that has a camera quite like this, not the Sony Ericsson Satio and not the Samsung Pixon12. Micromax had developed a rather large and extremely bulky 8MP camera phone with 3X optical zoom about a year ago, but the S-1200 has managed to keep things sleeker and simpler in comparison and has gone with a traditional mobile look rather than a touchscreen. The handset isn’t heavy enough to complain about (130 g) but like I said, it’s thick enough (16mm in depth) to leave a bulge in your pocket. On the other hand, it's not like the competition is thinner.

A tad bulky

A tad bulky

The 2.4-inch TFT LCD sports a 240 x 320 pixel resolution and is sharp enough to read clearly even in bright sunlit conditions. While the navigation system and the buttons around it are okay, the keypad is a little too congested and typing is not easy at all. The bottom of the nav-pad is too close to the ‘2’ key which makes hitting that button a real problem. It’ll take some getting used to. The middle section of keys double up for camera shortcuts as do the top and bottom buttons on the nav-pad (zoom in and out). On one side are the volume keys that can also be used for zooming, followed by the camera activation key that also works as the selector to switch between stills and video, and then the Shutter release. A universal mini USB port is at the bottom and a microSD card slot (supports 32GB cards) is located on the other side. Not incorporating a standardized 3.5 mm hands-free, with so much space available, was a bad idea.

Features and Performance
Interface

The Java UI is relatively the same as the ones that handle Dual SIM handsets. It is however very smooth and fluid with no lag. One of the most annoying things about this UI is typing because the Multi-tap Alphabet settings are not designed well at all. This is a universal concern for handsets without QWERTY keypads. The icons are colourful and navigation is fairly simple with options quite clearly marked out. Even the camera responds quite quickly for activation, processing images etc.

Simple Java based UI

Simple Java based UI

Media
The S-1200 didn’t fare too well when it came to multimedia. The music player, even with a set of presets, an 8 band customizable graphic EQ and Bass enhancement was too low and the overall quality was not well balanced. Higher tones were a little too sharp and even with the enhancements the bass was not resounding well enough via the bundled hands-free. Even the speakerphone was too low to have a decent conversation let alone listen to any music. Video refused to play irrespective of the resolution, the audio from the files seemed to be just fine. The FM radio was not too bad with fairly clear reception in most places but virtually none while commuting even if I sat near the window. The static was way more prevalent than some of the lower budget handsets I’ve tested. The radio comes with a built-in recorder that can also be set to a specific time.

Not too great in the media dept.

Not too great in the media dept.

For photos, Spice has included a Photo Editor software. A voice recording option is also available but for clear recordings, you’ll have to keep the handset at least a foot away from you. A couple of games that are thrown in and are quite entertaining.

Connectivity
The S-1200 supports EDGE (Class 12) which means you can also download your emails if you have a POP or IMAP account. The modes of connectivity include Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR which also includes A2DP, USB 2.0 and TV out via the USB port for which, cables have been bundled with the packaging. If the native browser is not working for you, Opera Mini is also a preloaded option via Spice’s add-ons. Among the many add-ons are Nimbuzz for social networking, Netcore Solution’s Email2SMS, access to Spice Gang which is a social networking feature for Spice mobile users, a Reuters app for the latest news, ngPay (an Mgugujee link for students), link to Cricket Updates, Ibibo and a job search link as well.

Decent connectivity options

Decent connectivity options

What’s missing is a stand-alone Facebook app that would allow you to easily upload images to the site. Considering the camera is the handset’s main asset this would have helped it sell better.
Misc. Features
All the standard mobile apps like Calculator, Calendar for schedules and appointments, Task Manager and Alarm Clock are present and accounted for. A few of the extras include a stopwatch, world clock and currency converter. A mobile tracker application is also preloaded in case of theft.

Camera

The 12 megapixel camera on this phone is the only camera that’s been officially launched in a mobile handset that comes with features like 3x optical zoom (+ digital zoom). It features quite a bit of functions like face and smile detection that seemed more acute than the higher end devices, ISO settings that go way up to 3200 and Macro mode that allows for really extreme close ups, a slew of scenes to choose from and much more. The camera truly is the most redeeming fact about the S-1200. I loved the image quality that the handset delivered. The optical zoom was smooth functioning, the entire working of the camera was hassle free; from accessing the features to speedy image processing.

Take a look at some samples. 

Macro image

Macro image

Night shot

Night shot

Normal without Zoom

Normal without Zoom

Normal at full optical zoom

Normal at full optical zoom

Smile Shot

Smile Shot

Battery
The company claims that the 1020mAh battery included with the S-1200 can deliver up to 3 hours of talk time and they were absolutely spot on. With minimal usage for calls, messages, a little net activity, media and photos thrown in, you’ll at least two days of usage without needing to charge the handset.

The Bottom Line
With a price tag of Rs. 14,500 (MOP), the Spice S-1200 beats the pants off its high end competitors like Sony Ericsson and Samsung. Of course it doesn’t offer services and functions nearly as well designed as them. However, the fact that a 12MP camera phone with this good picture quality is available from a nationally recognized brand at a price this low is something to seriously consider. As a basic mobile phone it’s got no major issues, the camera is its best asset but its multimedia capabilities could really use a shot in the arm. If it weren’t for them and the lack of slightly better social networking options, this could have been a really great phone.

One of a kind?

One of a kind?

However as is, it’s still slightly above average and those looking for a really good camera phone, forget about the 5 megapixel and 8 megapixel big names out there, the Spice S-1200’s camera is more than capable of giving them a serious run for their money.

Publish date: May 4, 2010 11:11 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 6:16 pm

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