Spice has been keeping up very well with all the latest mobile trends while managing to keep their prices real low. They have the M-7070, a low priced 5MP camera phone and their piece d’resistance was their 12MP camera phone, the S-1200 that was almost half the price of its competitors. Their latest is this, the S-7000, their first full touchscreen handset released as a tie up with Disney’s Price of Persia movie that debuted recently. Here’s a closer look.

Form Factor
There’s not much you can do with a full touchscreen device in terms of looks, and although the S-7000 does come off looking quite like a generic touchscreen phone, it’s not an eye-sore in the least. The White and chrome look is quite trendy. The 3.2-inch resistive touchscreen sports a 240 x 400 pixel resolution and 262k colors making it easy to view in all lighting conditions. The tethered stylus is something akin to what Nokia had offered with the 5800. It’s not a ‘pen’ styled device but looks a bit like something out of the Prince of Persia movie. A universal, all-in-one mini USB port is placed on the side, above the volume/zoom keys and the handsfree cable is equipped with a 3.5mm earphone adapter where the mic is located. The S-7000 also has a hot swap microSD card slot (2GB card included) just under the rear panel.

Features and Performance

The device has multiple desktops with five widgets assigned to each. The widgets/shortcuts can be dragged and placed anywhere on the screens. The menus are also divided into three pages like Samsung’s TouchWiz UI styling. While the overall functionality is quite finger-friendly in terms of response, the UI itself is just a little bit sluggish. However it’s quite well laid out so it’s easy to navigate. In some menus, keeping the screen pressed will bring up a few menu options.

The Virtual keypad could have been better designed and response time for typing was not prompt. There was a clear lag between each multiple-tap sequence. In case you’re wondering, there’s no QWERTY option.

The music player’s volume will have to be full if you’re ever going to comfortably hear music while commuting or if your anywhere outdoors in our wonderfully loud city. Even with the Bass enhancement setting or the EQ options (presets, Reverb effect 3D Surround), there’s no real ‘thump’ in overall performance. The audio also tends to jarr quite a bit if the enhancements are active. The bundled set of earphones (canal-type) are comfortable but couldn’t handle the tones. The player’s overall performance ends up being a disappointment. The FM radio worked out just fine and provided clear reception in most areas and decent reception during my commute. It doesn’t have a record option.

The S-7000 is preloaded with codecs (DivX, XviD) to support most of the popular video formats that includes, .FLV, .AVI, MPEG4, 3GP, MOV, WMV and RMVB. This means no video conversion is necessary for most videos, just drag and drop them onto the memory card for playback. High-res videos in the 720p range will have issues though – you may get audio but no video. The RMVB video player offers a stretch to fit option for videos as well as an option to adjust the brightness. A separate MPEG4 video player is also provided, I’m not sure why. The devices video capabilities are an asset but unfortunately its lack of corresponding audio support is a big problem.

EDGE/GPRS are the internet connectivity options that the S-7000 is capable of. The browser is just like any of the other Java Based devices but is a little simpler to use thanks to the large display. I recommend using the Opera Mini option that’s preloaded to speed up your browsing experience. POP and IMAP emails can also be configured but you’ll need to get some of the settings online as the wizard didn’t seem to do the job too well. You could also download the Google Mail application off of m.google.com. It worked quite well, however, Google Maps didn’t.

For the avid social networker, the S-7000 has a full Yahoo! Suite of links, Nimbuzz, a Facebook Link, Snaptu, Ibibo link and a VuClip link for watching online videos. Spice also makes it a point to include their Spice-Fun section in most of their higher-end devices. Here you’ll find useful links to sites like Ngpay, FreeSMS, MGurujee etc. Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP as well as USB 2.0 are other modes of connectivity. When hooked up to your PC via USB, the camera can be used as a webcam.

Misc. Features
Spice has also included quite a few very handy features into the S-7000 like an Mobile Tracker application, Contacts Back up and restore to the memory card, Ebook reader, Memo pad and calendar for appointments, anniversaries etc. Calculator, Alarm Clock and much more. Under the Security option, Spice has included Privacy settings that allow users to password protect certain aspects of the device like the phone book, messages etc. A melody composer and stopwatch are also on-board.

One particular feature that stood out was the Answering machine that allows you to create and save a message for when you’re in a meeting or don’t want to be disturbed. The message plays back after an assigned time and allows callers to leave a message for you. Other calling features include a Blacklist, call recorder and that sneaky background sound emitter.

A 3.2 megapixel, fixed focus camera is part of the S-7000’s feature set. Its features consist of just the very basics – White balance, color effects, night mode, a few frames and exposure adjustment. Image quality is not too great. Bright areas tend to get burnt out and pictures take on a water-color like effect with colors looking very pastel.

A photo editor is also available to make a few adjustments to pictures or add a few effects.

The S-7000’s battery was better than average. With a little video, music, calls, messages and internet time, it ran for a little over a day and a half on a full charge. The 880mAh battery was able to dish out about 3 hours and 30 minutes of talk-time on an average. That’s not bad at all.

The Bottom Line
At a price of Rs. 7,499, the Spice S-7000 touchscreen handset comes off as a value for money device especially when you consider the multiple video format support. Unfortunately, audio quality was very disappointing. The UI’s sluggish response when it comes to typing and a few other options also adds to its undoing. A better option for a touchscreen phone in this price range would be the LG Cookie Pep.

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