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A few weeks ago, we took a very brief glance at Sri Lanka’s cheapest Android smartphone – the Dialog i35. We were impressed by the specifications it packed under the plastic hood – 1 Ghz processor, a 3.5 inch screen – pretty impressive for just Rs. 10,000.
Now it’s time for a more thorough, top-to-bottom review of the Dialog i35. Dialog was kind enough to provide us with an unboxed, sealed unit for testing. So what exactly does Dialog give you for 10,000 rupees? Is it a paper tiger or a proper, usable smartphone? Read on to find out.
For starters, the package.
Packaging is important. In an era where the most expensive smartphones come in the flimsiest of boxes, we’re glad to see Dialog hasn’t skimped out on this one. The solid
box houses the phone – in a thick protective foam pad – and the accessories beneath it. You have a battery (small considering the size of the phone), a pair of headphones, data cable, instruction manual and warranty card – the usuals.
The phone itself is chunky: almost a centimeter thick. It’s light, has a very angular feel, a glossy front and a grille-like matt plastic back with the Dialog logo printed in a small rectangle – it feels cheap but is completely immune to fingerprints.
The top panel is curious: it’s got two 3.5 millimeter jacks – that’s something we haven’t seen before. The screen is a 3.5 inch affair with a front camera to match. There are three touch buttons on the bottom – the Android “Options / menu / settings/ whatever else” button that we all know and love, a desktop button and a back button. To be honest, it looks like a miniature Nexus.
Here’s the i35 at a glance (as stated on the package):
- 3.5 inch capacitive TFT display
- Android OS 2.3.5 (Gingerbread)
- 1 Ghz processor
- 4 GB internal memory, 512 MB ram
- 3G/WiFi/Bluetooth/7.1 Mbps HSDPA
- Dual sim with one sim unlocked
First impressions: the screen, touch and interface
Turn on the phone and you’re greeted with a white screen with a Dialog logo and a fairly loud intro, leading to the Gingerbread lock screen. The user interface is stock Gingerbread.
This being a budget phone, the tradeoffs are immediately visible. The display is unimpressive. It’s a fairly 3.5-inch capacitive screen running at a 320×480 resolution: at the normal reading distance (the distance you need to read an SMS clearly), we could see pixilation throughout the display – not enough to be annoying, just enough to let you know that it’s a budget screen.
Visibility is not ideal. Whites are slightly washed out to gray. Daylight legibility is poor. This could be because of the TFT display – that panel technology is pretty dated. You’ll have to take off the included screen protector to use the phone properly – that thing severely hampers the touch experience and the display sharpness.
Haptic feedback is downright shoddy. Press one of the bottom menu or back buttons and there’s almost an audible “clunk” sound somewhere near the bottom of your phone. It’s alarming the first few times. Eventually you become used to it.
On the plus side, the touch input is good. The included screen protector gives too much resistance to use smoothly: once we peeled it off, we found the touch input to be very satisfactory – it’s a proper capacitive control screen. There’s no input lag whatsoever: a very important point when dealing with budget touch-screen phones – the smoothness of the input is, for example, leagues ahead of all smartphones within the 20-23 thousand rupee range. The desktop, associated animations and menus are very, very smooth, even with a fairly intensive Live Wallpaper enabled. That’s the overpowered CPU at work. This being Android, you can always download a new launcher if you need more bling.
The rest: calls, messaging and email
The interface is one hundred percent stock Gingerbread when it comes to these necessities. A quick setup will sync your email accounts and your phone. The i35 is a dual-sim phone: all communication interfaces are subtly tweaked to account for both sims. Installing a launcher on top won’t mar this functionality.
Call quality is as expected – usable, without distortion: though be warned that the mic occasionally picks up background noise. The front earpiece is loud enough to be clear without blowing your ear off with sheer volume. Overall, we’re very satisfied with this aspect.
This is a fairly touchy point. The camera, for all points and purposes, is a terribly weak 2 megapixel affair. That said, if you want a phone that does good photos, you should not be browsing the 10, 000 rupee range. Indoor quality is not great, with colors completely washed out. The Automatic white balance is simply flat-out disappointing. Photos taken outside are decent: the “Daylight” white balancing mode warmifies the image somewhat, making up for the inherent color inaccuracy and capturing pleasing images – especially in evening / sunset conditions. Again, there’s no lag.
Likewise, the included headphones are serviceable but of low quality: we suggest buying a proper pair of headphones and downloading a launcher with a decent equalizer.
Back when we did our first tentative “preview”, We pointed out that this phone might be a variant of the innos A35. Guess what – it is: it’s there on the box itself. The Settings > About phone menu shows a “dual core Arm v7” processor listed. This is a bit hazy. Cortex A5 is an Arm v7 architecture – this indicates a 1 Ghz dual core processor. But wouldn’t Dialog advertise a dual core processor if they had one? It would be epic marketing.
However, the innos A35 has a Qualcomm MSM7227-T running at 800 Mhz. That’s a System-on-a-chip utilizing dual core Arm v7. Snooping around the task manager shows that a Qualcomm service runs on the phone. Odds are that the processor inside this IS a 800 Mhz dual core and not a 1 GHZ as advertised.
Whatever it is, the Armv7 gives this phone a huge advantage: it can run 3D apps. Extremely well. Need For Speed: Most Wanted (the new version) runs perfectly fine, with no lags whatsoever. So does Temple Run and the host of other 3D games that we tried. Everything that a modern top-of-the-line smartphone can run, this little 10, 000 beast can handle.
In the interests of word limits, we’ll have to keep this review short. The battery is, as stated, small for the phone’s size. It’s a 1350 Mah Li-on affair. The phone gets through approximately 9 hours on a single charge on a standard day (3G turned off + heavy texting + a few 4-minute calls + Whatsapp + WiFi + 3 hours of music playback + liberal use of Flipboard + Autosync enabled + Viber, Twitter and Facebook apps running in the background). 9 hours on WiFi – that’s surprisingly good. Especially considering how Gingerbread is supposed to drain battery. Get yourself a decent pair of headphones and you’re set.
Verdict: the i35 is a powerful beast that offers the best value for money of any smartphone on the Sri Lankan market, period. This should be on your shortlist if you have a budget of 10, 000. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that overall, this easily beats out the Sony Xperia Tipo – a much more expensive phone. Easily better than the Galaxy Y and other models floating around the market.