The Android Invasion in Bangladesh’s Rural scenario: A closer look at the GrameenPhone Crystal handset


The telecommunication giant of Bangladesh, GrameenPhone yet again introduces a handset for its customer. In fact, this time an Android based smart phone! Is it good? Is it worth the money? Let’s see!

As people around the globe are getting smarter and faster at work, GP takes the initiative to speed up things here in Bangladesh too. GrameenPhone was the first one to exploit the increasing demand of smart phones and socializing in Bangladesh,. And thus we got – GrameenPhone Crystal, a branded set boasting low price tag (12,160 TK) and Android OS!

When I had first heard of this set before the release I discarded this as another profit making strategy of GP but I was curious too. So once I got the chance to test it out first hand, I leapt onto it.

The things I noticed at first glance-

  • It looks stylish. Black plastic body with a silver lining for the keys.
  • It is very light weight (only 115 gm).
  • It takes almost a minute to boot and total one and half minute for it to become functional (takes an extra minute if a memory card is inserted).
  •  It has good screen resolution (320 x 480 pixels, 3.2 inches).
  • The touch sensitivity is good.
  • The set is slow!
  • The set has preloaded applications and loads of them.

Shiny and glittery on the outside, but what’s inside?

Yes, it looks all shiny and glittery at first glance and also elegant considering its price. Now let’s take a closr look at the hardware specifications and their performances.

It is a set made by Huwei, first released in mid 2010. For the 2G network it has the usual GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 and for 3G network HSDPA 900 / 2100 signal strength. Nothing new here. But what interests me here is that it has only 256 MB of RAM with 512 MB of ROM. With a tiny processor like Qualcomm MSM7225, 528 MHz, it totally closes up the gaming experience the android market has to offer its users.

 key features of the Handset :

Feature Specification Feature Specification
Network Band Tri-band GSM; GSM/GPRS/EDGE

900/1800/1900 MHz

E-mail Client POP3/IMAP/SMTP & Exchange Server Support Based on Android
Additional Network Protocol 3G-WCDMA radio bearer UL/DL: 384 Kbps /384 Kbps

HSDPA 7.2Mbps

External Interface Standard Micro USB, microSD Card slot, 3.5mm headset
Form Factor Candybar, TouchScreen Battery Capacity 1150 mAh

Standby time: up to 280 hours

Talking time: up to 200 mins

HW features G-sensor

Optical trackpad

Proximity sensor

Light sensor

GPS

Business Tools Calendar,  Alarm, Reminder, Notes, Converter, World Clock, Calculator, e-book, STK, Games,
OS Android 2.1 Preloaded

Applications

Google Maps, Market, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
Processor Qualcomm® MSM7225, 528 MHz Ringtone 72 chords; MIDI, MP3, AMR(NB), WAV, AAC
Internal Memory ROM:512 MB,RAM:256MB Expandable Memory microSD Card (up to 16GB)
Weight (including the battery): ≤115g Size 112mm(L)×58mm(W)×12.8mm(T)
Google Apps Android Mobile Suite:

Google mail

Google Search

Google Talk

Google Maps

Google Calendar

YouTube

Android Market

Digital Compass: Support digital compass based on Android
Display Color 262K TFT IM & SNS Tools Preloaded Facebook, Twitter,
Display Size 3.2 -inch TFT-LCD flat capacitive touch-sensitive screen
Camera 3.2 MP FF Camera Data Support EDGE Class 10 with Modem Function
Memory Card Slot microSD Card (up to 16GB) Messaging SMS, MMS, Push Email, Web mail
Browsing HTML; Based on Chrome Lite on Android 2.1

Preloaded Opera Mini &

Bookmarks

GSM Features Basic Telephony, Call Barring, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting
Connectivity Bluetooth- V2.0+EDR

WiFi: 802.11b/g/n

USB: USB2.0 High Speed; 480Mbps

EDGE Class 10

Phonebook Capacity Virtually Unlimited
Multi-media Music:MP3、MIDI、AMR、AAC、eAAC+

Video: MPEG4, H.263 (3GPP), H.264

Image:  PNG,GIF,JPEG

FM Radio Yes

*Depends on network status and usage

The screen is TFT capacitive, although not scratchproof. You will be seeing a lot of finger marks on it once you really start using it. So a screen protector should be a good option.

The sound quality in one word is- crap. The loud speaker has a mid level volume and can’t be heard in loud places. Even with the headphones on, it sounds awful. Not recommended for music lovers.

The camera is good, with 3.15 MP, but only for day light, but not for night time use. It seems to have a fixed shutter speed and aperture value. Apart from that, the photo resolution is average. Some camera apps may do justice to it.

The GPS is not accurate. Even while using satellite and EDGE, it will show you in somewhat 500 meters away from your actual location. I tried it with wifi and different network providers, still no improvement.

The EDGE speed is okay, so is Bluetooth. But the Wifi has a very short range. And while I used it as a hotspot, it kept turning off.

The most frustrating of all is the battery life. I have used it for 4 days now, but I still can’t figure it out! It charges up pretty fast (100% in two hours) but with every features turned on, it lasted for only 1 hour barely! But again, after next recharge, it lasted for 2.5+ hours of continuous wifi and EDGE using, And the talk time is pretty low with the average result of almost 3 hours only.

The Android mania

The hardware specification is not satisfying. You can afford something better at this price tag, but not the android with it though. 

The set is equipped with android version 2.1- Éclair. Seeing the Éclair is a disappointment as Google has already released version 2.3.4 Gingerbread, which is much faster and bug free. But éclair still remains the most supported OS. And the set can’t really afford any better OS. It, for what I have seen, cannot be updated too. So, practically, for new android users it may be an excitement but for old folks like me is a common scenario. So, the users may get bored soon with it.

But still, it is an exciting feature for the people who have used only symbian and java phones, and not to forget those Chinese sets that have flooded the market. If you wanted to introduce Android to a nation and spread it among the rural, what better option do you have?

The handset has all the basic apps preloaded. Google mail, Google Search, Google Talk, Google Maps, Google Calendar, YouTube, Android Market, Facebook, twitroyd and Opera Mini browser is already loaded. Though the facebook and opera mini app are back dated and starts to update immediately after you enter the android market. Glitchy.

The user can create or sync google accounts and load their mobile with more apps. But I would recommend a task manager to keep the phone from slowing down by deleting unnecessary apps running on the background.

People may need time to get used to this android- especially the new users but once they get the hang of it, they will love the Android. And will also wish for updates and a bit better hardware performance.

In one word- Bangladesh will succumb into android mania soon!

 

While using the handset….

While using the set, you will face these annoying situations-

  • The onboard QWERTY keypad is not smooth at all. Even when it is taken horizontally.
  • The proximity sensor is slow to response.
  • The 4 functional buttons, apart from the square black home button, are always illuminated, but can you will be able to notice this only when its pitch black. When the set is still new to you, you may have to get it close to your nose to read the writings on the buttons to know its functions.
  • The internet and MMS settings for GrameenPhone are preloaded, but while using other providers, you have to enter the settings manually.
  • While using a memory card, it takes some time to access it.
  • You may not hear the ringtone in crowded places and miss some calls.

 

To buy it or not to buy it?

It was pretty hard to write off this set as a pure industrial-profit-making-rejected-crap, cause for some strange reason you will feel attached to it. I have used iTouches, use Sony Ericsson Xperia x10, but still would love to have one. Why?

  • Stylish look with nice finishing.
  • The feeling of using an Android based cheap smart phone which you can throw around and use without much care.
  • The 24 months extended warranty period for GP users.
  • Big screen with nice graphics capabilities.

And my reasons to keep you from buying one-

  • Remember GP’s last branded set? It was very promising but later got trampled by handsets from Micromax. And Micromax is also about to bring their own Android equipped sets. They were better last time, why not this time?
  • The main purpose of using this set is to utilize the apps, which, unfortunate for us, needs internet. And as none of the providers have good EDGE speed or network coverage together, the choice of using GP’s EDGE is some nightmare too. The slow net will totally spoil the party.
  • Why Huwei? Samsung is a much better option!

 

If I was to rate the features

Graphics – 4.5/5

The graphics really got me. You will know it once you see it!

User friendliness- 3.5/5

 The function keys are a disaster and also the onscreen keyboard. You may have too press too hard at times to make it function.

Battery life- 3.5/5

I really don’t know what to say about this. It may last 1~2 hours while using all the features and talk time is 3 hours maximum.

EDGE- 4.5/5

I was satisfied with the EDGE performance.

Wifi- 3.5/5

The range of wifi and its response is pretty low compared to other sets available at this price.

Performance- 4/5

If you know to how to handle it, you will surely have the best performance sipped out of its tiny processor.

 Entertainment- 4/5

The apps alone are enough to keep one engaged with this. The exclusion of games is very disappointing.

 Overall 4/5

 

The bottom line

 Why did GP introduce such a set in Bangladesh with no 3G infrastructure or even good EDGE speed? Beats me. But if you think in track of getting people familiar with the Android apps and the limitless possibilities it holds, you will be convinced that GrameenPhone took a great initiative. The students and rural people are the main target of this handset and I don’t see why they won’t leap onto it. Many have heard about android but couldn’t afford one due to the huge prices tagged with them. Even though it is a set with outdated OS and mid range hardware, you may soon see that the one who delivers you newspaper giving you updates of news, or the shopkeeper asking for your facebook/twitter address to let you know of latest bargains!

Revolution begins with a small step!

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53 thoughts on “The Android Invasion in Bangladesh’s Rural scenario: A closer look at the GrameenPhone Crystal handset

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