Saturday, April 11, 2015

MyPhone Uno – A Real, Unbiased Review

The first time I heard about Android One, I got excited. Imagine a pure Android experience that’s even more affordable than the Google’s Nexus flagship smartphones. As of this writing, two smartphones are available in the Philippines that belong to the Android One initiative: the Cherry Mobile One and the MyPhone Uno.

MyPhone Uno

I intended to buy the Cherry Mobile One actually. Since the company’s concept store in Ayala Cebu didn’t have any unit in stock yet during my visit, I decided to look for a MyPhone Uno instead. Lazada  Philippines was (and still is) selling them, and I took advantage of one of their discounts. So instead of paying for the Php4,599 regular price, I only spent Php4,099. The phone was delivered in three days.

MyPhone Uno Specs

  • Operating System: Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Display: 4.5-inch IPS LCD (480x854 FWVGA), ~218ppi
  • Processor: 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582
  • Graphics: Mali 400
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Internal Storage: 4GB
  • microSD Support: Yes, up to 32GB
  • Main Camera: 5-megapixels with LED flash
  • Secondary Camera: 2-megapixel
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11n, dual SIM, 3G HSPA+, Bluetooth, GPS
  • Battery Capacity: 1700mAh
  • Initial Selling Price: Php4,599

What’s in the box

Every box comes with a phone unit, data cable, charger and removable battery. The box also contained a free prepaid micro-SIM card from Smart, as well as warranty information and a quick start guide.

MyPhone Uno - what's in the box

Design

There’s nothing spectacular in the front; the MyPhone is your standard Android phone in slate form. Located on top of the screen are the secondary camera and speaker. A very small LED light posits to the left of the speaker, but you can’t see it until it blinks for notifications. Also hardly noticeable is the proximity sensor on top of the speaker.

MyPhone Uno color choices

MyPhone Uno front camera

The side bezels are thin enough. I thought the thick bezel at the bottom would contain the capacitive buttons for Home, Menu and Back, but the phone utilizes on-screen buttons instead. The thickness is just there basically to balance the thick bezel on top, nothing more. At least that makes the the screen size and body size in proportion.

The MyPhone Uno only has two physical buttons, one as a volume rocker and another for power and locking/unlocking the phone. Both sit nicely at the right side of the device and only have a tiny distance between them. I found myself occasionally turning the volume up when I wanted to hit the power button, but I later got used to the button placements. The audio jack for the 3.5mm headset connector is located at the top, whereas the mini-USB jack is at the bottom.

MyPhone Uno power and volume buttons

MyPhone Uno back

MyPhone Uno main camera

The back of the phone is a bit more interesting, mainly due to the circular metal plate that houses the main camera and its LED flash. The plate slightly protrudes, causing the phone to be slanted when it’s resting on its back. There’s also the MyPhone logo, as well as the Android One label right on top of the round loudspeaker.

The removable back cover is made of non-glossy type of plastic. It feels like smooth rubber and, depending on how oily your fingers can become, can easily get smudged with fingerprints (which the screen also suffers from). The cover seems strong enough that you need not worry it’ll crack when you remove it to reveal the battery, dual SIM slots and the microSD slot inside. When I opened mine, an 8GB microSD card was already inserted into the slot—every unit comes with a free microSD card, as well as a SIM card from SMART (or GLOBE, depending on where you buy).

MyPhone Uno without back cover

Because of its material and curvy construction, the MyPhone Uno is easy to hold. You should be able to perform one-hand operations comfortably on this device since it’s not likely to slip from your hands.

Display

I’m not particularly fond of the MyPhone Uno’s 4.5-inch display. The colors look faded, and the blacks aren’t as black as I’d like them to be. The brightness could use some improvement as well: even at its highest setting, the visuals don’t look vibrant like they would on, say, a Super AMOLED display. Fortunately, the screen is still readable when viewed in direct sunlight, but you have to set the brightness to its max level. Color quality seems to degrade as you start to view the screen at oblique angles. I guess utilizing IPS LCD technology didn’t help much here.

MyPhone Uno display

In terms of resolution, FWVGA (854x480) is more or less sufficient for a 4.5-inch display. That translates to approximately 218ppi. Text may not be as sharp and refined as those in screens with higher pixel densities, but so what? Reading e-books is an enjoyable experience with the MyPhone Uno. At normal viewing distance, the individual pixels are hardly discernible. A smaller screen resolution tends to be more friendly to the battery anyway (see below).

Cameras

The cameras are the MyPhone Uno’s weakest aspects for two main reasons: the LED flash and the horribly slow shutter speed. Let the samples below explain why I’m so disappointed with the LED flash.

Here’s one with the flash disabled:

MyPhone Uno main camera macro shot

And here’s the same object taken with the flash turned on, showing what’s awfully wrong with the main camera:

MyPhone Uno main camera macro shot with flash

So maybe the problem occurred because it was a macro shot. Maybe the object was too close to the camera and it reflected too much light because of the flash. I gave it another shot by taking a picture of statue at night and from a distance, to no avail:

MyPhone Uno main camera night

MyPhone Uno main camera night with flash

I was able to take a better shot on my third try, but the resulting picture still isn’t anything to brag about. I’m betting this must be a software issue, and I hope a fix is released soon.

MyPhone Uno main camera normal shot

MyPhone Uno main camera normal shot with flash

Besides the flash problem, there’s also the slow shutter speed to consider. You can’t capture your objects without severe motion blur unless they’re very still. And they need to be motionless for a few seconds—three seconds at least if you’re lucky, though the phone may need some more. Move even just a bit while waiting for the shutter to do its thing, and the resulting picture will look like the one below.

MyPhone Uno main camera - blurry

Also worth mentioning is the camera’s inability to get the correct colors. With the MyPhone Uno, you’ll need to enable HDR all the time to get better-looking pictures.

Here are more photos (click to view a larger size):

MyPhone Uno main camera - drink  MyPhone Uno main camera - drinksMyPhone Uno main camera - flower  MyPhone Uno main camera - foliageMyPhone Uno main camera - friends 2  MyPhone Uno main camera - friends

All in all, I can’t recommend using the main camera. Unless you take a perfect aim and your subject stays still, no pictures or videos taken by the MyPhone Uno are worth uploading to your Facebook or Instagram account. The 2-megapixel front-facing camera doesn’t fare any better either. No, this shouldn’t be your primary selfie-taking device. But if you’re that desperate to use these cameras, I must implore that you keep your hand steady AND make sure whatever you’re capturing is still. I can’t stress that enough.

Call and Sound Quality

There’s not much to complain about the MyPhone Uno’s call quality. Assuming you and your correspondent has good reception, you’ll hear each other just fine. The loudspeaker at the back is loud enough for playing music or movies, as long as you don’t leave the phone lying down on its back lest the sound becomes muffled. There’s a small bump between the Android One and the loudspeaker grill to eliminate this problem, but it hasn’t done anything of the sort. I could be wrong; that small bump is probably just some weird, vestigial part of the phone’s design.

Every unit comes with free earphones, and you can use them to play your music and make phone calls. They’re the basic kind though, so don’t expect any decent bass output and overall sound quality. It also comes with just the one button for Play/Pause. When you press and hold it long enough, Google Now triggers and listens in to your query. Neat.

Performance

Before we proceed any further, let’s acknowledge the fact that the MyPhone Uno is a product of the Android One project. As such, it’s meant for people who are trying Google’s operating system for the first time. It’s also meant to be cheap, which explains why Uno has entry-level hardware. With that in mind, the Uno’s quad-core MediaTek MT6582 processor is guaranteed to render the most basic of apps and games smoothly. Run something much more demanding, however, and you’ll soon notice stutters and lags. Anything with better visuals than, say, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, will probably be too much for the phone. Didn’t I already mention the camera is slow?

MyPhone Uno - Despicable Me

Luckily, the slowdowns only occur with processor- and graphics-intensive apps. Your smartphone experience won’t totally be ruined, because MyPhone Uno can handle the other stuff. I played a couple of videos from YouTube, played several songs, browsed Facebook and texted a couple friends. All of them went along without a hitch. Navigating the phone’s interface was also smooth most of the time. Actually, the key to having a responsive MyPhone Uno is to close unnecessary apps. You’ll want all your phone’s resources to fully focus on the active app. The phone gets mildly hot when it’s encumbered by a video game or advanced app, but the increase in temperature isn’t that much of a concern.

I’m not entirely fond of benchmarking tools, because they don’t really represent the actual experience of the common user. But here’s the AnTuTu result anyway:

MyPhone Uno - Antutu scoreMyPhone Uno - Antutu score compared

Thankfully, the compromise in hardware is offset by Android Lollipop, which brings us to the next section.

Software

The best of what MyPhone Uno can offer is its software, specifically the preinstalled Android Lollipop. It’s smoother than KitKat and features an all-new user interface that Google termed “Material Design.” It’s slick and responsive, despite the Uno’s unremarkable hardware.

MyPhone Uno - home screen MyPhone Uno - app drawer MyPhone Uno - lock screen

MyPhone Uno - quick settings MyPhone Uno - calling MyPhone Uno - messages

MyPhone Uno - recent apps list MyPhone Uno - browser MyPhone Uno - browser 2

I’ve become accustomed to using KitKat, so it took me a while to adjusting to the changes in Lollipop. But everything seems to be designed that even a first-time Android user can figure out how to navigate the interface.

I like the fact that it only takes a single tap to open the list of recent apps. The seconds saved in switching between apps can add up and save a lot of time for multi-tasking users.

Google’s services are pretty much integrated in the platform. When you hold the home button (circle), you can swipe up and launch Google Now.

MyPhone Uno - Google Now swipe up MyPhone Uno - Google NowMyPhone Uno - Google Now result page

MyPhone Uno - camera app

Battery Life

During my short time with the MyPhone Uno, I was able to casually use it for more than a whole day before I had to find an outlet and charge it. It was when I played some games that the battery drained faster. Expect only up to six hours when you plan to play games without any breaks. Thanks to Android Lollipop, the MyPhone Uno comes with an efficient battery power saver. You’ll be able to squeeze out a few more minutes by enabling this feature, but you’ll have to cope with a lower performance.

MyPhone Uno - battery life

As for the charging time, the MyPhone Uno doesn’t come with any fast-charging features. Charging the phone’s battery from zero to max capacity requires a couple of hours. At this one instance I charged my phone, the battery was at 62% full at 8:23p.m. At 9:13p.m., or 50 minutes later, the battery reached 90% of its capacity. By doing a bit of math, the phone apparently requires a total of 178 minutes (or nearly 3 hours) to reach full capacity from zero percent. If you have a whole day of work ahead of you, then better charge the phone while you sleep.

Verdict: The MyPhone Uno would have been a great entry-level Android smartphone if not for its crappy cameras.

Pros

  • No bloatware
  • Guaranteed and prioritized to receive future Android updates
  • Simple, clean interface
  • Free 8GB microSD card
  • Free internet (100MB/month for one year)

Cons

  • Terrible camera
  • So-so overall performance
  • Small storage space

Scores

  • Design - 8
  • Display - 6
  • Cameras - 3
  • Call and Sound Quality - 7
  • Performance - 6
  • Software - 9
  • Battery Life - 7

Average Score: 6.6 out of 10 – Good

Additional Information

Android One

MyPhone Uno (Noypigeeks)

MyPhone Uno (Official Page)