Smartron hands-on: A few niggles, but there's plenty to like here

Indian startup Smartron has unveiled its second smartphone earlier today, the The local manufacturer counts Sachin Tendulkar — one of India's biggest sports stars — as an investor as well as a brand ambassador, and the brief with the was to deliver a budget device without any compromises. We've seen that time and again from Chinese manufacturers, and Smartron is now looking to mount a challenge with the

Powered by the Snapdragon 652 and running Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, there's certainly a lot going for the, including its highly competitive ₹12,999 price tag. Before we get started, here's a look at the specs on offer:

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Operating SystemAndroid 7.1.1 Nougat
Display5.5-inch 1080p (1920x1080) IPS LCD panel
Gorilla Glass 3
401ppi pixel density
SoCOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652
Four Cortex A72 cores at 1.8GHz
Four Cortex A53 cores at 1.44GHz
GPUAdreno 510
Rear camera13MP with f/2.0 lens
PDAF, LED flash
1080p video recording
Front shooter5MP with wide-angle lens
ConnectivityLTE with VoLTE
Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, AGPS, GLONASS
USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack
Battery3000mAh battery
Quick Charge 2.0
FingerprintRear fingerprint sensor
ColorsTitanium Grey

This year, we've seen manufacturers shift to the 14nm Snapdragon 625 to prioritize efficiency. Smartron is opting to stick with the older 28nm Snapdragon 652, which has faster Cortex A72 cores. As for efficiency, the company is relying on optimizing the software to eke out the most out of the 3000mAh battery.

The phone itself doesn't particularly stand out in terms of its design. The only flair you'll find is at the back, where Smartron is counting on removable back covers as a way of personalization. An odd design choice is to put the power button at the top of the handset, which makes it harder to reach when using the phone one-handed.

Then there's the back cover, which flexes if you put too much pressure on it. Furthermore, the volume and power buttons don't have great tactile feedback. These are common problems for nascent hardware companies, and it is likely Smartron will work out the niggles in later production runs.

One area where Smartron differs from other Indian manufacturers is its focus on software updates. The company is committing to two platform updates, and is aiming to deliver quarterly security patches. Most companies in the country are lackadaisical when it comes to rolling out updates, and it remains to be seen if Smartron can deliver on its promises. For now, the company is offering a pure Android experience devoid of any customizations (à la Motorola), a welcome move.

The comes with a pure Android skin that's devoid of any customizations.

Smartron recently signed a patent license with Qualcomm to sell WCDMA, CDMA2000, and 4G LTE devices; and collaborate with the chip maker on "early technology access and advancements in RF, camera testing and tuning." The latter is certainly going to come in handy, as Smartron's camera has a long way to go before it can challenge the likes of Xiaomi, Huawei, and others in this segment.

Overall, there's a lot to like about the Smartron The phone offers great hardware and combines it with unencumbered software, leading to a user experience that's significantly better than what you'd find from a majority of phones in this category.

The is sold in two configurations: a variant with 32GB internal memory for ₹12,999, and a model with 64GB storage for ₹13,999. Considering the minor difference in cost, it makes more sense to pick up the 64GB edition.

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Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.