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Foul play by UMI India

Being a follower of electronics – especially those having origins in China, I was very excited to hear about UMI being launched in India. I was glad about the fact that I would be able to avail the X2 at the same price as the Chinese, and avail domestic warranty without having to send the device back to China. I was caught off guard by the UMI guys over at India – if they actually represent UMI, which is not clear even as of today. I will be referring to the people behind this as ‘the people’ henceforth in this article. So, the people were fast in setting up innumerable Facebook pages and websites – www.umimobiles.in, www.umimobiles.com, www.umimobile.in, https://www.facebook.com/umimobile, https://www.facebook.com/UmiIndia. Indians are in the coming-of-age phase when it is electronics, so the interest they managed to garner was HUGE. Apart from the websites and webpages, the people were also quick in setting up a working bank account and a ‘customer care unit’ which never had an executive who could attend your call, all of them apparently were ‘busy on other calls’.

The first Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/umimobile, also the most popular in terms of followers (3376 followers at the time of writing this post), was set up on January the 30th, 2013. Since then, the people have announced various devices – ranging from ultra low budget phablets to UMI’s flagship, the UMI X2. The device became hugely popular, and UMI got many takers at the same time. The device was priced at 14,000 INR which is pretty much at par with the Chinese counterparts, and a person like me would think the device is a steal at that price, since I have only been importing gadgets from China and they tend to cost a whole lot more after import. Anyway, back to the people. They also put up a pre-order link, where the buyer had to pay 500 INR at the time of booking and the remaining 13500 INR before shipment. Pre-ordering and online payments do not have many fans in India, where people started buying online only after the introduction of the COD (Cash On Delivery) concept. In spite of that, people went ahead and pre booked the UMI X2 in huge numbers – only to be disappointed through the coming months. If my memory serves me right, people started pre-booking in February, and were promised delivery in March. In March, the people started putting up statuses on the UMI Facebook page saying the devices would be in India on xxx date, and that they would start shipment on yyy date. Unfortunately for the buyers, nothing materialized, the string of false promises grew by the day. Now, people were starting to get agitated, and the only way to get in contact with the people was via the Facebook page. So, buyers started putting allegations on the people and started posting their queries on the Facebook page as they had nowhere else to go to. The people’s reply to this was amazing – all those who asked questions on delivery and vented their anger, WERE BLOCKED FROM THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE. People without access to the internet and debit/credit cards paid the pre-booking amount offline, and many did not even have proof to show they did. This sort of a behaviour from a company trying to make a name for itself is not expected.

I bought myself an UMI X1 last year, imported from China, and was quite happy with it. I had also reviewed the device which got a good response and pushed me forward to review the UMI X2 as well – but this behaviour from the people made me swear to myself to not buy an UMI device unless it is for free.

I am still in confusion if it is the same UMI guys as the ones who make the device in China, since there were talks about a franchise called AndroidGuruz (www.androidguruz.com, https://www.facebook.com/Androidguruz (the website says ‘coming soon’ since more than 2 months)) which would be selling a total of 42 Chinese branded phones in India including UMI, Jiayu, Xiaomi, etc. I would hope that it is the AndroidGuruz people behind this fiasco, being a liker of UMI.

Also I would suggest readers to NOT pre book any device with UMI/AndroidGuruz until you have seen the device in stock or at a retail store out of the 200 they claim to be working on.

Following are the sort of false promises I talked about – none of them has materialized yet.

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I was one among the other 9000+ to call and there was no call back, which they had promised to do.

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Posted this picture a few weeks back but no word yet.

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It never came to India.

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No deliveries were announced, even after almost 2 moths.

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2

Riding to the West Coast of India – and then a hill station

Places: Konkan (Karde Beach) and Mahabaleshwar
Date: 22-24 Dec 2012
Total distance: 520km (as per my RTR’s speedo)
Starting point: Hotel Ambience, Wakad, Pune
Riders:
1. Abhijit (Jeetley) – RTR160
2. Suraj – Pulsar 200
3. Mayur – CBF Stunner
4. Myself – RTR180

Route:
NH4-Bhor-Poladpur-Khed-Dapoli-Karde Beach (Day 1) – 252km on odo
Karde-Dapoli-Poladpur-Mahabaleshwar (Day 2) – 383km on odo
Mahabaleshwar-Pune (Day 3) – 520km on odo

Accomodation and nutrition:
Konkan – Were surprised to see most (all) hotel booked to the capacity at Karde. Finally found a (not great) room for a night, for Rs. 800, almost attached to the beach. You could smell the beach there. Food was sub-par, anyone riding to anywhere close to Dapoli take along a few packets of Maggi.
Mahabaleshwar – Jeetley has been here tonnes of times, knows this place in and out. Tried at Soonder Villa, but was packed to its capacity. A middleman took us to Apsarra hotel, got a superb room for 1000 for 24 hours. The place was amazing and recommended to anyone, will post the contact soon. Got some amazing tea, talked to the owner about his 1971 RE which he kickstarted for us. Woah! Food wasn’t a problem there, lunch was ordered from Domino’s and ate a little in the market at night as no one was really hungry. Breakfast was at the awesome Mapro’s on the way back.

Everything else:
Getting permission from Mom was checkpoint #1. Dad had a near fatal accident 10 years back, she was apprehensive. But agreed nonetheless.

The roads after Bhor were simply awesome. Rode at good speeds for long times. Felt great! You don’t get to do that everyday. Also the backwaters of the Nira-Deoghar dam served a superb view. Couldn’t help but stop multiple times. Very less traffic too, so it was really good. But there was a bad patch of about 10-12km till Bhor, and then a real bad patch of 10km exactly on the way to Mahabaleshwar from Poladpur ghat.

Okay. so here’s some pictures.

PS: They’re clicked on the UMI X1.

Cheers!

4

In review – UMi X1 [Updated 5 Feb 2013]

Hello to all. Thanks for heading over, I will try my best to cover as many aspects as I can in this review. If I have missed on something which you want to know, please feel free to ask.
Also, it may help to keep in mind my phone history – had an LG Optimus One before this which I used for a year and a half.


UMi X1 – Specifications

Manufacturer’s website: http://www.91umi.com

URLs contained in QR code on box: http://www.91umi.com, http://www.weibo.com/u/2949207210, t.qq.com/umi2012sz

Price: USD 200-230 (As of Nov 2012) for international buyers; USD 159 for people in China

OS: Android – ICS 4.0.4, default unrooted.

Screen:

  • Size – 4.5 inch touchscreen IPS, 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio
  • Resolution – 1280×720 pixels, 326 PPI

Battery: 1750mAh

Network support:

  • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
  • WCDMA: 900/2100 MHz

Dual SIM (WCDMA+GSM)

Chipset/internal hardware:

  • CPU – MediaTek MT6577 Dual-Core Cortex A9 @1 GHz
  • GPU – PowerVR SGX 531 clocked @394MHz
  • RAM – 1GB, 970MB usable
  • ROM – 4GB (System – 503MB, 2.16GB – internal, 1GB – Apps)

Cameras:
8MP rear with dual LED flash and autofocus, 2MP front

Dimensions and weight: 129x68x8.5mm, 138g with battery

Other features: GPS, A-GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi b/g, microSD support up to 64GB, gravity sensor, accelerometer, light sensor, proximity sensor.

Accessories available (sold separate): Screen protector, plastic case, leather case, spare batteries, UMi Hi-300 earphones, desktop charger (to charge spare batteries)

Ok, so here’s my take.


PACKAGING:

Comes in a very sleek and beautiful box which you’d never have seen before. I like it a lot. In fact, the box is so sleek that the charger as well as the additional accessories come in separate boxes. The fact that it looks like a book may help some people who’re looking to avoid paying customs. :P

IN THE BOX:

As stock, you get only the phone, data cable and charger, nothing else, not even a user’s manual in Chinese. My seller sent a microSD card reader, a soft pouch I’ll never use, and fake Dr. Dre beats headphones as freebies. I paid extra for – UMi earphones, extra battery, desktop charger, leather case.

HARDWARE:

In the front there is the 4.5″ screen, three capacitive (there’s a marker under each button which is backlit as opposed to the buttons themselves being backlit) buttons below the screen – back, home and menu respectively. Above the screen there are the sensors – light and proximity, and the 2MP camera. There is the speaker in the center, and ‘UMI X1’ printed. Strangely, it is printed on the screen protector instead of the phone itself.
On top – power/lock button, 3.5mm earphone jack
Left – microUSB port
Right – Volume up/down
Bottom – Microphone

The phone itself feels extremely thin and light. At first, it felt like it was cheap quality. But now after two days it doesn’t feel cheap in any manner, nor does it feel Samsung/LG quality. It took me time to get used to the 8.5mm thickness. I’d been using an LG Optimus One for quite long, and it was much much more thicker.

I compared it to SGS, SGS Advance, SGS 2, SGS 3 in terms of weight and feel. It felt lighter than any of those at first, but when I took both (UMi X1 in one and SGS 1/2/3/advance in the other) it felt heavier than SGS and SGS 2. Please keep in mind there’s no numbers here.

They’ve made the back cover extremely thin, maybe to save on a millimeter of thickness. I advice anyone to be careful when taking that off/putting it back on.

Screen – The screen is an IPS screen, with a superb resolution of 1280×720 pixels. Personally I am not extremely happy with the screen, viewing angles are not as good as my Chinese tablet’s (Aoson M11) screen which uses an IPS panel too. Apart from the viewing angles, the brightness is satisfactory, but I haven’t tested it outdoors yet. The resolution is amazing, pictures look fluid and pixels cannot be detected by the human eye, at least mine. The high PPI of 326 definitely pays off, simple built in wallpapers look gorgeous. Here are a few pictures:


Touch sensitivity – Sensitive enough. 5 points multitouch. Nothing more.

Capacitive buttons – It will take you some time to get used to the back button being on the left, as most popular phones have it on the right. The buttons are very sensitive, as good as my brother’s Samsung Galaxy S advance. I’m happy with the sensitivity. Not happy with the backlight on the buttons, very dim. Here’s a picture:

Sensors, etc – The light and proximity sensor work just fine. I never really set brightness to automatic, most of the time (indoors) it is set to minimum. On this phone, the sensor is too sensitive, brightness levels are changed as soon as there is a change in the amount of ambient light (or maybe the software reacts too quickly?). Not everyone will like this, plus it might drain more juice out of the battery.
As for the proximity sensor: I’ve been using the phone with the leather case, and when I’m on a call I close the leather flap, this turns the screen off. Samsung Galaxy Note style. There are appropriate holes on the leather case for the speaker, rear louspeaker and the rear camera. The USB port cannot be accessed with the case on.

Call quality – The speaker is loud and clear. All fine. No complaints from the receiver.

Micro USB port and charger – I am disappointed with it. Only the stock USB cable fits tight and snugly, and using this one my computer was not able to detect the phone, but the phone could charge itself this way. I tried a few other microUSB cables and they worked fine, but they don’t fit as tight as you’d want them to be.

The charger is rated at – Input: 100-240V–50-60Hz/150mA
Output: 5V–400mA/800mA

It works fine, has an EU plug by default.

CAMERAS:

Rear camera – This one is a decent performer in daylight. Autofocus is good and pretty fast. I would say it is as good as the 5MP unit on my brother’s SGS Advance. Also, the stock settings are pretty useless for me, pictures come out well with HDR turned on. Strangely with HDR on there are 2 pictures saved in the gallery for every click. But you’ll know which one to delete. Flash is not well directed – by that I mean that flash will wash away the picture, making it pretty much useless most of the time.
Here are some pictures; the first two are with HDR on and the other two with HDR off.

Front camera – I’m quite happy with this. Maybe because I didn’t have much expectations. But this 2MP unit is good enough to make video calls and stuff like that. No self potraits.

This picture is taken using the front camera:

CONNECTIVITY:

Dual SIM functionality works fine. I tried it with two AirTel SIMs, one on 2G and the other on 3G. I’m planning to get myself another SIM from a carrier who offers good 3G speeds, and is cheap. I found GPRS on this phone to be faster than on my Optimus One, I don’t know if its just me or not.

Here’s how the SIM and microSD ports are arranged:

As I listed above, the phone is completely unlocked for worldwide use.

Bluetooth works fine, tested it with a bluetooth headset, my laptop and paired it to a phone to send and receive files, flawless, as expected. WiFi is fine too, I haven’t used it much so I can’t say. Just used it once with my brother’s phone as the hotspot.

GPS – Here is a screen from the app ‘GPS test’. It took quite some time to lock my position, but I believe there are various fixes to overcome this problem. I will update once I try them out. Google Maps was extremely quick to show my position.

I haven’t tested the WiFi hotspot functionality as yet, but there should be no problems, I guess. Also, there is an option for Bluetooth tethering which I quite like. But I guess it can be used only with PCs, not with phones.

OS, USAGE AND PERFORMANCE:

This is one department where this phone just shines. The Android OS is extremely stable, in two days of extensive usage and testing I haven’t been able to notice any lag. The dual core CPU coupled with the PowerVR GPU handles the system well enough for an average user. There are some goodies for the advaneced as well as average user; such as automatic power on/power off, audio profiles, battery percentage, etc. These may not sound much but these come in very handy to me.
Also, it came with Google Play store preinstalled. Works fine out of the box, I didn’t expect that.

It comes with ‘GO Launcher’ as default, but a little tweaked by the factory. The app drawer icon now says ‘UMI’. I personally don’t like GO Launcher much, have replaced it with Nova Launcher.

Here’s how the stock launcher looks:

I suggest anyone interested in this phone to buy a desktop charger seat as well, this way I do not need to plug the phone at all. The desktop charger charges the spare battery, and all I need to do is just swap this with the drained one.
Battery life out of the box was a little less than satisfactory, but then I rooted the phone and tweaked it a little and now it is much much better. Keep in mind this is a huge screen with a 1750mAh battery, so you might want to re-think what your expectations are.

Rooted the phone yesterday.

I’ll do a tutorial on how to root if people want.

One thing I noticed last night when I used the phone for really long non-stop (around 3 hours I think) was that the region around the camera got quite heated up. I’d assume that is where the processor sits.

I do not believe benchmarks much, it is more of user reviews which give a better picture. Anyway, just did an AnTuTu test. If anyone wants me to do more benchmark tests, I’ll oblige.

The phone comes with 4 GB ROM on board. Obviously, all of this is not usable. A a part of it is reserved for the system, a part for internal storage, and the rest for the user.

In this case the partitions looks like:
System – 503 MB
Apps – 1 GB
User – 2.16 GB

Sound and music: The rear speaker is really loud, louder than most phones I’ve seen. But at max volume there is noticeable distortion. I don’t play music on the loudspeaker anyway, it might be a problem for those who do. Solution: keep the volume 2 steps lower than maximum.
One important thing readers might want to make a note of – the IMEI is in 86xxxxxxxx format, luckily it works for me. Some countries need the IMEI in international format (ie 35xxxxxx). Also, as this is a dual SIM, I expected it to have two different IMEI numbers, instead, it comes with two same numbers. But it can be easily changed. It might be considered as a criminal offence in some countries to change the IMEI, and there are tutorials on the net to do the same.

ACCESSORIES AND VALUE FOR MONEY:

The original UMi earphones are simply amazing. Maybe I had too low expectations, but the sound quality with those earphones on the UMi is at least as good as my iPod. Unfortunately I can’t use this as a music device, as I can’t afford to dry up the battery too soon. But if you’re confused whether to buy the earphones or not, please go ahead.

The leather case is not very useful. In fact, I don’t think it is leather in the first place. :P

And yes, I’d placed an order for the ThL W3 dual core initially, this phone did not seem to be available at all. The seller shipped it with FedEx, and during that time FedEx weren’t shipping any parcels which contained a battery. So I got refunded. The process took 10 days, and the UMi started to appear. So I pre-ordered.

This is it from me. If you have any questions or queries, please feel free to comment. Thanks!

UPDATE – 5th Feb 2013

After updating to the 20130101 ROM (Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean) the AnTuTu scores have gone up by quite a bit. From 5357 to 5962, which is a good improvement. The ROM is pretty smooth, and recommended to anyone.

4

JiaYu G4 Spec Review and comparison with similarly spec’d devices

After reading a lot about this phone, I decided to do a specs review of this phone. (I don’t have it yet)

Key specs:

SoC MT6589
Clock frequency 1.2 GHz
Processor architecture ARM Cortex A7
No. of cores 4
Memory (RAM) 1GB/2GB (Youth/Advanced)
Storage (ROM) 4GB/32GB (Youth/Advanced)
Screen 4.7″
Screen protection Gorilla Glass II
Resolution 1280×720 (720p)
Battery rating 1850mAh/3000mAh
Cameras 3MP/13MP (Front/Rear)

The phone will be unlocked for worldwide use, with dual SIM support and support for HSPA+ in either of the SIM. Expect the price to be in the $210-230 for the Youth and in the $240-300 range for the Advanced version. As I type  this Pandawill are pre-selling it for $218.99 and $248.99 which seem good prices at the moment. But if you like a little more security like me, you might want to wait till sellers start getting stock and then buy from AliExpress or eBay.

I will be upgrading from my UMI X1 to the G4 (hopefully the Advanced version) in the coming month (or whenever there is stock). Why I will go for the Jiayu G4 over any competitors despite Jiayu’s poor marketing skills (Read: innumerable delays):

  • Solid build – The basis is Jiayu G3 here. It was reportedly the best built in its generation of phones.
  • Gorilla Glass protection
  • Huge user base – This means there will be custom ROMs and fixes
  • 1280×720 as opposed to 1920×1080 – FHD is overkill for a sub 7″ device if I’m concerned. I honestly don’t think I have eyes powerful enough to differentiate between  720p and  1080p on a sub 5″ screen. A 1080p screen looks pretty on paper for sure, but in real life situations a 720p is more than enough and it also means better battery life.
  • Large capacity battery – The UMi with its 1750mAh battery has managed to impress me. A 3000mAh will come in really handy.
  • Design

Having said this, I would also like the readers to know that I plan to live with this phone for quite some time now. If you do not have similar plans, there are quite a few options. Here are a few competitors (all based on the same platform – MT6589):

  • UMi X2 – Just like what the UMi X1 did to the Jiayu G3, the X2 will hope to do to the G4 – launch before the G4 and take advantage of Jiayu’s poor marketing skills. The X2 comes with 2GB RAM and a 5″ 1080p screen. No word on the type of protection offered yet. Expect it to sell for around $250.
    USP – Price and 1080p screen for some.
  • iOcean X7 – This is a very pretty phone which borrows its styling from  Sony Xperia devices. Comes in Youth (1GB RAM) and Premium (2GB RAM) versions just like the Jiayu G4. iOcean is reportedly a big OEM manufacturer so quality shouldn’t be an issue. Expected price should be under the $250 mark.
    USP – Styling, price, screen.
  • Neo N003 – A decent looking phone for a decent price tag. Again, comes with an option of 1GB/2GB RAM (Youth/Advanced). I don’t expect the build to be better than Jiayu. Touted to be the world’s cheapest phone with a 1080p screen.
    USP – Pricing.
  • Various Zopo devices. This brand has never impressed me much so I haven’t dug up a lot.
    USP – English website and English speaking staff.

A video showing the gaming capabilities on the Jiayu G4

Testing the strength of Gorilla Glass

Also, a franchise is claiming to bring 42 Chinese brands to India. This means that Indians will be able to buy these phones for as much as it is sold in China. I personally hope this does come out good. More on this after I can confirm the news.

I hope this post helps many electronics enthusiasts like me make a decision as to what to buy. Any questions, feel free to comment.