Last year, when Smartron was launched, backed by Sachin Tendulkar, we didn’t give it much of a thought. But then, we got a chance to try out the Smartron t.Book and we had an interaction with the Smartron family and we understood that we finally have an ‘Indian’ brand that can start a revolution. We used the Smartron t.Phone and we saw the immense potential that the design team has. In this post, we take a look at the srt.Phone, the powerful midrange smartphone from Smartron. The srt.Phone is priced at 12,999 for 32GB variant and 13,999 for 64GB variant.
If you are wondering what Smartron is,
Smartron India Private Limited was founded with a vision to build India’s first global technology product brand by designing, engineering, sourcing, and marketing world class IoT (“Internet of TronsTM”) devices and systems with tightly integrated services and care targeting consumer, enterprise, industrial and infrastructure markets.
Smartron has taken the approach of some new brands where the brand does not want to limit itself being associated with just one or two device lineups (phone, notebook). While these new brands went with low margin and great price approach, this has caused serious support and service issues. Smartron is taking a more mainstream approach where the more units they sell, the better equipped they will be to create better end-to-end structure (design to sales to service).
Here are the key features that differentiate Smartron from other Indian smartphone brands
- Cloud : unlimited cloud storage when you purchase t.Phone or t.Book
- Store : IoT marketplace
- x and hubtron : service that makes all Smartron devices sync with each other
- In-house designs
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 Octa Core
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR3
- Storage: 32GB | 64GB
- Display: 5.5" FullHD IPS
- Camera: 13mp rear | 5mp front
- OS: Android 7.1.1 Nougat
The packaging is simple. Remove the wrap, open the flap and the phone smiles at you. Sachin’s quote is at the under side of the flap. Take the phone out, lift the flap to get the Type-C charger and USB cable. There is no headset in the box.
Don’t stop chasing your dreams, because dreams do come true.
When I saw the phone in videos and in pictures, it looked bad. But when I started using the phone, it felt better. When I used the phone more, aesthetics took the backseat. srt.phone, unlike nearly all the phones in its price segment, comes with a plastic body, a removable back cover that can be changed and there is no metal frame. The back side of t.phone looks much much better but the front view of srt.phone is much cleaner thanks to the rounded edge profile. The clean black front adds to the look.
The front of the phone has 5.5″ FullHD IPS display. The capacitive navigation button is placed below the display. The buttons will be disabled once you turn on on-screen navigation buttons. The sensors are placed along with earpiece where the glass is cut, instead of under the glass next to the earpiece opening. The front-facing camera is placed on the left side. The volume rocker is on the right side of the phone. The power/unlock key is placed at the top and that is really awkward place given that the display is 5.5″ in size. Not even Apple uses that placement for power key on their relatively tiny phones. USB Type-C port is at the bottom. The bottom speaker is to the left of USB port and microphone is to the right.
The backside of the phone looks much better when you see it in person than when you see it in photos. The sandblasted look of the plastic is decent. Good thing is that the back plate is removable and can be replaced with Sachin’s memorabilia printed covers. The camera module, microphone and LED flash sits at top left corner. Below the module, there is a vertical orange line that runs along the breadth of the phone and the Smartron logo is etched below the line. The fingerprint sensor is back mounted (under the logo). At the bottom, you will see the teardrop logo, srt.phone name and the line ‘Designed and Engineered in India’. This is definitely one of the pros about srt.phone. There are not many Indian brands that sell smartphones but this one is the one of the very very few that design, engineer phones in India.
Remove the back panel and you will see the two micro-SIM card slots. This is another confusing aspect of the design. Why two micro SIM card slot when the world has moved to nano-SIM card standard. Every Android phone comes with either single nano-SIM card or two nano-SIM card slots. One downside is that there is no hybrid slot or dedicated microSD card slot. The battery is not visible even though you remove the back panel. All that you see is the plastic frame. At first, I did not know that the phone has NFC but on seeing the NFC mark, understood that this phone supports NFC (pardon us for not looking at the specs in detail). One advantage with NFC is that you can use it for contactless payments. One bad design aspect of the back panel is that that gap (when you fit the panel) is not uniform.
The 5.5″ Super IPS display is one of the better features of the phone. The blacks are truly black and the contrast ratio is, well, infinite (one of the best things about an IPS display). Sunlight legibility is pretty poor and you have to crank the display to max brightness to see the content on the screen. This issue is rectified in newer variants (especially the ones that are mounted on Galaxy S6 and later flagship phones from Samsung) of IPS panels. The srt.phone does come with adaptive brightness so that you do not have to worry about manually adjusting brightness all the time. Given that this is a 5.5″ display, I suggest you turn on onscreen navigation buttons so that the bezels can be used to grip without fear of pressing on home or back keys accidentally. The display ain’t always on but you do get ambient display setting (turn the display on when there is notification).
Thanks to FullHD resolution, the text and images are super crisp. Similar to other IPS displays, the colours are fairly accurate. One issue that I noticed is that the adaptive brightness is not as seamless as that on other phones. It takes little bit more time (in seconds) for the brightness to change to adjust to changed lighting conditions. The Gorilla Glass feels super smooth to touch, the touch response is very good. We did a test to see if this IPS panel has jelly effect by inverting the phone and scrolling and we have not noticed any such effect.
Hardware and performance
Now, this is the best part of the review. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chip comes with powerful Cortex A72 cores. When that much of processing power is not required, the additional A53 cores kick in to save battery life. The Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 652 processor supports advanced features and experiences. With features like X8 LTE, a Qualcomm® Adreno™ 510 GPU, and an octa-core CPU configuration, the Snapdragon 652 processor is designed to support excellent connectivity and fantastic graphical and multimedia performance for top-tier smartphones and tablets. Thanks to 4GB of RAM, SD652 chip and pure Android, the srt.phone feels absolutely snappy. There is no visible lag while using apps and gaming performance too if flawless for a mid-ranger. When I played games, the area around the fingerprint sensor felt a bit warm.
The network reception is decent. I live in a place where there is a dark spot. When compared to phones like Moto G5 Plus, iPhone 6, the srt.phone had poor indoor network reception. This is the same problem that we faced with the t.phone. The call quality though is excellent (when the network is proper). The earpiece quality is good, the onboard loudspeaker is loud enough for indoors but outdoors, it is average.
Here are few benchmarks that we ran on this phone:
One of the advantages with Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 is that you get to experience the super fast charging process, Quick Charge. Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 supports Quick Charge 3.0 and 2.0 and Smartron went with Quick Charge 2.0. The bundled charger supports 9V/2A charging can charge the phone pretty fast. It takes just over an hour to charge from 0% to 100%. The phone will easily last through the day but getting a battery life of more than a day is not easy for those who use the phone more than occasional surfing. A screen on time of 4-5 hours after heavy usage of the phone is pretty impressive and given that the phone will charge quickly, you will not have to worry about battery backup in this phone.
The Camera application is good. The camera user interface is good. Smartron has manual mode available that can be enabled by switching off Auto HDR. The same is the case with camera filters. When we started using the phone, the camera quality was very bad and recent software update made is comparatively better. The camera is not a match to that of Nuba Z11 Mini or ASUS ZenFone 3 or Redmi Note 4. We do hope that Smartron releases another update that fixes few niggles with camera algorithm.
The built-in camera sensor is a capable sensor and it only needs few software optimizations to turn the magic on. Do try to get used to the manual mode options as pictures taken using manual mode turns out to be far far better and closer to what your eyes see (colour accuracy). You can also opt other modes like night mode, sunlight mode, sports mode. Coming to filters, you can pick from nine filters. While indoor photography is poor, outdoor photography under perfect lighting conditions is pretty solid. One great thing is that the srt.phone supports 4K UltraHD video recording. Overall, the camera application is pretty good so is the lens but the only missing link here is software optimization.
The srt.phone comes with a near-stock build of Android 7.1.1 Nougat. Apart from Tron applications including t.Cloud, there is the full suite of Microsoft Office applications. When it comes to productivity applications, these are second to none and having these on a phone (pre-loaded) is a great thing for me. But, the problem here is that these applications cannot be uninstalled and for those who don’t prefer having these apps, there is no getaway. One good feature is the availability of FM Radio for those who love listening to the radio at any time of day.
Those who buy Smartron products (phone, tablet) get unlimited cloud storage on T.Cloud to backup all of the data. There is no restriction on how much data you can save. This can be accessed via TronX application. Once you register your id in TronX, you can go to t.cloud and initiate/activate sync between your phone’s content and t.Cloud. From this application, you can also access t.store (buy Smartron products), t.care (access customer care detail), forum (contact with other Smartron products).
Before I tried the srt.phone, I thought that the phone is bad looking phone (largely in part to how the phone looked in photos). But my opinion about the phone changed after I started using this as my daily driver. Does the srt.phone match the legendary cricketer? It indeed performs like the legend. Fast and flawless! Thanks to Snapdragon 652 and near-pure Android build, the phone is snappy. Application loading and switching is really fast. The display is crisp and watching videos is a pleasure. The srt.phone comes with NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11ac (required if you want to subscribe to those high-speed fibernet broadband plans) built in and these are good perks to have. The problem with srt.phone props up when you compare this phone with the competition. Phones like Honor 8 Lite, Moto G5 Plus, Redmi Note 4, Honor 6X have better looks. Some of these phones look absolutely stunning and they perform at a same level as that of the srt.phone. The images that are taken by this phone turn out to be lot better than those taken using srt.phone and this is one major disadvantage. Fortunately, all Smartron need to do is fix the processing algorithm to get the camera quality improved. If you are looking for a phone designed in India, by Indian brand, the srt.phone is the best phone you can get. Period!
The Chinese did pamper us by delivering phones that come with metal body and a price tag that is not in line with the specifications. Many of these brands take minimal profits. Smartron is not the kind of company that uses another brand’s designs and released phones with poor shelf life. This company designs and engineers their products on their own and they have more than a decent phone at hand. If you are looking for a phone for simple day to day work and if you have a soft corner for Indian brand, you should not ignore Smartron.