Amidst the glitz and glamour of the Micromax Canvas 4 launch, it was easy to forget that the Canvas 4 is not a leap forward. In fact, I hesitate to call it even a step forward, because Micromax has lost a huge opportunity in terms of stepping up the specifications and rising up as a brand. But that’s another story. Nevertheless, what kind of a first impression does the Canvas 4 make? Here’s a short video before we get started.
Design and build
The Canvas 4’s aluminium mid-housing with the 100-step coating treatment certainly lends it a somewhat sturdy feel, but the handset feels a bit heavier than its components would suggest, and the aluminium feels jarring in contrast with the otherwise plastic exterior. The trim houses the antennae for the GSM radio and the Bluetooth, which is something we have seen smartphone majors like HTC and Apple do. The chamfered edges feel much better than the seams of Micromax’s previous plastic panels. The back of the phone is removable and the highly glossy look is disappointing, because somewhere between the aluminium and the glossy back, this one turned out ‘loud’ and shiny. The black or Smoke’ version of the phone is much understated, though, and would definitely be my pick.
I had some initial hiccups with handling the phone as is evident from the video above. The camera bump on the top left corner gives the phone an odd tilt when it’s on its back. What's more, there is a great heft to the phone that made my average mitts feel inadequate at first, but a few moments and a wrist adjustment later, things were better. Even then, I found that one-handed usage can be cumbersome. We will have to test it longer to come to a fair conclusion.
Rounded edges and a slim profile
It's bitterly disappointing that the Canvas 4 doesn't have a 1080p display. Micromax should have capitalised on this trending spec point, and it would have made the Canvas 4 a real upgrade over the Canvas HD. Having said that, the display is quite bright and reproduces colours accurately without much over-saturation. Viewing angles were in keeping with what we expect from an IPS panel.
Surprisingly, the phone lagged even when performing basic stuff like swiping through the home screens. However, the units at the launch were most likely running software that hasn't been finalised yet—some had the core Micromax apps and some didn’t—resulting in the jerky performance. We hope these chinks will be worked out when the device hits stores next week.
Instead of using bone stock Android—even though the people on stage said it runs stock Android—the Canvas 4 has dabs of customisation that may not be noticeable immediately. The notification toggles (the ones you get through a two-finger swipe down) are different than the ones on stock Android, and Micromax has definitely lent its touch to the icons. The end result is an app drawer that would be at home on the Las Vegas strip. Theming the UI thusly seems pointless, considering users have access to thousands of customisation apps from the Play Store. It's about time Micromax stops claiming this is stock Android. You may fool some of them, guys, but this will definitely diminish any credibility you may have among those in the know.
The bottom resembles the iPhone 5 without the loudspeaker grille; New ways to unlock
In terms of navigation, there are no surprises here for anyone familiar with Android 4.x, except when you try to unlock the device. If the M-Unlock app is in effect, you will be presented with options to unlock the screen by blowing on the bottom edge, or shaking the device. Alternatively, you can long-press the lock icon.
We didn’t get to explore the camera department in great detail, but we noticed that the phone managed to take decent-looking pictures of the dark banquet hall. However, the final image showed lots of noise when zoomed in. The burst mode works as advertised, but once again, it was difficult to make out how well detail was captured in the dark setting. It did shoot a bucket-load of pictures in under 20 seconds, though. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and delivered decent selfies under the conditions.
Micromax has decided to bolster its software offerings this time around, and you will find features like being able to automatically pause videos and flip the phone to silent/speaker, which are not unprecedented. We get a couple of new apps from Micromax geared towards security: the M-Security app will prevent installation of malware and viruses on your phone, and there is a separate app for tracking a lost Canvas 4. Another nicety is the inclusion of Firmware Over-The-Air support, which should ideally speed up the software updates.
The first impression
The Canvas 4 makes a meek first impression and feels like an ‘S’ update to the Canvas HD. It could have been so much more, but as it stands, it is grossly overpriced for what it brings to the table. The aluminium mid-housing is good to look at, but it makes the rest of the plastic chassis look inferior. The performance should improve with further software optimisation.
Sure, Micromax has a standing in the low-cost Indian smartphone market, but perhaps the company is giving its position too much credit, and this could come back to hurt Micromax. The Lava Iris 504Q has very similar specifications and is priced a good Rs 4,000 less than the Canvas 4’s Rs 17,999 tag. Will the market respond to the software gimmicks? Are they even gimmicks in the first place? Look forward to our full review to find out.