The Quick Verdict
Great streaming and downloading of millions of music tracks for free – some of which are difficult to find elsewhere makes the SOLO S350 the best value for music services on any budget device that I have ever owned or reviewed. And there is access to video too. Physically, it is a budget phone that is so well built that you actually like using it. If music and video are your thing, you should consider getting the S350. It lives up to the promise of its manufacturers.
Here is an outline of its strengths and weaknesses:
– Good design and good feel for a budget phone
– Streaming and downloading of 20 million local and international music tracks
– very good bundled audio headset
– Display washes outdoors
– Battery life needs improving
You can stop here if all you wanted was a quick review. From here on, I delve into the details of the music experience on the SOLO S350.
Music and Video
Above is a screenshot of the desktop of the S350 showing the custom SOLO Music widget. SOLO says that anyone can put Android in a phone and sell, but their own focus is on delivering the best music experience on mobile, and so I shall focus on that. As far as everything else on the S350 is concerned, you are looking at pure Android. In look and performance, the S350 is exactly what you will expect from an Android smartphone of its class, minus SOLO’s Music service baked in. Does it deliver?
First, bundled in the box is a 3.5mm audio headset that delivers the best audio I have experienced in a phone of this class. Usually, the earpieces of competing products are bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Not this one. It has comfortable rubbery buds, which is a plus, and also delivers very good audio. For a phone in this price range, kudos!
SOLO Music is the music streaming service that claims to have 20 million tracks from both local and international artistes. I was able to find music by Sir Victor Uwaifo, King Sunny Ade, Barry White, BackStreet Boys, Tuface Idibia, and many more. I couldn’t find any tracks by ElDee. Of course, there is no way I can verify every artiste or every track, but my time with the phone so far shows that the library is indeed huge.
SOLO Music player lets you repeat an album or a single track. You can favourite tracks, add to playlists, and skip. The option to download tracks for offline playback is there. Because DRM is implemented, the tracks are available offline for a maximum of two weeks, and the user is unable to copy them off the phone. Of course, you can keep streaming a downloaded tune after the period. And you can download again. The option for downloads to happen over Wi-Fi alone, or also a 3G service is there. SOLO Music really feels well thought out. The user interface is quite neat.
There is a Social Mode to let you scrobble on your Facebook timeline when your account is connected.
As said earlier, everything else is stock Android, meaning access to hundreds of thousands of apps in the Play Store, and Google’s services. And this is Android 4.1.2 jelly Bean. Yup. I had no issues with those at all. Setting up my favourite 3rd party apps was without issues.
After setting up BBM, it worked for a while then stopped working. The app loaded, but no status updates or messages went through. At first, I thought the problem was the phone, but an app update showed up for BBM shortly after, and after running it, it worked happily ever after.
Sunlight legibility is poor, but that is standard fare in this price range and should probably not count against it. Lastly, and also a norm at this price range, battery life is not very good. With two SIMs active, and one of them pegged on 3G, two email accounts set up and running, Twitter, Facebook, BBM and hotspot in regular use, the phone runs down in about four hours.
SOLO View is a video streaming service that is not quite ready for prime time yet, but the app is already baked into the S350 though. SOLO says they have deals with Universal, Warner and Disney already. IROKO too. That sounds like a lot of movies on the way. S350 users will be good to go when it kicks off. I am looking forward to reviewing it when it is ready.
There is no other Android smartphone in this class or price range that gives you unlimited access to 20 million songs for free. That alone sets the S350 apart from the crowd, and music lovers should have no problem looking in this direction. The music service apart, this is good hardware too. Plus, 500MB of mobile internet monthly from Airtel for 12 months. Video streaming is on the way too. And all for about N18,500 only. There is very little to dislike about the S350. In its class, it shines like a super star.
Mo In-class Rating: 9.1/10.
Interested in specs? Have a look!
Dimension: 117x61x10.95 mm
Chipset: MSM7225A @1.0GHz, DSDS
OS/UI: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
Display: 3.5″ HVGA
Memory: 4GB eMMC ROM + 512MB RAM
Camera: 3MP Camera
Bundled: 8GB SD card, premium headset & case included.
Battery: 1400 mAh
– 3.5mm audio jack
– Micro USB
– Micro SD card slot
– GPS/AGPS G-sensor, Proximity and Light sensor
– Airtel SIM pack with 500MB internet for 12 months