Nigerian mobile brand, SOLO Phone, launched the S400 as an upgrade to the SOLO S350, its entry level offering launched last year. The question is, how significant an upgrade is the S400? The key improvements include:
- newer OS version: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
- more capable processor: Dual Core 1.0GHz
- bigger display: 4 inches
- slightly bigger capacity battery: 1500 mAh
Will these prove to be adequate in everyday use? Come along to find out.
The S400’s body is made of plastic and it has a 4-inch display. Of course, at this price point, there is no Gorilla Glass or similar protection. Also expectedly, sunlight legibility is poor. However, nobody will mark down a device for that at this price point. I like the design of the budget phone. It reminds me of HTC’s style.
The SOLO brand’s unique selling point – FREE unlimited access to over 20 million local and international songs out of the box – is still here. SOLO says that anyone can make and sell hardware, but that their focus is on delivering the best music experience on mobile. The S400, and indeed all SOLO phones, are built on that premise – and the services in focus are music and movies. We shall examine those first.
SOLO Music requires signup and login. I had forgotten my password and couldn’t find a way to reset my password. The login screen has no password reset link. SOLO needs to fix that.
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 feels well thought out, and it is my opinion that the user interface is quite neat.
SOLO Music has an extensive catalogue of tracks from both local and international artistes. We are talking about music from way back in the 70s to the present, including those you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. It is an amazing experience.
SOLO View requires a SOLO hotspot connection. Without a connection, you can only access movies you have previously downloaded to your device. SOLO says they have deals with Universal, Warner, Disney and IROKO. That sounds like a lot of movies.
The 3.2 megapixel camera is standard fare and won’t be winning any awards. However, it is okay in its class.
Audio quality over loudspeakers and headsets is average, which is the norm at the budget level. Video playback works fine, but has limited codec support beyond the standard fare.
With a removable battery of 1500 mAh capacity, battery life is far from stellar. Heavy users need to be prepared to carry a power bank along with it. They will need to plug in at least thrice a day. Moderately light users may get by with charging twice daily.
In terms of performance, the S400 is no different from the average budget Android smartphone. Performance is not superb, but Android has improved from what it used to be and it is no longer as bad as it used to be at the low end. There are lags here and there as is normal at this price point, but they are not horrible lags. The greatest hit is felt in terms of multi-tasking. With 512MB of RAM, apps close in the background all the time, though they resume when you return to them.
Here are results from our regular benchmark tests:
– Quadrant: 3,403
– AnTuTu: 11,061
The S400 is an incremental upgrade to the S350. The improvements are good. I only wish that the S400 had been given a little extra RAM – perhaps 768 MB. Still, it is an improvement in several ways.
Factor in SOLO View’s unlimited access to 20 million songs for free, and the value proposition is even richer – especially for music lovers. SOLO View is a strong differentiating factor from the motley crowd of cheap entry level Android smartphones that litter the market space. If music floats your boat and you are out shopping for a budget smartphone, you should consider this device. The SOLO S400 costs only N13,000 in the market nationwide.