Well now, it has been quite a while since I reviewed a mobile. Last I remember was when I was in an editorial team. Haha. Anyway, just got my hands on this new Android smartphone by S-CSL called the Switch Mars Mi450, which has Dual SIM Dual Standby capabilities. Here are the specs of the mobile for your understanding before I go on with my review. In a nutshell, this phone is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 1.2GHz Dual Core, and comes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
Unboxing the phone
Nope, I am not going to put the oh-so-common unboxing of the phone, however, do check out the gallery below to see what is in the box. Other than the usual charger, earphones and the phone itself, you would find 2 free custom sized screen protector and an executive leather pouch (which seems to have disappeared from my review unit. *sobs*).
You would also find a 31 paged detailed manual in two languages – English and Mandarin. In addition, there is a coupon which gives you a serial number to get free 20 minutes VoIP calls using their app called S-unno. For more information regarding S-unno, visit www.s-unno.com. Basically, S-unno is a service which gives you free calls and messages using their app downloadable in Play Store.
In terms of looks, the Mars Mi450 looks sleek and in its simplicity, it exudes class. With a basic all black front and a matte back finishing, the phone has enough curves to look sexy, yet not too much to make it over-feminine. With the matte back, you have a better grip on the phone to avoid having it slip out of your hands while taking it out from the pocket or bag.
Due to the lack of a tactile home button, the phone looks like a piece of black glass. Sometimes it is hard to tell which is the right side up at a glance making me having to turn it around whenever I tried answering calls the wrong way up. Haha.
The phone fits in my hand quite well, and if you look at my news update of their launch, the Switch Mars is smaller than its older brother Switch Mercury. I could hold the Mars set easily on one hand whereas for the Mercury, it took me a little getting used to.
In terms of weight, the Switch Mars weighs 155 grams, which isn’t too heavy or light – more on the average side. However, despite it being not overtly heavy, this is one solid phone.
The power button for the Mars is located at the top right corner of the phone while the volume button is on the right side. There are only 2 tactile buttons on this phone since the other buttons like the Home button are soft keys. I think having the power button at the top is great since it stops you from pressing it by accident when it is on the side. By pressing the power button, you put the phone on standby/sleep mode. By holding it down, you are able to switch it off, put it to flight mode or restart the phone. However, when your phone is on sleep mode (meaning the screen is off), you need to press the power button in order to light up your screen to unlock it and use. The volume button at the side does not do that.
I really miss a tactile home button. Maybe it’s cause I’m really used to having all my smartphones with a physical Home button. I suppose it is just a matter of getting used to.
The major advantage of the Switch Mars Mi450 is the dual SIM dual standby capability. Basically you can put in two different SIM cards in the phone and you can choose which line to use to call or send messages to. I remember the time when there were phones which allowed dual SIM, but not dual standby which means I had to manually change SIMs in the settings before I can use it. It was like having 2 phones in 1. This is also the same sort of concept of having 2 phones in 1, however, you are able to receive calls from both SIMs or use any of the lines without having to change the settings.
If you check out my gallery below, you can see that even with the call logs, you can check which calls are made or received from either one of your SIMs, or view them collated.
What happens if you’re using one line while someone else calls the other? I tested that and the second caller will get either an engaged tone or go straight to your voicemail. Unfortunately, there isn’t call waiting between SIMs, however, I think that is asking for too much. Haha.
Between one call and the next from 2 different SIMs, there is not lag. Just after you finish a call with SIM 1, you can immediately receive a call from SIM 2. The dual SIM standby is really good at handling the switching between both SIMs with no freezing issues.
As for SMS, you can just type your SMS on one screen and just choose either to send using Line 1 or Line 2 by clicking on a button. It’s really that simple!
The Switch Mars Mi450 comes with 5.0 MP back camera with LED flash, while the front camera is a mere 0.3MP camera. For this segment of phone, this is considered pretty reasonable. However, if you are expecting your camera to be like those of a regular compact camera, I’m sorry to say, your expectations is way too high.
In general, the Mars back camera shoots pretty well in bright lighting or outdoors, whereas for indoor shots, your hand has to be pretty steady to get a really clear sharp shot. I have tried a few times to shoot in the super dim lighting of my room, and only a few came out alright. It took me a few tries to get a clear shot, so I’m guessing I have way too shaky hands. (-_-;)
The camera function also has 3 different screen modes – Auto, Night and Action. Not too bad. You are also able to record videos on both front and back camera, and guess what? You can also take panorama photos without having to download an app for it.
The video capability is pretty good; it is able to clearly pick up audio although the mic and speaker is at the back of the phone. Check out this (very) short video I took using the front camera. (Yes, I know I am not really that good with video recordings…. *sighs*)
In a nutshell, the camera for Switch Mars Mi450 is reasonably good and can be used to capture moments when you don’t have an actual camera with you. However, I think I would prefer if the front camera was slightly better as it would help in camwhoring sessions with friends. I realize that most people use the front camera more than the back these days. Can’t decide whether it is a good trend or not. Haha.
Data Storage & Sync
Data is the most important thing in any gadget, and even more so for a mobile. In order to give your Mars more storage, you can always put in a MicroSD which makes a lot of difference in saving your data. Since the phone has built in 512MB RAM and 4GB ROM, adding additional space is quite vital to avoid your phone running out of storage and slowing down your phone speed.
In order to sync your data, you just need to remove the cable from your charger and plug it into your computer. You can choose to connect as a Media Device (MTP) or Camera (PTP). It is really easy and doesn’t need additional apps or such to sync your photos and data.
Application & Interface
Since the Mars Mi450 is using Android, the interface is generally the same as many others. The interface is simple and the icons are generic to enable easy identification on its usage. As I mentioned earlier, this phone does not have a Home tactile button. The Home button is a soft key button next to a Options button, Back button and lastly, a Search button. In order to kill all your background tasks/applications, you just need to hold down the Home button and then remove all tasks.
The Apps button is placed right in the centre of the quick access row right at the bottom of the screen. You can replace 4 out of the 5 buttons there as the App list button is right in the centre and cannot be moved elsewhere. From the App list menu, you can also access your Play Store from the top right corner which makes it easier than looking for it by browsing through the entire list of apps. You also save a space on your page interface that way.
When it comes to sliding from page to page on the screen, the touch sensor is not as sensitive as many of the high end smartphones. However, the lag is barely noticeable and does not impend on your usage.
Just like most Android based phones, my favourite is the drop down menu from the top where you can access settings as well as quick access to things such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Sound and many others. You also get updates and notifications there so access is much easier.
S-CSL Switch Mars Mi 450