One of the most remarkable trends in the mobile industry over the past year has been the rise of the budget Android smartphones. A person looking for a dual-SIM phone today has literally an ocean of options to choose from.
The budget segment of the Indian smartphone market has seen a slew of new releases of late, with a number of players like Micromax, Karbonn, Spice, Xolo, LG and Samsung among others. Nokia also makes it to the list with its range of popular and affordable Windows Phone 8 devices, such as the Lumia 520 and Lumia 720.
Spice’s latest hat throw into the budget smartphone ring, Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X, supposedly delivers an high-end experience for less than Rs. 7,000. But how well does it fare in reality? We find out, in our review.
The Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X has relatively standard smartphone looks. It is far from an ultra-slim smartphone and despite being primarily made of plastic, it is on the heavier side. The Smart Flo Mettle 5X weighs 190 grams, which is definitely not lightweight – when one holds the device for longer periods, it does feel a bit bulky.
On the first look, the design of the Smart Flo Mettle 5X seems to be reminiscent of Nokia’s dated E-series phones, especially the rear panel. The Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s rear panel is removable and includes a metal part in the middle, which is covered with rich plastic, better than the material used on the front panel.
On the other hand, the front panel of Smart Flo Mettle 5X is like any other budget Android smartphone, with the rounded edges making the smartphone fairly comfortable to hold with one hand, considering the screen size, but hard to work with just the thumb, of course.
The front of the Smart Flo Mettle 5X is dominated by the 5-inch display with three capacitive keys lined up below the screen for settings, home and back. However, the buttons are not always backlit, and go off after a while, which we felt was odd. We initially struggled to locate the three buttons below the display for use when it turned off, in situations where there was no light in the room.
In addition, the Smart Flo Mettle 5X also features a notification red light below the three soft touch keys, which lights up when there is a missed call, message, and email. It’s worth pointing out that the red notification light is very much visible.
The Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s back panel houses an 8-megapixel camera along with a LED flash and the speaker grill is located at the bottom left of the rear panel. There’s Spice branding visible on the back of the phone.
The budget phablet comes with dimensions of 148.5×78.9×10.4mm. The Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X phone only comes in White. There is a Micro-USB port accompanied by a 3.5mm audio headphone port on the top of the device. The power key is located on the right side and the volume rocker key on the left side of the Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X.
As with most budget Android devices, there is no dedicated camera button on the Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X either. As of now, almost all Android handset manufacturers do not include a dedicated camera key, except Sony.
The phone has a removable back cover and opening it reveals the battery compartment with dual-SIM card slot and a microSD card slot. The dual-SIM cards are not hot-swappable because they are placed adjacent to the Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s battery, while the microSD card can be removed without switching off the device.
Overall, we found the Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X to be a reasonably good looking device, although we wish it had been a bit lighter and would have had a textured back. The glossy metal back panel on the Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X, like that of the Pinnacle FHD, tends to slip out of hand, when we used the device for prolonged period.
The Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X comes with a 5-inch display that has a resolution of 480×854 pixels (FWVGA), which is very much a budget affair. The pixel density stands at 233ppi, which is not too bad for an affordable device. Considering the price at which the Smart Flo Mettle 5X comes, it offers decent value, while it’s no surprise that the smartphone’s visuals are not as sharp as high-end devices.
The major issue on the display front was the Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s rather dull output – we used the smartphone with brightness set at full, and were left unsatisfied. The screen is also extremely reflective. Trying to use the Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X on a sunny day can prove to be annoying, with brightness set on auto or even full.
Colour reproduction and viewing angles of the Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s display are not great. We also observed that the display of the Smart Flo Mettle 5X picked up smudges easily and is also a fingerprint magnet; we had a tough time getting rid of them.
During our review period, we noticed slight distortion along the edges of the Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s display while watching videos or even viewing images. Thankfully, we found the touch response of the screen to be decent.
The Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X sports an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera and also includes a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.
Keeping in mind that the Smart Flo Mettle 5X is a sub Rs. 10,000 device, we found its camera performance to be par for the segment. The 8-megapixel rear camera takes images with some digital noise, and there is also a loss of detail, even in well-lit conditions. The images clicked by Smart Flo Mettle 5X are good enough for uploading to social networks like Facebook, Twitter etc, but not for much else.
In low-light conditions, images lost their sharpness. This is where the LED flash comes into play, and does manage to fulfil its intended purpose, lighting the scene evenly. The Smart Flo Mettle 5X can record VGA videos (640×480 pixels) too, but the quality is nothing great, with visible noise, and some stuttering.
The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera on the Smart Flo Mettle 5X comes in handy for selfies though the quality is nothing to be write home about.
The Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s camera app comes with a number of shooting modes, including auto, HDR, Panorama, smile shot, landscape and face-detection. The camera app of Smart Flo Mettle 5X also allows users to adjust sharpness, saturation, hue, ISO, and brightness settings.
The Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out-of-the-box. However, we must point out that the smartphone runs a highly-tweaked version of Android Jelly Bean. Spice seems to have taken the benchmark for other domestic handset makers a step further with its attempt.
In fact, when we first switched on the Smart Flo Mettle 5X, we were not sure if the device was even running Android. If we could remove the Google services and the Play Store app, the Smart Flo Mettle 5X would look like it was running a different operating system, similar to Xiaomi’s MiUi interface, which is based on Android. Starting from unlocking the device to searching for apps, the Smart Flo Mettle 5X has a complete makeover.
The Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s lockscreen has four panes, one includes the music player controls; second includes weather updates of the current city; third is the main screen which, if slid upwards unlocks the device, and the last houses the camera app launcher.
However, one can get rid of the default Spice lockscreen by opting for Android’s original lockscreen, from which users can slide from left to right for unlocking the device, while sliding right to left launches the camera app.
The Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s OS doesn’t offer the traditional Android home screen – app launcher structure, but in its place, it offers a little similar to the iPhone’s and Gionee Elife E7’s layout – the Smart Flo Mettle 5X’s homescreen is also the app launcher.
We assume for users switching to the Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X from another Android phone, the arrangement would be a little unsettling for the initial period, but otherwise it might not be much of a problem.
The Smart Flo Mettle 5X can have up to nine homescreen panels, which can be populated with app icons. Notably, the Smart Flo Mettle 5X doesn’t support widgets. Thankfully, the weather and time widgets are accessible from the lockscreen.
The notification tray on the Smart Flo Mettle 5X features a settings shortcut, a clear all notifications button, along with expandable notifications (expanded with the two finger pull gesture). It features the same setting toggle shortcuts that are found in stock Android for quick access to airplane mode, battery status, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data connection, data usage, audio profiles, brightness, screen backlight timeout, and auto rotation.
The Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X also offers different set colour accent themes that can change the look of the menu lists and some other elements. The phone also features ‘smart motion’ gesture controls, such as the option of ‘flip to mute’ incoming calls.
Spice Smart Flo Mettle 5X in pictures
Price: Rs. 6,499
Battery performance impressive
No 3G support
Ratings (Out of 5)
Battery Life: 3.5
Value for Money: 3