By: Nilabh Jha, The Mobile Indian, New Delhi
Last updated : Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 17:50
With the latest in the Champ series Samsung has tried to offer dual SIM function, email chat capability and a better speaker. But how is the overall experience?
Very light weight
Good user interface
Battery life, build quality and sound output
Slippery to hold
Samsung Champ series of tiny full touch phones have been around in the market for the past couple of years, and they have been successful too, thanks to their pocketable design, decent music capability and easy touch interface. However, there is always room for improvement and especially in the mobile handset market, which moves very fast it is all the more important to bring new features to remain competitive. With Champ Neo Duos Samsung has tried to stay relevant and has added certain new features. The phone now includes push mail capability, Samsung ChatOn messenger, new dual SIM management and better speakers, apart from other changes.
So, do these changes make it a worthy phone to continue getting buyers' attention? Let's find out.
The phone is 8 grams lighter than the original Champ, at a mere 82 grams, and is one of the smallest handsets in the market right now. Like everything else, though, the small size has its limitations and here it results in a very small 2.4 inch touchscreen interface. While the SIM and SDcard are hot swappable you have to open the back cover to access them, and to reach the primary SIM you have to remove the battery as well. In terms of physical buttons, there are three below the screen with one for accepting calls, one for killing calls, and a back button; on the right side there is a lock button and on the left is a volume rocker. We found no issues in the placement of buttons, although the small size of the phone and a very slippery shiny back cover make the device slightly slippery in the hand while pressing the buttons below the screen, so we recommend caution with that.
The two ports for 3.5 mm jack and USB are placed on top of the phone. There is also a stylus with the phone, which gets a slot on the top. The stereo speakers are placed one above the screen and the other below the three buttons, but unlike the last model the speaker grill is bigger this time. The camera is placed on the top centre of the back panel and is surrounded by chrome. Overall, the phone looks decent and is indeed very pocketable.
The display is a bit too small for a full touch device and uses resistive touch technology, which means that you will have to press to get the touch registered. That said, the screen's touch is ok and at least consistent, which means that if you own the device you will very quickly get used to how the touch operates and will have no issues with it. However, there is a big issue with the screen and that is to do with the user interface design of the operating system. The screen being resistive touch has low sensitivity around the corners and this causes problems when you want to pull down the notification bar on the top. To do so you have to either use your nails or use the stylus that comes with the phone. The display supports 320 x 240 pixel resolution, which though not high by any standard is just ok for a screen this size.
Colour and sharpness are all acceptable, but don't expect very clear details.
Samsung has used a proprietary operating system with this phone, which is based on the popular Star series. The interface is very logical and easy to understand and is well designed for this size of touchscreen. As was said earlier, the small screen has its set of issues and that comes out when you type on this screen. You do not get a qwerty keypad and will have to manage with a multitap keypad. There is another issue with the user interface with regard to the notification bar that I talked about in the previous segment, which stems from the use of resistive screen, making pulling down the bar difficult without nails or the stylus.
SIM management has also been made easy and now one can save profiles of up to five SIM cards for a single slot and use these SIM cards interchangeably. Two SIM cards can remain active all the time (which Samsung feature phones did not allow earlier,) and can be used to access the GPRS network. Samsung has also included its new ChatOn messenger client, and is offering a push mail client with this phone. You also get Facebook and Twitter apps, plus you have the option of downloading apps from Samsung's app store. In terms of games you get only two and that too trial versions; while you have to pay to get the full version. However, game play for simple games like Bejeweled works smoothly. Samsung has also added more Indian languages to the phone with support for eight Indian languages and English.
The bigger stereo speakers of the phone really make it louder and the output is better, though it is not the loudest. The headphone provided is also of decent quality. Samsung has even included 5.1 surround sound capability to the phone. The FM radio and music app is also easy to use, though in terms of customisation it doesn't offer much. The phone plays videos as well. The camera is a step back with just VGA capability instead of the 1.3 megapixel unit in the Champ.
And though it works well, the camera is not of much use; you can barely use the image to upload on Facebook.
Champ Neo Duos is a feature phone, so we never expected it to play graphic intensive games. However, the two trial games worked without a hitch and even with normal day to day use the phone did not hang or slow down. The battery life is good and should easily serve for 2-3 days depending on usage.
There were no issues with the network or FM reception.
These days not many feature phones are launched, with the entire focus shifting towards the smartphone segment, but feature phones still account for more than 70 per cent of the Indian market and therefore remain important for manufacturers. With this refresh, Samsung has done a good job, especially with SIM management and some of the refreshed apps. However, at Rs 3,000 the phone doesn't offer huge value for money the way it did earlier, with Android phones from Indian brands narrowing down the price difference between this phone and the smartphone to less than Rs 1,000.
Samsung should have looked at a capacitive touchscreen and such a small screen would not have made much difference to the price. The other problem is its VGA camera, which is not acceptable resolution for a back camera anymore. On the other hand, if you are using multiple devices like a laptop, tablet etc, this might be a good phone to buy as it is very light, offers good build quality and stable performance, and is not very expensive.