Domestic manufacturer Micromax was one of the top smartphone vendors in the first half of 2016. An IDC study for Q2 2016 pegged Micromax as the second highest ranked smartphone vendor, following only Samsung. However, the industry has seen massive changes since then, and Chinese brands had taken over by the end of the year. As per the latest numbers, no domestic manufacturer is even in the top five.
Micromax is responding with the launch of a new smartphone series called Dual, and the first model to launch is called the Dual 5. On paper, the Micromax Dual 5 packs a lot of punch in terms of specifications as well as some software enhancements. The company also claims that the Dual 5 sports the best camera in its segment.
Micromax plans to use this new series to achieve a 10 percent market share in the premium smartphone category (phones above Rs. 20,000), but the road ahead won't be easy. Will this new phone be able to take on some of the biggest names in the market? We try to find out in our review.
The Micromax Dual 5 has an all-metal body with chamfered edges, and it feels solid right away when you hold the device in your hand. 2.5D curved-edge glass on the front adds to the overall appeal and makes this device feel premium. This phone looks familiar from the rear, with antenna bands running across the top and bottom. You can also find the two cameras, dual-tone LED flash, and fingerprint scanner at the back, all arranged in a symmetrical column down the middle. A Micromax logo can be seen lower down, and we quite like this minimal branding, as the phone looks neat without multiple logos. The curved edges offer good grip and also help the phone fit comfortably in your palms. Micromax calls it an "Arc design."
The power and volume buttons are on the right, and there's a customisable "smart key" on the left. The hybrid dual-SIM tray is also located on the left. There is a 3.5mm audio socket and an infrared emitter for controlling electronic appliances on the top. The bottom packs a USB Type-C port and speaker grille. The Dual 5 has capacitive buttons for Android navigation right below the display. They aren't backlit, which is a problem for a phone at this price.
Despite featuring a 5.5-inch display, the Micromax Dual 5 was manageable in terms of holding and using with just one hand, though our recommendation would be to use it with both hands because the metallic back panel can be a little slippery. Considering its screen size, the Dual 5 is light in weight at 164 grams.
In our opinion, the Dual 5 is one of the best-looking smartphones that Micromax has ever launched. It definitely looks appealing compared to other phones in its price segment.
The Dual 5 is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor, which has four Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 1.8GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.4GHz. There's 4GB of RAM and a massive 128GB of storage, which is one of main highlights of this device as there aren't many options in this price segment with that much in-built storage. Xiaomi Mi Max Prime is another handset with 128GB storage and Snapdragon 652 processor, but these are the only things common with the Dual 5.
It also features a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080x1920 pixels) Super Amoled display with 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Micromax says that this screen can reproduce 100 percent of the NTSC colour gamut. Additionally, the Dual 5 supports storage expansion using a microSD card (up to 128GB) if you forego a second SIM. Connectivity options include 4G with VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.1. The phone also has an accelerometer, ambient light sensor, gyroscope, infrared sensor, and proximity sensor. It packs a 3200mAh battery and supports Quick Charge 3.0, which the company claims enables the smartphone to be charged to 95 percent in just 45 minutes, a claim we will put to test.
This phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with the company's own UI on top. Micromax has developed a new UI which is likely to be seen on more devices in the future. The new interface doesn't have an app drawer which means all the apps are placed on the home screen. App icons, quick setting toggles, and the Settings app have received a complete makeover. The new skin packs a lot of animations, and we especially liked the look of the preinstalled Speedup memory management app. You can set "smart key" to launch any app without having to unlock the phone first.
There's a Themes app that lets users select from six default themes as well as choose wallpapers, ringtones, and fonts. Unfortunately, there is no way to add more themes at the moment, but we hope that this will change in the future. There's also a separate Wallpaper app that lets you change the wallpaper just by tapping on the app icon, which can be amusing. A Freezer app lets users drag and drop apps that are not used often, which might help make the phone run faster.
Users can set up the Anti-theft app by linking a Google account to the phone. You should then be able to track the device if it gets lost. We were impressed with Micromax's new SafeSwitch feature which is meant to prevent loss of data upon theft. At the launch of the Dual 5, the company explained that the phone's physical buttons will automatically lock if its SIM card is pulled out, and the only way to disable that is by entering a password within 30 seconds. This will prevent the phone from being turned off, and thus could help users track the phone. Further, if no password is entered within 60 minutes of the SIM being pulled out, the phone can be wiped clean of personal data. Additionally, if someone attempts to unlock your phone, a photo of them can be taken and sent to an account of your choice.
Micromax says that the Dual 5 has an independent security chip for storing passwords and fingerprints, and uses EAL 5+ military-grade security. The Dual 5 also has a feature called SecureVault which is a second space that you can unlock with a different fingerprint. Information stored in this space is not accessible unless you unlock it. The feature worked as expected when we tried it. There are also apps called 360 Security and 360 Clone for even more security. An app called Heat Source lets you identify apps running in the background which might be causing the phone to get hot. and causing heat.
As you can see, there are lots of preinstalled apps on this phone, but thankfully, quite a few of them are removable. We also wish that this phone shipped with the Android Nougat, which is becoming more common across price segments.
The Micromax Dual 5 gets its name from its defining feature - dual 13-megapixel cameras at the back. Both the cameras capture photos simultaneously, and then the phone's software processes their output into a single image. The two sensors are used to capture focus and depth-of-field information. Both cameras have f/1.8 apertures, and support phase detection autofocus (PDAF). You can achieve a bokeh effect, a feature that has lately been seen on a lot of phones.
The camera app is set to dual-sensor mode by default, though you can change this manually. The biggest strengths of the Dual 5's cameras are colour reproduction, details, and sharpness. In well-lit conditions, the phone managed to take great photos, especially close-up shots. We were impressed with Micromax Dual 5's ability to focus quickly, but it takes a long time to process images, which might irritate users. We were surprised that the camera took the same amount of time in regular mode as it took in dual mode. We hope that Micromax can improve this time with future software updates.
Low-light shots on the Dual 5 varied depending on the source of light around. Some shots were impressive, but areas in the dark tended to be lost. We found a lot of noise in low-light samples taken with the Dual 5, although textures and colours were somewhat preserved. Shots looked great on the phone's display but the noise was evident when seen on larger screens.
The Dual 5 also has a 13-megapixel front camera with an f/2.0 aperture. The app has a SmartBeauty mode to enhance selfies. We found that the Dual 5 can take some decent selfies with good colour reproduction and details in the daylight, but ones taken at night don't have the same quality.
The phone's camera app offers plenty of modes and tweaks. The Pro mode lets you adjust White Balance, ISO, focus, as well as shutter speed manually. The Macro mode is for close-up photography. The camera supports 4K video recording as well as slow-motion, GIF, and time lapse videos. There are also a few filters to choose from.
Micromax Dual 5 battery life and performance
The Dual 5 impressed us with its general performance, and we did not face any lags or stutters when multitasking. It could play HD video files without any trouble. We were also impressed with the sound from the speaker, which didn't get distorted at higher volumes and was good enough to fill a room. We didn't receive a retail box with our review sample, so we can't comment on the bundled earphones. However, the sound quality through our own earphones was decent as well.
Call quality on the Micromax Dual 5 is excellent, and it supports VoLTE (voice over LTE). Micromax states that the Dual 5 is equipped with stereoscopic antennas which enhance signal reception by up to 3X. During our review, we found that it was able to latch on to cellular networks in areas with weak signals. The Super AMOLED panel is bright and sharp. Colours were vibrant and touch sensitivity was also excellent. The viewing angles were decent, and it did relatively well outdoors. The fingerprint scanner is also pretty quick.
The Dual 5 returned some impressive benchmark scores which are at par with other phones in the same price segment. It produced scores of 80,610 in AnTuTu and 35,845 in Quadrant, as well as 33fps in GFXBench and 10,504 in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme.
During our review, we noticed that the Dual 5 got warm when stressed with benchmark apps or when we used the camera app for a long duration. The phone also got warm while navigating using Google Maps with GPS turned on. Graphics-intensive games such as Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 8, and Super Mario Run also led the Dual 5 to get slightly warm at the back. This wasn't a huge issue, but it was noticeable.
With heavy usage, the Dual 5 easily managed to last a full day and we had no complaints about the battery. In our HD video loop test, the Dual 5 ran for 10 hours and 50 minutes, which is good, but we have seen better from other phones with similar battery capacities. We found that a 20 minute charge took the phone up from zero to around 40 percent, and it was fully charged in less than an hour.
The Micromax Dual 5 managed to surprise us with its overall performance. It lives up to its promise of high-quality photos with its dual rear cameras, which is its USP. The company offers a one-year free replacement warranty, which is a segment first. Beyond this offer, Micromax also claims that it has made improvements to its after sales service network, and turnover time in metro cities is now one business day.
The Dual 5's price and specifications seem to have been calibrated to make it compete directly with phones such as the Vivo V5 Plus (Review), Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017), and Asus ZenFone 3 (Review) - all of which are priced at around the same level. The Dual 5 can also be seen as an alternative to the Honor 8 (Review) which is more expensive. If you're willing to spend a bit more, the OnePlus 3T (Review) starts at Rs. 29,999 and offers a better overall package.