With all the super thin, high speed, large screened smartphones around, one often forgets that not everyone can afford the price tag that is associated with flagship phones and there is a market for lower cost smartphone alternatives. Aside from the usual suspects like Samsung and HTC’s offerings, one can also go the “locally” produced way, with companies like CSL and i-Mobile to choose from.
We got in the iMobile i693 recently and have been putting it through its paces as a “locally made” (parenthesis because i-Mobile is actually a Thai company) alternative to something like the Samsung Galaxy Y which is one of the leaders in that segment. Find out how the i693 fared after the jump!
Review continues after the jump!
Exterior And First Impressions
When I picked up the i693, I wanted to be a little more lenient than usual as unlike the smartphones I was used to reviewing, this one had a very low price point in comparison. While I did not expect to get nothing for my money, I wasn’t expecting Galaxy Nexus build quality.
The i693 in itself is very plasticky, but not at all flimsy. With the thickness and weight behind it, it will be very hard to be flimsy. While the i693 is a little on the thick side, the curved back sits decently well in your hand and the button placement – something other manufacturers falter on – can’t be faulted. The only peculiar thing was the 3.5mm jack which appeared to be off centre and eating into the rear top panel.
The screen is in all honesty, nothing special. A 3.2inch TFT HVGA display (resolution of 480×800), it is neither bright nor super sharp but again we will let that slide this time. What we found a little disconcerting was the presence of 4 tactile buttons instead of the usual 3, indicating a lower native Android OS version as well as a mysterious hold on the left side, which maybe like a Cindy Crawford beauty mark was meant for aesthetic purposes or maybe an afterthought for the microphone, who knows?
The i693 does however come with a cover, screen protector application kit standard headset and charger. For those who are still want to reminisce about the old school, the i693 also comes with a pretty thick manual, albeit half of it is in Thai.
Booting the i693 up, you are instantly dismayed by the fact that instead of having a more modern Android OS, the i693 has Android 2.2 Froyo installed as the 4 tactile buttons indicate. On top of that, by default the widgets that are on by default seem to be focused on the Thailand market, the Com Bar which is some sort of entertainment thing, Gold and Oil price widget as well as a weather widget that doesn’t quite work in Malaysia.
The i693 sports a 600MHz processor which unlike some phones is pretty evident when you are performing tasks like scrolling through screens and launching applications. After using Gingerbread, Froyo on a 600MHz processor is simply a few steps too many backward to let slide.
The 5MP rear camera was nothing to write home about, image quality was bearable and very reminiscent of smartphones past. Battery wise, the i693 has a 1200mAh battery which lasts pretty much nearly a whole day.
I’m all for low cost smartphones that bring the Android OS experience to the masses, but in all honesty, the i963 wasn’t one I could safely recommend. Firstly at an asking price of RM638, the i-Mobile i963 is definitely not the most bang for your buck. At the same price or even slightly more you can get other phones that put the i693 to shame both specs wise and build wise. Also, the phone is clearly meant for the Thailand market as evidenced by the widgets and even manual in Thai and I don’t know about you, but I would prefer my phone to just work where I’m using it.
While you can’t fault the i693 much for the design as if released maybe a year and a bit ago it may have stood a chance, but as it is lets call a spade a spade and say that i-Mobile have released a phone from 2008-2009 in 2011-2012. I don’t see any compelling reason to get this phone over what’s available on the market, even with the price point, unless of course, you’re Thai and want to support your country.
EDIT: The pricing for the i693 has been revised to keep it “more competitive” to RM468. This still doesn’t change our opinion about the phone as there are STILL better alternatives at that price point or a few hundred more, but at least if you are looking to get it anyway, you’ll save a few hundred bucks.