The sub-Rs.10,000 smartphones segment in India has seen a lot of action in the past few months. Within the sub 10,000 segment, there are handsets that cost less than Rs. 6,000 generally targeted at buyers who wish to purchase a no-frills, basic handset and are mostly first-time smartphone buyers. Traditionally, this space has been dominated by Indian players like Micromax, Intex, Lava and Karbonn. However, with the launch of the Redmi 4 and the Redmi 4A series last year and the Redmi 5A this year, competition is intensifying in this segment as well. In today’s review, we take a close look at a relatively new player in this segment; Aqua Mobiles. As you might have guessed, Aqua Mobiles makes its products in China and sells them here through its Indian partner Northern Lights Solutions LLP. I used the Aqua Jazz S1 as my primary smartphone for a little over two weeks before penning down my thoughts in this review.
Aqua Jazz S1: Design, display
The Aqua Jazz S1 is a very unassuming phone to look at. Our review unit came in black colour, and it is one of the two colour options that the handset comes in. The first thing that I noticed upon unboxing the handset was the fact that it came with a removable battery. The overall design language is very conservative and does not deviate from the “standard” budget Android phone look. The company has done well to mask the fact that this is not a unibody design. The body of the Aqua Jazz S1 is primary made of plastic. The front fascia is dominated by the large 5-inch display. This is an IPS LCD panel that had surprisingly good viewing angles for a handset this affordable. The front fascia is also where the capacitive navigation keys are located. Unfortunately, these buttons are not backlit, and you will struggle to find them in dimly lit situations. The handset gets a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and a bunch of sensors on the front fascia. At the rear, you will find a fingerprint scanner, the prominent Aqua logo and of course, the dual camera setup that consists of a primary 13-megapixel camera and a secondary 5-megapixel camera.
I found the display on the Aqua Jazz S1 to be very good for a handset in its price range. It had excellent viewing angles, and colour reproduction was good too. The panel has a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels. The LED backlight, however, was overly bright – a problem that many handsets in this price range typically come with.
Aqua Jazz S1: Hardware, performance
The Aqua Jazz S1 is powered by the Mediatek MT6735 SoC that features a quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor clocked at 1.25 GHz. Built on a 28nm manufacturing process, the chip is not the fastest one around. In fact, it is also not the newest one around having been released back in 2015. When you look at the competition, this certainly does not go in favour of the Aqua Jazz S1. Another thing that potential users could be worried about is the paltry 1GB of RAM that the phone comes with. The competition offers double the amount of RAM at the same price point.
Being a sub-Rs.7,000 handset, I did not expect the Aqua Jazz S2 to be a stellar performer when it came to gaming. The phone stutters if you try to play resource-intensive titles. It can, however, handle simpler games that do not put undue load on the Mali T-720 GPU.
The unit of the Aqua Jazz S1 that I had with me faced a lot of stuttering and failed touches. The handset felt like an unfinished product with beta software at times. One of the major issues I faced with this unit was that it generally took me more than one attempt to pull the notifications drawer down. This issue, however, was intermittent in nature. We ran our usual set of benchmark tests on the handset. However, the AnTuTu benchmark took unusually long (a couple of hours actually!) to run. It ended up with a rather low score of 7865 points. The Redmi 5A in comparison consistently scores above 35,000 points in the same test.
The 2,800 mAh battery is good enough for a day’s worth of usage on a single charge. However, you will need to turn the brightness down a bit to achieve this.
Aqua Jazz S1: Software
Aqua Mobiles have kept things simple with the Jazz S1. The handset runs a stock version of Android 7.1 Nougat. Software updates are not very frequent, and as of this writing, the handset is still on the October 2017 Android Security Patch.
As mentioned earlier, the handset stutters during regular usage and the overall behaviour are very unpredictable. I am hopeful that the company fixes these issues in a subsequent software update.
Aqua Jazz S1: Camera and Imaging
The Aqua Jazz S1 features a dual camera setup at the rear and a single camera at the front. The rear camera setup consists of a primary 13-megapixel shooter and a secondary 5-megapixel unit which performs the duty of a depth sensor. You cannot independently use the 5-megapixel camera for capturing images. The front camera is a 5.1-megapixel unit that can be used for selfies as well as video calling. The camera software is very basic and for the same reason, is pretty easy to use. Image quality was surprisingly good on the Aqua Jazz S1. However, the dual camera mode was very gimmicky in nature, and the blurring effects are so judiciously implemented, it feels unnatural and forced.
Here are a few sample images taken using the handset. From the image sample, it is clear that all the images show a warm tint. While the colour reproduction is pretty good, details on objects such as leaves and edges are lost.
The handset is capable of recording HD videos (not full HD). The maximum supported video resolution is 1280 x 720 pixels. The videos settings menu does not clearly mention the video resolution. What I have understood is that “Fine” is 1280 x 720 pixels, “High” is 640 x 480 pixels, “Medium” is 480 x 320 pixels and “Low” is 176 x 144 pixels.
Aqua Jazz S1: Price, Conclusion
The Aqua Jazz S1 currently retails for Rs. 5,389 on Flipkart as well as Amazon.in. The handset that I received for review was the Black Version. It can also be bought in a Gold colour version both priced similarly. My experience with the Aqua Jazz was a mixed bag of sorts. The hardware on the device is outdated when compared to the competition, and the software experience leaves a lot to be desired. What I liked about the phone was the camera that it came with and the decently fast fingerprint scanner at the rear. The Aqua Jazz S1 might have earned a recommendation from us if it was released two years ago, however, in its current form and looking at what the competition has on offer; it is difficult for me to recommend the Aqua Jazz S1 to a potential buyer. The company will need to iron out the bugs in the software and also improve the update cycle to earn a vote of recommendation from us.