Android is flooded with handsets around the $200 mark right now. Some of them are a great value and some of them I will just be polite and say they need some more R&D. After my hands on review with InfoSonics verykool S505 Spark model, I have got to say that it hits a homerun and left me extremely impressed.
Seeing how verykool and myself are both here in San Diego, I was able to meet their CEO, Joseph Ram and had an interesting discussion about this device and the future vision of the company in the eyes of updates and wearables.
Most Android users are worried about updates. We all hate buying a device just to find out it isn’t going to get the next coolest version of Android. With the S505 being one of their top devices, I had to ask Joseph about future updates being delivered to the device. The answer came down to simple economics. They are not charging a premium for these cell phones as others do so there has to be some give and take in order to make a cell phone with the specs of the S505 profitable. It sounded like making the jump to 4.4 wouldn’t be a problem (the device currently has 4.2), but as far as getting Android “L”, he was not able to commit to that. It is a balancing act with having the cell phone priced at $200. From my perspective, although I would have loved to hear that Android “L” was going to be put on the device, it was more than an understandable reason if the device does not get the update.
I also had a moment to talk with Mr. Joseph Ram about the future of wearables. He had a very interesting take on wearables that actually excites me. Unlike the current model of selling wearables and cell phones apart, he truly believes that they should work together and compliment each other. He said he can vision the day when a verykool watch comes in the box with a verykool cell phone. That was the fresh take I was looking to hear on wearables and I have to agree with him. If wearables are a natural extension of the cell phone, then it should only be natural that they come initially paired together for ultimate compatibility.
InfoSonics has been around since 1994 and manufacturing cell phones since 2006. It was a great pleasure to speak to and pick the brain of a CEO that has been manufacturing cell phones before Android (or that other company with a fruity logo) manufactured their first smartphones.
Despite the low price tag, the S505 Spark comes packed with specs. The specs sheet on this device makes this device a good mid-tier contender, especially at the unlocked price of only $199 with dual SIM cards.
3G HSPA+ 21 Mbps DL, 5.6 Mbps UL
3G Triple Band (850/1900/2100)
2G Quad Band (850/900/1800/1900)
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
1.3GHz Quad-Core – Powered by MediaTek
143.50 x 71.60 x 8.25 mm
2,000 mAh Li-ion
Talk time: Up to 5 hours on 3G
Standby: Up to 240 hours (10 days) on 3G
5.0” HD IPS-LCD Capacitive Touch (720 x 1280 Pixels, 293 ppi) with full lamination
Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspots, Bluetooth 4.0, USB Tethering
12MP rear camera and 2MP front
Internet, SMS, MMS, e-mail (POP3, IMAP), and push e-mail
4GB ROM, 2GB internal storage, external (T-Flash) up to 32GB
MP3, FM Radio, Audio/Video recording and conferencing
GPS with A-GPS, G-sensor, loudspeaker, 3.5mm audio jack, Dual SIM optional.
Ambient light sensor, Gravity and Proximity sensors, LED Torch
A device is only as good as the hardware that is in it. How does the Spark S505 fair up? I would say it fairs up quite nicely. It’s powered by a 1.3GHz quad core processor. The device comes with a 4GB of ROM, which leaves 2GB of space available for the end-user, and offers T-Flash storage of up to 32GB of additional space. For RAM, the device has a not too shabby 512MB.
After playing on the device for about 10 days, even with these specs, the device handled pretty much every app I threw at it without any major problems. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Initially I was worried with how the device would handle my heavy usage of Evernote, Microsoft Office Mobile, and my constant connectivity in social media. Load times for apps were a little bit slower compared to the Galaxy S5 we have, but for a mid-tier phone, they were more than acceptable.
Whenever I see lower priced devices, the screens on most of them are horrible. verykool had gone out of their way to ensure that this phone broke that trend. It has a stunning 5.0″ HD, IPS-LCD capacitive touch screen that comes with full lamination. This phone came with a screen protector on the screen out of the box. To make matters even better, there was an additional screen protector in the box. Talk about getting an extra bang for your buck.
Now back to how awesome this screen is. The biggest surprise I had while reviewing this device was looking at the screen. verykool plays their cards perfectly by having an attractive and very colorful woman placed as the default wallpaper showing you how awesome the screen quality is right from the box. Movies, pictures, videos, apps, and even my selfies looked great on this screen.
The S505 has a 12MP camera rear facing and a 2MP camera front facing. Despite having a 12MP camera, I did find the camera a little hit or miss. If the conditions were perfect, you would get incredible pictures. However if they weren’t the ideal situation the pictures were not always as crisp as I would have liked. Keeping things in perspective of being a $200 phone though I would say that it was a great camera for the value and did outperm pictures I have taken on both my Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 devices. This is the best picture I was able to take of my favorite poster.
The sound quality of this device was solid with a nice loud speaker phone. Clarity on YouTube videos or phone calls were easy and comparable to most other devices I have owned.
CALL QUALITY / SIM CARD / DATA SERVICES
What is really nice about this device is the fact that it is dual SIM. I did find it odd that the first SIM is a standard sized while the second SIM is a micro, but Joseph Ram during our interview explained the reason is because that some cell carriers in South America do not have Micro SIMs available yet and they were aiming to making the phone as universal as possible.
The call quality was very acceptable. I have many devices and I would say that it was comparable to most other devices I got. Due to this cell phone only having a standard SIM card slot for the 1st SIM, I was not able to test it on the usual T-Mobile service, but I tested it with Telcel in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. It was very comparable to my typical results while traveling through the Baja Peninsula.
Data was as expected. This is a 3G device, but it does offer HSPA+. With Telcel my speedtest got 6MB download and about 1MB upload. Again totally acceptable data speeds as I did two Skype calls with no problem.
The S505 Spark is using an almost stock version of Android running 4.2. There are very few bloatware apps on the device and the apps that were pre-installed are ones that are actually helpful, like for the FM Radio, Backup and Restore, and Kingston Office. Given the amount on initial onboard space on the device, I was very happy to see this extra software as a minimal.
If your device got broke, stolen, or you are shopping on a budget, this device should be at the top of your shopping list. As the CEO of InfoSonics stated during my interview with him, for $199 you are going to have some give and take. The company went big with the screen, the 12MP camera, and the processor sparing no expense to get you the best value you can find for $199.
InfoSonics’ verykool S505 Spark cell phone is available on Amazon for the low price of $199.99.