You’ve probably been wondering where Micromax has been all these months. The company has been maintaining a surprisingly quiet profile of late, and hasn’t really been in the news. While affordable Micromax devices continue to sell in big numbers in the small towns and villages of India, the company has had a bit of a fall from glory, losing its number two spot in the Indian smartphone market to Chinese competition, most notably coming from OPPO and Vivo.
Of course, India’s biggest homegrown smartphone maker isn’t going to take this lying down, and its latest phone is a strong attempt at winning back glory. The Rs 24,999 Micromax Dual 5 is filled with features and boasts a great specification sheet, but it also takes Micromax into a price segment that it hasn’t ordinarily performed well in. After all, would you pay Rs 25,000 for a Micromax smartphone? Find out if I think you should in our review of the Micromax Dual 5.
Metal as a build material and quality design is now the norm for all high-end smartphones, and Micromax does stick to this brief with the Dual 5. The metal unibody, chamfered edges, matte finish and slightly curved back all work tremendously in favor of the phone. What results is a device that looks and feels great, and sticks to the premium feel, meaning that you’ll never think you’ve paid too much for a phone that doesn’t feel like it should.
Other key advantages come in the form of USB Type-C for charging and data transfers, compatibility for Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, an infra-red blaster that works with apps such as Peel Smart Remote, and a dedicated smart key on the left which can have its functionality customized. While the screen is locked, you can use it to toggle the flashlight, trigger audio recording or take a quick photo. When the phone is unlocked, it works as a camera shutter button when in the camera app, or clear open apps to free up memory.
Micromax has adopted a strange approach to its software, with different styles and features through the years. In this case, the focus is on specialized apps aimed at security, in an effort to target recent privacy concerns by smartphone users. This includes secure vault, a private part of the smartphone that remains hidden ordinarily and is only triggered when you use a particular fingerprint to access it. Shots taken on the camera or audio recordings here are only viewable in the secure vault, as well as private contacts, messages and files.
Other key security apps include anti-theft, which lets you control the phone via SMS from a trusted mobile number and locks the phone down if a thief attempts to replace the SIM card, and 360 Security which keeps your phone running optimally. All of this is supplemented by a dedicated security chip built into the phone that Micromax claims stores passwords and other sensitive information independently for greater security.
Other apps for phone efficiency are also built into the device, including Freezer, which lets you add apps you don’t often use to prompt the phone to reduce resources to those apps, as well as Heat Source and Health Guard. The former tracks which apps are using heavier resources and causing heat, shutting them down to prevent phone heat, while the latter gives you interesting statistics on how you use the phone, along with tips for healthier usage. All of these apps can come in handy depending on how you use the phone.
A lot of smartphone buyers pay attention to specifications, and the Micromax Dual 5 excels in this department. It has a 5.5-inch full-HD screen, 4GB of RAM, a dual-SIM hybrid slot that also allows expandable storage and 128GB of internal storage. The most notable is the last, and the Dual 5 offers much more internal storage than most competing devices, while keeping the price relatively low.
The Micromax Dual 5’s biggest feature has to be its cameras. There are three 13-megapixel camera sensors on the device, with one at the front and two at the rear in a dual-camera setup. This form of camera setup has recently been a popular option, with other devices such as the Honor 6X, Honor 8 and Coolpad Cool 1 also featuring the setup. The most basic advantage of this is the ability to capture depth-of-field and related effects in pictures. The phone uses a combination of an RGB and a monochrome sensor, with the former capturing color information and the latter capturing light data. This also allows true monochrome photography, which will allow for better low-light shots and more detail.
It also lets you achieve the blur effect by using its two sensors to capture proper depth-of-field information, but the app’s processing of these images is basic at best and doesn’t let you refocus as is the case with other phones. It can also be used to slightly enhance low-light shots, but the effect is negligible most of the time. However, apart from these gimmicks, photography is decent enough, with detailed shots that are low on grain and usually get the crux of the image down properly.
Furthermore, video recording at 4K is possible, along with 3 tiers of slow-motion video recording are possible as well, letting you choose between 60fps, 90fps and 120fps. The front camera also uses its high megapixel count to ensure decent shots, and on the whole, it’s a decent set of cameras that makes the most of its dual-camera technology to allow for good pictures and videos.
While the phone’s specification sheet might be great in some ways, there’s one big shortcoming — the chipset. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 SoC, the Micromax Dual 5 packs in a chipset that can be classified as mid-range at best. This is particularly disappointing when you consider the price of the phone; the Snapdragon 652 can be found on smartphones that cost significantly less than the Dual 5, including the Indian variant of the LeEco Le 2 and the big-screen Xiaomi Mi Max Prime. It’s also worth noting that this is a 28nm processor, unlike the more efficient 14nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 625.
Spending a bit more will get you the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 with the OnePlus 3T, while the Lenovo Z2 Plus can be bought for much less and sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC which is a better option than the Snapdragon 652. If you’re looking at performance as a big factor in your purchase, the Micromax Dual 5 may not be your best choice.
Although there are a lot of useful apps on the Dual 5, the user interface and software isn’t quite up to the same level of quality. The interface is clunky, oddly laid out and full of glaring grammatical mistakes, although Micromax has stated that the software on our review unit is not the final consumer version which will have some of these issues ironed out. Nonetheless, the single-layered UI and odd layout is bothersome on its own, and the use of Android Marshmallow when more affordable phones such as the Moto G5 Plus and Lenovo P2 are running Android Nougat is upsetting, to say the least.
Battery life on the Micromax Dual 5 is average at best, thanks to the power hungry Snapdragon 652 at the helm. While the newer Snapdragon 625 SoC has reined in power consumption while keeping performance at nearly the same levels, the 28nm process on the Snapdragon 652 offers a bit more power, but no positive effect on battery life. The 3,200mAh battery keeps the phone going for up to a full day if you’re usage is moderate; with heavy use, you’ll find you need to charge the phone before you get home.
The Micromax Dual 5 isn’t the perfect phone, but it does have a few things going for it. Its security app suite and features are certainly different from what most manufacturers offer, and the dual-camera setup is the ideal arrangement for a camera to ensure great images in most conditions. It’s also well built and has enough RAM and internal storage to keep the phone running smoothly. However, Micromax will have to do a lot more to convince buyers that it’s reached a point where it can charge Rs 24,999 for a smartphone, and unfortunately the Dual 5 isn’t at that level.
Its biggest shortcoming is the use of the Snapdragon 652 SoC, which keeps performance at mid-range levels, where more affordable devices such as the Lenovo Z2 Plus pack in flagship-grade performance. The use of Android Marshmallow and the clunky and oddly hilarious user interface only add to the flaws. Therefore, if you’re looking at a more rounded smartphone in this price category, the OnePlus 3 and 3T remain better options along with the Honor 8. However, if security is important to you, or you are firm on your budget and want a good dual-camera set up, the Micromax Dual 5 is definitely worth considering.