Smartron SRT phone review: The master's phone with some chinks in the armour
Last year, legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar became a corporate ambassador for a little-known brand called Smartron and one wondered what was the purpose of the association considering neither the brand was as well-known as a home-grown consumer electronics effort as Micromax, nor it was the brand of international appeal. Earlier in the month, I realised the answer when I sat down with Amit Boni who recently joined Smartron from Motorola to make it an "Indian headquartered global brand." Boni, who headed Motorola in India and was responsible for the rebirth of the brand under Google and then Lenovo told me that the genesis of the phone came from a lot of the conversations the company had with Sachin. And indeed, this phone is an impressive, if not, masterful effort, which at moments highlights elements of the mastery India's greatest batsman was known for when in full song.

The Good

One of the most striking things about the SRT phone is that it is made from a dense type of plastic while most competitors are making phones out of aluminium. This allows Smartron to make a phone which has a removable back and a 3,000mAh battery and the company also claims that it is thirty percent sturdier than any other phone in the category in a drop test. It is as if the phone channels its inner Sachin when under pressure and doesn't buckle. I dropped the phone a couple of times to test this theory from a height of 3 feet and found that the phone came unscathed while competing phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 managed to get scratched and dented.

Like Sachin was known to score runs at a frenetic clip with an element of zen, this phone is also like him -- fast and cool. Impressively, Smartron has outfitted it with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 eight-core processor and married it with 4GB RAM and optimised the phone to death so that it doesn't heat up. The company claims that its performance is faster than the likes of the Moto G5 Plus and remains cooler. I agree with them because in pure performance the phone has a superior chipset and one that doesn't heat up because of the way Smartron has optimised things. It also helps that the phone has a plastic body instead of metal which keeps things cooler.

In day to day usage, it's a screamer. Like Sachin in a big run chase, think his famous desert storm innings against Australia in Sharjah or his 98 in the 2003 world cup super 6 match against Pakistan. Apps literally bolt. Switching between them is seamless and I could even enjoy graphically intensive games like Dead Trigger 2 without any hassles. This is the type of performance one expects from a world-class performer, and the SRT phone delivers it with elegance.

Talking of elegance, like Sachin's straight drive or wrist whip of his legs, the software on the SRT phone is elegant and simple to use. More or less, it is stock Android Nougat 7.1.1 and it makes things logical and rapid. Smartron is also promising software updates -- 3 major Android updates and quarterly security updates which should make this phone more superior. And all of this comes together with TronX, the Smartron IOT platform that also comes with a Google Drive like cloud locker, but free with UNLIMITED storage. If you like local storage then, Smartron is not being very stingy -- it offers a 32GB model and a 64GB model of the phone. Even here the optimisations are impressive as Smartron's OS only uses up 6GB of space while on a phone like the Moto G5 Plus, that number would escalate to 10GB.

The battery life is also very good. It can last very long if used judiciously. The 3,000mAh battery inside the phone may be wildly smaller than the competition but comes freakishly close in real world performance. I often exceeded 24 hours of battery life and could charge it rapidly with quick charge 2 technology, and while doing so the phone wouldn't heat up. It reminds one of Sachin's 241* in Sydney when he was out of form and decided to not play the cover drive. That was one long inning and this phone offers the ability to replicate that kind of performance.

In has a wide 5.5-inch canvas which has a full HD resolution, but it does get reflective at times. Other frills on the phone include 4G VoLTE capabilities, dual-SIM, Bluetooth 4.1 and the works which are basics but nice to have.

The Bad

While the phone displays elements of mastery, there are some obvious chinks in its armour; more like pre-1996 Sachin Tendulkar. For instance, it is not a looker, nor does use premium materials like the Redmi Note 4. It is all plastic and it looks chintzy.

The 13-megapixel camera on the back simply isn't in the same league as the cameras on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 or the Huawei Honor 6X. It, however, is very fast and given good lighting conditions can capture decent photos. Its videos are a little worse but that's true for most phones in the price segment. The front selfie camera is just about average and in low light it is quite useless. Perhaps, Smartron needs to work on this area, but if they show the mastery Tendulkar showed in his career, this shouldn't be a problem. Remember how Tendulkar mastered the sweep shot to counter Shane Warne before Australia toured India in 1998? Yeah, they should be drawing inspiration from that.

On a final note, the speaker is quite horrendous and it spits out garbled audio, I'd rather not listen to music on the phone.

Should you buy it?

If you are looking for a made and designed in India phone for less than Rs 15,000, then the SRT phone is the very best, just not the best in the world, like Sachin was. The way the company is going, there is tremendous potential for Smartron to create something that's the very best in the world. I recommend the 64GB model of the phone which will cost Rs 13,999 and will be exclusively available on Flipkart.