There was once a time when we used computers to send e-mails, our old film cameras to take pictures while on a vacation, pagers for messaging and small brick-sized cell phones to make urgent calls. Now you see a 13-year old ‘hanging out’ at the mall with her friends, taking photos of her day out, immediately updating her status message and uploading pictures instantly on Facebook or mailing it to the ones who missed out on all the fun - all from her flashy new cell-phone, which makes you have second thoughts about yours!

It’s little wonder then, that more and more companies are now attempting to converge multimedia and technology, and make life simpler for us.

Spice Mobiles, after gaining ground with Spice Telecom (mobile service provider) has decided to tap into the mushrooming handset market in the country. Launched less than two months ago, the Spice S-1200 is one of the higher-end phones from the company.

First impressions

Remember those old bar-form phones from Sony Ericsson’s Walkman series? That’s exactly what comes to mind when you hold the S-1200 in your hand. Big, rectangular, bulky with ‘plasticky’ keys and an almost similar keyboard layout and screen dimensions, the word ‘sleek’ is definitely a far shot when it comes to describing the phone.

On the right side panel, there are two buttons; one to switch to the camera mode and alternate between still shots and movie, and the other being the shutter button.

The lower panel has an USB port to charge the handset as well as connect the device to your PC or laptop.

The display is a 2.4-inch, TFT screen with an image resolution of 320 x 240 pixels.

Right below the screen is a circular keypad with four customisable functions.

Picture perfect?

The USP of the S-1200 is the 12-meg camera and the 3x optical plus a 9x digital zoom that the handset is equipped with.

The camera boasts of a Xenon flash light instead of an LED flash that most camera phones have, which means the pictures you take indoors and in low-light can potentially be better illuminated and be crisper than those shot with only a LED flash.

In the still shooting option, there are a couple of ambient shooting modes to choose from including portraits, night portraits, sports, sunset and a text capture mode.

Switching on the camera immediately activates the lens that projects out of the back panel, mimicking a point-and-shoot pocket camera. It supports multiple face detection, therefore, as you frame a shot, the camera adjusts the exposure and focus accordingly. Also, the Smile Shutter feature automatically takes the shot when it detects a smile in the frame.

The camera has an inbuilt image stabiliser, however, the stabiliser in a phone needs to be slightly more efficient than your usual hand-held cameras due to the way the phone cameras are operated. A hand-held cam will have an eye-piece, which when you see through, will intrinsically be supported by your arm which is close to your body hence making it more stable and reducing the chances of shake or blur.

The handset however, has to be held away from your body and thus has lesser support and higher chances of a shake and thus needs a more sensitive inbuilt stabiliser for a blur-free image.

The camera settings can be altered with the number keys in the handset where the Macro Mode, Flash options, Anti-Shake and Portrait modes have been marked as secondary functions on some keys.

The camera stops functioning even as the battery has about 25 per cent of its charge still left. The reason behind this could be that the motors that get the retractable camera lens into action suck a lot of power from the handset, as they would in any other digicam.

It also has a photo editor but you can’t do much except resize, decorate it with a frame, icon or text and eliminate the red-eye in your images.

Performance

The phone was a little slow when it came to opening functions and applications. For example, when you want to switch to the camera mode from the Home screen, it takes up to several seconds to get the camera working.

The call quality was decent and would be loud enough for you to talk to someone in a fairly noisy room.

The S-1200 has the proprietary Fun Spice section that has a couple of web-based apps and SNS for you to try and play around with.

It has Nimbuzz!, an app that lets you integrate Skype, Windows Live Messenger (MSN), Yahoo IM, ICQ, AIM, GoogleTalk, Facebook and MySpace, and let’s you send messages and chat for free.

Apart from this, the handset has ibibo, the social networking site. This section also has a Reuter’s app, Email2SMS, Ngpay, Mgurujee, Cricket Updates, Job Search and Mobile Tracker.

The phone has a TV-out cable and Bluetooth but lacks Wi-fi and also doesn’t have any widgets. It has an internal memory of only 70 MB.

However, it is expandable up to 32 GB. The battery offers talktime of about three hours only.

Our verdict

Apart from the fact that the phone has a 12-meg camera with Xenon flash, there is little else that will be appealing to the user. What Spice probably had in mind while crafting the product was to come up with a handset that would not only have all the features of a regular phone but one that could also double up as a camera for those who love clicking. But it fails to do an extraordinary job of either.

While the attempt of integrating a 12-meg into a cell phone is commendable, it falls flat when compared to the likes of the Sony Ericsson Satio or the Nokia N8, which not only have 12-meg cameras but also look more elegant and have a bouquet of other features to keep you hooked; of course, they do not fall under the same segment as the S-1200. But even for a phone in its price category, the S-1200 leaves a lot to be desired.