Have you been waiting for an Android qwerty phone with a physical keypad for years?
Well, there’s both good news and bad news for you.
First the good news. The space for Android phones with a real physical qwerty keyboard has started getting addressed with the launch of the Intex Aqua Qwerty.
Now, the bad news. Going by the specifications, the Intex Aqua Qwerty is going to be a real pain to use and it makes more sense to wait a little longer.
On the positive side, phone’s very cheap, perhaps a little too cheap, at about Rs 5,000 ($80), and comes with a 5 megapixel camera, and of course, the physical keypad on Android. As such, it’s perhaps the only model of its kind in the market right now.
However, there are several reasons why you should wait a little longer instead of taking the plunge right now.
The primary reason has to do with the Android version on the Intex Aqua Qwerty – Version 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
Having used several phones running 4.2, we can confirm that the OS is definitely not suited for a phone with just 512 MB of application memory (RAM). In fact, even on a model with 768 MB, Android 4.2 is really laggy. On 512 MB, it’s likely to be really difficult to use.
The reason is that Android 4.2 is the result of Google’s ‘project butter’, which sought to polish the transitions and other graphics features of the operating system. Unfortunately, the polish came at a price – the operating system requires at least 1 GB of RAM to function decently.
In fact, the entire Android 4 series has struggled to function well on devices with 512 MB RAM or less.
Realizing the problem, Google came out with ‘project svelte’ and Android 4.4 Kitkat, and it fixed the problem. According to Google, Android 4.4 is designed to run comfortably on systems with 512 MB. The operating system lost a lot of weight as it moved from project Butter to project Svelte.
However, note that even at 512 MB, Android 4.4 will only run in an acceptable fashion. It won’t be blazing fast. From our experience, Android 4.4 does indeed give a decent experience on 512 MB, but a 1 GB RAM would definitely improve the experience.
In other words, Android 4.4 gives roughly the same experience on 512-768 MB RAM as 4.2 used to give on 1GB of it.
So, where does that leave the first Android phone in a really really long time with a physical keypad – the Intex Aqua Qwerty? The phone is yet to hit the stores, but we believe the omens are negative as it is supposed to come out with Android 4.2.
In case you’re wondering why they didn’t come out with 4.4, the reason is that a phone model takes at least 6 months from conception to prototype. So, the Intex Qwerty phone is likely to have been conceptualized when Android 4.4 was still a project at Google, and not a real product.
So, are Qwerty Android phones doomed?
Not really, because going by previous experience, most other brands will also launch Android Qwerty phones in the coming weeks and months, due to the nature of the Chinese OEM market. Designs and specifications are copied in days, and often equipment manufacturers start working on similar designs at the same time.
There is of course the question of whether one can buy the Intex Aqua Qwerty and simply upgrade it from Android 4.2 to 4.4. Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that.
For example, even a top-end manufacturer like Samsung has just (a few hours ago) started rolling out the Android 4.4 update for its Samsung Galaxy devices launched in 2013, such as the Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S4.
So it’s unlikely that the Intex Aqua Qwerty will get an Android 4.4 update any time soon. The only other option is to root the device and install Android 4.4 on it using help from companies like Cyanogenmod, which provides custom versions of Android for install.
However, such installs usually result in missing drivers and huge problems unless the version of Android is optimised and tested for the particular phone on which it is being installed. While it’s easy to get custom ROMs for models like Google Nexus or Samsung Galaxy, we doubt if Intex models will be on top of developers’ priority listing for porting.
So, our advice? Wait for a few days (even a month or two) for someone to launch an Android Qwerty phone with either more RAM, or preferably, Android 4.4. The good thing is, now that the Chinese manufacturers have decided to explore the Android Qwerty phone market, they can be relied on to exploit the market thoroughly.
Features of the Intex phone include a 3.5-inch 480*320 pixel display, dual-SIM support, 3G support, 0.3MP front camera, a 1500 mAh battery and a 1.2GHz dual-core processor.