CREO is an Indian startup based out of Bangalore that boldly created a noticeable buzz around their Mark 1 phone. Unlike most device makers, they focused on the software that runs the phone and made an assurance that one would get a new phone every month from them. With all this luggage on it’s back, the Mark 1 has sky high expectations tied to it. Let us look at this device today
While the team hasn’t set out to win any design award for this device, they have given it an intriguingly standout design. It feels a bit chunky and is tad bit heavy too. But that does not get in the way of the classy look that the glass front and back with an aluminium frame give it. We particularly liked the three button format for the volume rocker and the power button. Makes the device standout in the midst of other phones. The Gorilla Glass 3 front and back are sturdy and neat. The minor downside is the fact that the glass smudges easily. But then, that would be nitpicking, so not going there at all.
The front houses the 5.5-inch display and the back comes etched with CREO logo and has a 21MP camera with a dual LED flash. Right in the usual spot above the screen is an 8MP front camera, the bottom of the screen has the usual suspects, the three customizable capacitive buttons. The lower edge has the speaker grille flanked and the microUSB port. The left side has two separate SIM slots – a nano SIM slot that also doubles as a microSD card slot and a micro SIM slot. The upper edge also has a 3.5mm audio/headset jack.
The aspect ratio is in line with the currently in vogue phablet trend with a large 5.5-inch display, that has a Quad HD 2560 x 1440 pixels of resolution. Powred by an octa-core Mediatek Helio X10 processor that runs at 1.9GHz and the phone comes with 3GB of RAM. It has a 21MP rear snapper – a Sony IMX230 sensor with PDAF. It also supports 4K recording and also has 120 fps slo-mo capture mode. For selfie lovers, there’s an 8MP front-facing camera with the usual bevy of “common” features like beautification, 3D Selfies.
Enough talk about the usual hardware stuff. Let’s get down to the serious part of this review. The OS and the really nifty features built into it are the USPs of this phone and let’s get right into that part of the review. The Mark 1 runs Fuel OS, this is CREO’s custom build that ticks on Android Lollipop, before you start moaning in angst over the older android version, let us tell you that this one is like no other. They have put in a lot of thought into many many practical use cases for the device and come with arguably the most creative set of utilities seen on Android phones in recent times. Let’s talk about them now
Sense is the name that CREO has given to it’s deeply embedded search tool, this is quite unlike any other search tool that we have seen on android devices so far, you can quite literally search for anything in everything. You look for a text token, this guy gets you names of contacts, names of files, apps etc. So quite literally like having a Google index on your device, you call it up and it comes up. After the update today, Sense also supports WhatsApp integration. The Sense interface has also been given a space for pinning most used contacts, so you can just bring them up with a two finger swipe down any time. You can also feed in arithmetic, and use Sense as a calculator. Pretty useful and neat.
Echo is the smart utility that allows you quite literally run an answering machine on your phone. When someone calls, they hear a pre-recorded message from you after which they can leave a message. The beauty of this app lies in the fact that you can now customize what message is played based on who is calling you. There are also options to automatically enable this feature when you put your phone in silent mode. Very very practical for busy people. The added advantage of multiple language support in preset messages is quite neat. We loved the ability to record in our voice though.
Retriever is a smart safety app that is built into Fuel OS. This is a useful tool that can help you track your phone in the event of you losing the device. This one is a step ahead of the other apps. This one can alert you when someone inserts another SIM into your phone with extremely granular details. The only caveat is that the phone needs to be connected to the internet. Below is an example of the email that Retriever sends you
Fuel OS itself is very different from the other android flavors we have seen. First up, the updates are promised at a monthly frequency and CREO has made it a practice of accepting suggestions and deciding well in advance what features go into each update! Every update comes with a detailed list of changes and what is being fixed. They even go a step further and credit the contributors of every feature!
Before this review gets needlessly long, let’s talk about the camera. The Rear 21 MP camera is good and churns out pretty decent pictures. Today’s update added a lot of nifty new image filters and even the ability to create your own filter for re-use anytime. The front camera is an 8 MP one and today’s update got the LED Screen Flash facility for selfies added to the CREO Mark 1
The whole premise of the CREO Mark 1 is exciting and novel. A New Phone Every Month, that’s the promise! If you are someone who wants to get maximum utility out of your phone and uses it as a major productivity enhancer, then this one is for you! Remember that it’s a mid ranger at INR 19,999/- All in all, a welcome addition that will change the boring spec game and bring value into the smartphone market.