Karbonn are another of those companies you might not have heard of, they are an Indian firm that have been making phones for about five years now. They have recently been named as hardware partners for Google and the Android One project and also Microsoft with Windows Phone. Off the back of these big names Karbonn have decided that now is the right time to try and crack the UK market. The Karbonn Titanium S6 is the fourth device they have released in the UK and we’ve had it for the last few weeks.
Good and Bad Points
- Feels good in the hand.
- Dual SIM.
- Micro SD Slot.
- Backplate is a fingerprint magnet.
- Screen is a fingerprint magnet.
- 8GB (3GB and 5GB split) of non Unified Memory means installing apps is limited.
- The icon pack used out of the box is lacking and cartoon like.
- No USB OTG support.
- Startup sound is lengthy and loud.
- Shutdown sound is also lengthy and loud.
- Priced higher than competition (I.E Motorola, Microsoft).
- Pre installed apps target you with popup notification adverts.
- Screen has slow response time and is only five point touch.
The Karbonn Titanium S6 looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S3, whether this was intentional or a coincidence is another matter, it’s a mix of shiny plastic, plastic that looks like metal, some plastic around the display, the display, a few ports of sockets and the camera on the back.
The front of the phone has three capacitive buttons, starting from the left they are for Menu, Home and Back. Long pressing home triggers Google Now and double tapping home triggers Recents. The buttons are also backlit so you can see them in the dark. It actually took me a while to figure out the Recents button, I guess I should have read the manual first. The rest of the front is taken up with a large bezel surrounding the buttons, the 5” display, a front facing camera and the sensors at the top. Karbonn supplied the S6 with a screen protector pre installed, which seems to attract fingerprints like it is in some sort of fingerprint collection competition. I would remove it but I haven’t got a case for it and would probably scratch the screen. As it doesn’t really look like a scratch resistant glass panel.
The edges are a little backwards, with the power button living in the top left hand edge and the volume rocker on the right hand side. I say backwards, at first I kept turning the volume up when trying to turn it off, I soon got used to the configuration. The top edge has a central Micro USB port and the headphone socket beside it. The bottom edge has a microphone pinhole.
The back of the phone is made of plastic, the backplate is super glossy and attracts an absurd amount of fingerprints. The speaker is in the bottom right hand edge and the 8MP camera central near the top.
Design wise the S6 is pretty basic, with only really the backplate showing any flair. Overall the feeling is one of despair at the constant cleaning of fingerprints off the front and back of the device.
Check out my hands on video of the S6, where I finally figure out how to get the Recents button to work.
Spec wise the Titanium S6 is a bit basic, take a look for yourself.
- Processor: MediaTek MT6582 1.3 GHz quad-core processor.
- GPU: Mali-400 MP.
- Display: 5″ qHD 960×540.
- Internal Memory: 8GB (3.9GB for “Internal storage” and 2.06GB for “Phone Storage”).
- RAM: 1GB.
- Rear Camera: 8MP with Auto Focus.
- Front Camera: 2MP.
- Battery: 1700 mAh.
- Dual SIM (one Micro SIM one standard SIM).
- MicroSD slot.
- Android 4.4.
Key plus points here are the Dual SIM, Micro SD Slot and the Removable Battery all of which make for a flexible device. The internal memory of 8 GB is split into two partitions, one for apps and one for app data and documents, which makes a difficult situation with the small internal memory even more difficult to manage. It is annoying as most foreign fledgling companies selling devices in Europe now realise that’s not how we like it over here and amend the memory to suit, only recently have Oppo and Xiaomi moved to a unified memory approach.
The cameras aren’t great despite sounding ok on paper. The display is low resolution and is only 5 point multi touch which leads to a few missed taps whilst typing at speed.
Overall I feel that if the memory was unified I could overlook the other shortcomings of the device, as it isn’t the whole device just feels inferior to cheaper devices like the Motorola Moto E.
As Karbonn are one of the Android One manufacturers I had high hopes for the S6, I expected a Nexus like experience. Out of the box the Titanium S6 is quite jarring, you get an odd spec screen when you first turn it on, followed by a jolly tune that goes on for a few seconds (the same tune plays when you turn it off). Once it has started up you get a Live Wallpaper of a Disney style castle, a selection of pre-installed “games” that barrage you with notifications to buy in app purchases and to top it all off you get a modified version of the Google Now Launcher complete with a garish icon pack pre-applied. Needless to say my first hour with the phone was spent, dismissing popups, disabling apps that couldn’t be uninstalled, uninstalling others, updating the bloat by accident on the app store when my WiFi connected, installing the real Google Now Launcher, installing the Google messenger app and by that point I was pretty much happy with the device. The out of the box experience wasn’t great, I worry about a non experienced purchaser of this phone.
It wasn’t all bad though, the dual SIM stuff was as useful as you’d expect and Karbonn haven’t messed that bit up either.
The one thing I did find whilst fiddling around in the settings menu was a range of gestures that the phone supports. They are basically lockscreen shortcuts for triggering apps, so you draw an “O” and it will open the Camera, double tap and it will open Google Now or one of the other letters shown below, unfortunately you can’t amend these shortcuts.
The Lockscreen itself also has a few shortcuts on it to open the Dialler, stock Messaging, Google and also to unlock. To trigger the camera you swipe in from the right or use a gesture as shown above.
Other notable stuff
I really didn’t get on well with the camera on the Titanium S6, I really struggled to take a decent picture with it. Actually I lie, it managed to take better pictures with the front facing camera. The issue I felt was with the auto focus, try as I might it just failed to actually focus. Weirdly If I got really close up it fared slightly better.
Take a look below.
The front facing camera took reasonable pictures with decent light, in low light it deteriorated. Again take a look below, apologies for my face.
Battery life on the Titanium S6 wasn’t reasonable, I managed to get just over two hours screen on time. Which considering the 1700 mAh battery I’d have thought I’d get less screen on time. The usage stats did show some worrying usage for when the phone was idle and when in standby, Karbonn could fix this in a firmware update.
Benchmarks aren’t the be all and end all these days, I just use them to give me a vague idea about where a device sits in the mobile phone league table. The S6 benches similar to the 2014 Moto G.
- 3DMark – 2119 (Moto G 2014 – 4612).
- Antutu – 19537 (Moto G 2014 – 17585).
- Quadrant – 8768 (Moto G 2014 – 8806).
The Karbonn Titanium S6 is a reasonable phone. Although at it’s current price it is out of the running, compared to cheaper devices like the 2014 Motorola Moto E and G or even the new 2015 edition Moto E it is hard to recommend the Titanium S6. Various things like the weird setup of the internal memory and the frustrating software that is pre-installed further back up my inability to recommend the phone.
If Karbonn were to drop the price quite a bit, issue a firmware update to unify the storage and also to issue a firmware update to fix the camera then I might just be able to recommend it.