Udupi based mobile app development company, Robosoft, has partnered with the Bangalore based United Telecoms’ WIWO Mobiles to launch its first Indic Android phone, Wiwos Super. For the uninitiated, Robosoft is known for developing apps for media brands such as IBNLive, Hindustan Times, Times of India, NDTV, and OneIndia along with a host of games and utilities.
Tech Specs: Wiwos Super is a Dual SIM phone with a 2.8″ QVGA Capacitive LCD screen and a 3 megapixel camera. The phone supports 6 languages including English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. It runs on Android 2.2 ‘Froyo’ and has 512MB RAM, 256MB ROM and an expandable memory of up to 32GB.
Other features include a 1500mAh battery, FM Radio, Torch, 3.5mm headset jack and connectivity options like Bluetooth 2.1, microUSB, GPRS and EDGE. Sadly, there is no Wi-Fi support. The phone has an MRP of Rs 5499.
In November 2011, Robosoft had announced that it is working on a localized version of Android operating system with support for Indian languages. Since then, we have been quite curious how it will implement it, considering the lack of native Indic support in Android operating system (which in itself is quite strange considering Google’s extensive work in providing both translation and tools in Indic languages).
Quite similar to other Android phones, Wiwos Super comes with five home screens. The main home screen comprises of large shortcut icons providing access to various core phone functions like Phone, Music, Torch, Radio, Camera and SMS. Robosoft stated that Wiwos is primarily targeting tier-3 cities for these phones.
The phone offers an English language interface during the initial boot, although users can change the language to any of Indic languages offered. Alternatively, users can head over to Settings Menu and select the ‘Language and Keyboard‘ option to change the phone language. Following this, the phone’s interface gets converted to a mixture of English and the selected language.
For instance, if the user chooses Kannada as the language, all the menu options, alerts and core phone functions like Contacts, Messaging, Calendar, Calculator, Search, Gallery and Radio are rendered in Kannada, while apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Play (previously Android Market) remain in English.
What’s interesting and important though is that Wiwos Super is pre-loaded with language keyboards for Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam, allowing users to type in these respective languages across various third party apps on the phones.
While these keyboards are in the form of regular QWERTY keyboards, they comprise of all the alphabets with a sliding bars of ‘matras’ above the keyboard. Robosoft informed MediaNama, that these soft keyboards mimic the way people traditionally write text and do not require people to learn esoteric key combinations to generate native language glyphs.
Indic Language Implementation: On being asked how they were able to implement Indic fonts and IME on Android, Robosoft stated that they modified the stock text- drawing pipeline of Android 2.2, in order to render South Indian language text. The company claimed that its text-drawing facilities work entirely with TrueType fonts, unlike other renderers which depend on custom bitmap fonts. It also claimed that its text renderer now works with any TrueType fonts that is freely and commercially available.
Future OS Updates? Robosoft stated that rolling out newer OS updates like Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich to these Indic Android phones is completely the prerogative of the handset manufacturer and they have no say in it.
OEM Exclusivity? On partnering with other OEMs for these phones, Robosoft stated they have partnered with only WIWO Mobile as of now and did not comment on tie-ups.
Our Take: We have been playing with the phone for few days now and felt that the touch sensitivity was pretty good with a rare lag in the phone’s performance, which is quite impressive considering the modest specs of the phone. We were able to send and receive Hindi and Kannada SMS with ease, although there is a minor learning curve involved in the process, as one would experience with any new keyboard.
Also, one thing that really impressed us was the phone’s battery life. While most of the Android phones are known to offer poor battery life, we were able to get a battery life of three days with a moderate usage of the phone including always-on mobile data, push email and moderate usage of social networking apps.
Issues: While the ability to type in Indic languages is pretty good, it does come with some caveats:
– If the user sends text message in Indic languages, the receiver should also have a phone which supports Indic languages, failing which the text appears in a series of blocks. This is quite an obvious one.
– The phone doesn’t deliver same search results irrespective of the language typed, forcing users to switch between languages. For instance, if one searches for any contact in their phonebook in English, it delivers relevant contact details instantaneously, however if they try to replicate the same using any other language, the phone offers zero results. This becomes more noticeable when one tries to download apps from the Google Play Store, since there is no dedicated Indic app store.
– The shortcut icons on the home screen are currently in English, irrespective of the phone’s language. It would be nice to see shortcut icons in the home screen in respective languages whenever the user changes the phone language.
– Considering this is an Indic phone, perhaps Robosoft or Wiwos could partner with content companies to preload apps that provide Indic content.