Karbonn A12+ Review: Best Budget Smartphone

By Abhinav Pathak on
7.5 out of 10

Karbonn holds the third spot in India in terms of phones sold, after Samsung and Micromax. Naturally, the company must be doing something right. Today we bring to you the full review of Karbonn's latest budget Android device, Karbonn A12+. The device currently retails for about Rs. 5199 online, therefore powered by a dual-core processor with 512 MB RAM, 5 MP camera and 4-inch display, it sure has the innards to make for a great budget offering. So should you go for the Karbonn A12+ or wait for something else to come by? Keep reading the PhoneBunch extensive review of the A12+.


Pros

  • Good Build Quality
  • Excellent Gaming Performance (for the price)
  • Almost Stock Android 4.2 Jelly bean
  • Quite light
  • Apps movable to SD Card

Cons

  • Camera could've been better
  • Capacitive buttons a bit finicky, not lighted
  • Speakerphone distorts at full volume

Hardware Overview

The Karbonn A12+ is powered by the 1.3 GHz MediaTek MT6572 processor with Mali 400MP GPU. There's 512 MB of RAM, which is ample for a 4-inch display with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. There's a 5 MP primary camera with a bright LED flash and a 2MP secondary front-facing camera.

Design Characteristics

The front of the device will remind you a bit of the XOLO A500s, and that's not such a bad thing. The display and the capacitive keys are covered in a single plastic sheet. Its not scratch resistant, therefore a screenguard would be must. The capacitive buttons do not light up, therefore its a task using them in the dark. The capacitive buttons are a bit finicky, as in they refuse to register your touch more often than not. At present we are not sure whether this is a hardware issue or a software issue, although we did notice this issue in other smartphones powered by the MT6572 chipset. Its not as annoying as it sounds, but definitely something to keep in mind.

Hardware Overview

At the top of the Karbonn A12+ you have the power button, the 3.5mm audio jack and the micro USB data syncing/charging port. A metallic looking plastic trim runs along the sides of the device, and is a bit raised. The volume rocker on the A12+ is on the left and the right side of the device is bare, without any buttons. The buttons have the same finish as the trim. The bottom of the device as well has just the primary microphone and a space to get the backcover off.


There are 3 sensors available:

  • 3-axis Accelerometer
  • Proximity Sensor
  • Light Sensor - Disabled

The Karbonn A12+ has a 4GB ROM out of which about 2.5 GB is available to you. MT6572 chipset does not support USB OTG, therefore the A12+ doesn't have this feature, however, you can move apps/games to the SD card which is a huge bonus. To see what all accessories are included in the box, just follow this link.


Build Quality

The phone looks quite appealing, due to its dual-tone finish, where the front is black glass with a little gray at the bottom which makes for the major color scheme. The earpiece, sensors, speakerphone and camera housings are neatly packed. The camera as well as the display have slightly raised outer edges for protection, which makes us believe that some consideration was given to design while making the Karbonn A12+. Even when laying on flat on its back or front, the camera and the display are protected from being in direct contact with the surface. Then there's the speaker-grill which is slightly raised to that sound doesn't get muffled when the phone on put on its back. Its such little details that make the Karbonn A12+ worth considering.

Right Side

The A12+ is completely made of plastic, including the metallic looking trim that runs along its sides. The metallic looking trim provides a juxtaposition between the front and backcover. But one place where Karbonn skimped on is the capacitive buttons, they do not light up and sometimes fail to register touch. The physical buttons on the other hand, provide good feedback and don't creak. Although we would have preferred the power button to be on the right.

Left Side

Its not a very thin device, however its not bulky and seems quite light compared to similar smartphones in this segment. It has solid build quality. The housing is quite sturdy, there's no creaking or gaps. The display is sealed in place with the glass front and offers good touch response. The backcover has a matte finish, therefore is easy to hold and doesn't slip. Its quite sturdy as well, doesn't flex much.


Network and Call Quality

Dialer Call Logs

We didn't have any issues with call quality. Both parties were able to hear each other clearly. The earpiece is loud and clear, however the speakerphone does seem to crackle when volume is cranked up.

Wifi Speed Test

The Karbonn A12+ was able to get 20 Mbps on our office Wi-Fi network. 2G data speeds were pretty consistent with our previous results at 23.8 KBps download and 4 KBps upload.


Display

The display on the Karbonn A12+ is bright, has good color saturation although the hue is a bit off. It favors green a little bit, therefore the whites seem a little dull. Blacks are quite dark, but there is a little backlight bleeding at the lower edge but its not noticeable. But that doesn't take away much from the display, it still looks great and is viewable outside.

Display

The touch response of the display is great, there is no freezing or ghosting either. Its sharp, clear and text readability is on the higher side especially considering the price of the device. WVGA resolution on a smaller display does make a huge difference and makes everything look sharper.


Camera and the LED Flash

Camera Interface

Karbonn A12+ has a 5 MP primary camera with a single LED flash, the camera isn't spectacular but can take decent shots in ambient light. Low-light photography is a strict no-no. Images taken in low light even with flash on are grainy, however images taken under fluorescent lighting are surprisingly not as bad.

Camera Settings

You can take panorama shots alongwith smile-shot with face detection. The front-facing 2 MP camera can record upto 640 x 320 resolution videos. 

This means that 2 MP has been down-scaled to VGA resolution, therefore image and video quality is better than a VGA camera. For a budget device, both the front and the primary camera perform well.


Camera Samples

You can see the full resolution camera samples of the Karbonn A12+ on our Google+ page here.

Camera Sample1

Camera Sample2

Camera Sample3

Speakerphone

The speakerphone is a bit of a sore-point, its loud and clear. But is a bit tinny, and at its loudest volume tends to crackle especially on FM Radio and on calls. Rest of the time while playing music stored on the phone, its decent and loud.

Speaker Phone

If the sound wouldn't have been amplified as much the speaker would've performed better. You can change settins in the equalizer to give you the perfect output and it certainly helps.


Music and Bundled Earphones

The bundled earphones are atrocious and they are worth throwing away. We do not expect great quality bundled accessories, but a decent pair of earphones should be included even if its a budget handset or follow what most carriers do in the US. There headsets and some other accessories are not included to keep the price down for con-contract smartphones.

Music App Fm Radio

If you can't provide a decent headset with your phone, then simply don't. Especially one's that look like cheap "Beats" knockoffs. Using Sony, Philips or other earphones makes a huge difference in sound quality. However, its not one for the audiophiles, and given the price it should not be in consideration as well.


Music playback isn't bad, the loud speaker is clear and loud. Although sometimes it tends to crackle, and the sound is decidedly tinny. High-bitrate music sounds better but shrill, and there are no issues with the phone stuttering.


Video Playback

Karbonn A12+ can play AVI, 3GP and MP4 files natively with a maximum resolution of 720p at 30 FPS. You can play 1080p videos using MXPlayer's Software decoding mode.


720p video playback is as expected with no freezing or frame drops. Fast forwarding or jumping into different times of the video too doesn't cause any issues.


Software and Apps

Karbonn has kept very simple with the Karbonn A12+, its almost vanilla Android 4.2.2 with a few changes here and there. There is almost no bloatware in the device. You get a set of basic apps pre-installed while rest can be installed from the Play Store.

About Phone Navigation Quick Toggles

The launcher is stock as is the app drawer with apps and widgets. There are 5 homescreens and you can't remove or add homescreens. The app-drawer is transparent. Since the phone runs Android 4.2, you have notification quick toggles which too haven't been customized but do offer the ability to change the SIM card to use for data and active Audio profile.

Launcher App Drawer

The Light sensor has been disabled therefore, auto brightness does not work. In terms of compatibility, we tested the following:

  • Flipboard and its widgets work as expected.
  • Google Chrome works fine, renders fast.
  • Video calls over Skype work as well.
  • WhatsApp, Facebook, BBM, YouTube and most other social networking apps work fine.

In-short there are no compatibility issues with this ROM, atleast with the majority of apps. Google Now too works fine, until you factor in voice, which, like every other MT6572 based smartphone doesn't want to speak even a single sentence.


Security

You have the default options including Pin, Password and Pattern, however Face Unlock is another proposition which works great on the Karbonn A12+. Possibly owing to the higher resolution front camera. It unlocks the phone in an instant, and falls back to a pattern or pin if it does not work. 

Security

You can also enable Face Unlock to ask the user to blink, this will help if someone is using your image to fool it.


Gaming

This phone excels at gaming, we threw the latest games at it including FIFA 14, Real Racing 3, Asphalt 8, Nova 3, Modern Combat 4 among others, and Karbonn A12+ didn't hiccup even once. You can watch our gaming review of the Karbonn A12+ here. We were really impressed with the gaming capabilities of the device, since we were really disappointed with the Lava Iris 402, which uses the same chipset with 256 MB RAM.

512 MB RAM on the A12+ does wonders for the smartphone and it doesn't slow down even in the most demanding games.


Performance and Battery Life

For benchmark scores and comparison, you should follow this link. In terms of general performance, the phone doesn't freeze or get warm even after prolonged usage. Touch response is fluid as is browsing on the Karbonn A12 plus. You can see our review video, pinch-to-zoom and kinetic scrolling works great with quick content re-flow.

Our battery test involves a regular day of usage with 2G internet always on, with background sync on for all Google Apps, WhatsApp and Facebook, gaming for about 30 minutes, browsing internet for about an hour on Wi-Fi, listening to music/watching local videos for about an hour along with streaming video from YouTube for about 30 minutes and 20 minutes of voice calls without the use of the speakerphone. In this test the Karbonn A12+ lasted the entire day with about 10% battery to spare, which is expected for a dual-core device with a 4-inch display.


Therefore, in regular usage you would have to charge the phone overnight if you have data connectivity always on.


Wrap-up

We have to give it to Karbonn, for finally coming up with a good answer to the horde of budget dual-core Android devices flooding the Indian market. In terms of design, performance, gaming, battery life as well as general usability there is no smartphone in this price range that comes close to the capabilities of the Karbonn A12+. Although its not without issues as well. We could have done without the finicky capacitive buttons, super-amplified loud speaker and lackluster camera performance. But then comes the question of price, and you simply can't ignore that its available for Rs. 5199.


So should you go with the Karbonn A12+? We would say Yes, especially if you are looking to buy a phone in the Rs. 5000 bracket then there's nothing better. For a budget smartphone the Karbonn A12+ ticks many checkmarks, and gets others almost right, therefore we are giving the Karbonn A12+ a score of 7.5/10 for a job well done.


Score Breakdown

  • Build Quality
    7.3
  • Design
    7.6
  • Display
    7.2
  • Call Quality
    7.2
  • Camera
    6.7
  • Multimedia
    6.8
  • Gaming
    7.9
  • Battery Life
    7.4
  • Performance
    7.9
  • Features
    7.9
  • Accessories
    6.8
  • Total Score
    7.5
Karbonn A12+ Specs and Photos
Author: Abhinav Pathak

Abhinav Pathak likes all things tech, with major focus on smartphones and mobile computing. He has a profound interest in music, movies, gadgets and good food. His passion for coding translates into developing web-services and apps for android.

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