If you’re in the market for a large phone or "phablet" and you love consuming media, the O+ Grande might just be what you're after. It’s very much in keeping with other phones that have been released in response to the phablet craze that’s swept the industry.
Overall, the Grande’s a value-laden device - it’s not perfect, but it can certainly offer prospective buyers quite a considerable package.
What’s in the box
Pry open the orange-and-white box and you’ll be greeted by a velveteen enclosure that surrounds the phone - a nice touch considering that the Grande is far from a range-topping unit.
The package itself is pretty standard; aside from the requisite and expected manuals and documentation, buyers also get a pair of headphones, a USB wall charger, and a micro-USB to USB cable, all done up in the corporate colors. There’s also a free screenguard - a must-have given the large screen and the corresponding risk of damage - as well as a 4GB mini-SD card.
Specs and features
Here’s a quick rundown of the Grande’s key features:
Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)
6” HD screen
1.3 Ghz quad-core processor
Dual camera setup: main, 5MP autofocus with flash; front-facing, 2MP
Can support up to 32GB of expandable memory
2700 mAh battery
1-year limited warranty
Grande users can also enjoy some of O+’s innovations, including Air Share (an Android social-storage app allowing users to store, send and receive files of up to 15GB for free), Air Shuffle (a motion sensor-activated feature that allows users to move between music tracks, photos and radio stations by swiping a hand from left to right to advance to the next one, or vice versa to restart a track/access the previous one), and Visitor Mode (which locks down private information like messages and contacts for owners’ peace of mind when someone else is using their phone).
If you’re wondering how large it is, the Grande is all of 168.5 x 87.4 x 10.1 mm.
What it’s like to use
First off, the Grande has the handling and heft of a phablet, no if’s, and’s or but’s. There’s no hiding how large this unit is; it fills up a user’s hand and makes its presence known in all but the largest of pockets. Additionally, it’s on the heavy side as well.
But we argue that this is par for the course when it comes to phablets. Their size comes as a consequence of the large screen, and the Grande is akin to every other phablet in this way. Plus, just think about it - if it were excessively thin, its structural integrity and, thus, longevity might be compromised. We feel the Grande is a good solid device that will have little trouble surviving the occasional drop. It’s in the game for the long haul.
We also have to mention that the Grande is unapologetically plastic - unlike, say, many of Samsung’s phones and phablets, which feature metal, this one is almost entirely covered in a matte-finish dark plastic (except for the screen, of course), so if that's not your thing, you might want to look elsewhere. This isn’t a bad thing, though - the plastics are of decent quality and are non-slippery (if a tad fingerprint-prone, but a firm wipe with a good cleaning cloth will solve that issue).
As regards fit and finish, the Grande appears to have been put together pretty well - we were unable to find any flaws on the outside of the unit. As a matter of fact we could find only one issue: the capacitive buttons were backlit unevenly (the light shines through the bottom half of the buttons). This, however, is not a major issue and is far from a deal-breaker.
The Grande comes into its own when it’s used to play videos, watch movies and/or browse ebooks. Its six-inch, 1280 x 720 screen is relatively sharp and clear, and viewing angles are pretty decent - making it a good phablet to watch media with. It’s got the “real estate” media junkies crave.
We also like how media use didn’t impact the battery life too heavily. We put the phone through its paces for several hours, watching a few videos on YouTube and also a couple of movies that we saved on a memory card, and were happy to see that the battery life wasn’t reduced by more than a third. Our estimate is that the phone can run for about a day and a half to two days on a full charge - not at all bad.
The sound setup is a little less than ideal, however - the Grande only has one speaker and it’s located on the right side of the unit, which might make group-watching sessions less than perfect. But other options are available to amp up the sound, including using wired or Bluetooth speakers (or using headphones, of course). Additionally, after a “media run” like ours, we found that the rear casing of the phone heats up quite a bit after prolonged usage - something to keep in mind before going on a movie or video binge.
So despite the issues, we’d say that, relatively speaking, the media-consumption area is where the Grande excels, thanks to its screen and performance.
Both the Grande’s main and front-facing snappers are relatively easy to use, especially for users who are already well acquainted with smartphone-camera interfaces. Few surprises here - fire them up and start taking pictures easily.
That said, there are one or two cool features. For one, O+ allows users to take pictures by saying “capture” or “cheese”. We couldn’t get this feature to work too consistently, though - it worked best in a relatively quiet setting where the phone could easily make out the instructions.
The Grande takes pretty decent pictures that are more or less par for the course for smartphones in its class. Just as with other phones, good lighting - whether indoor or outdoor - is what this phone needs to take good pictures; conversely, in poor lighting, it’s far less successful at snapping shots. The autofocus worked relatively decently, though it can be easily overpowered if users wave the phone around too much when it’s being used. Overall, the pictures the phone takes are more than good enough for social media, but won’t satisfy professional photographers (but then again, how many smartphone cameras can?).
We need to point out that the camera lens protrudes quite a bit from the body, potentially putting it in harm’s way, especially for those units owned by users who might put their units flat on tables or something like that. We urge users to be mindful of the lens when doing so.
The O+ Grande is a decent overall performer, but as we said it’s best when used for media consumption, thanks to its screen and battery life. As such, this phablet is worthy of consideration for media junkies. Everyone else will need to decide whether its size and heft make it a little tougher to use than smaller and more portable smartphones - which is, after all, the major tradeoff of all phablet buyers nowadays.