Phones with fingerprint scanners are becoming a rage now. But in fact, fingerprint scanners are not new to smartphones at all (Motorola’s Atrix being the first smartphone in 2011 to have it). But since an effortless iteration of the fingerprint scanner dubbed ‘Touch ID’ was implemented in the iPhone, other smartphone makers quickly moved on to putting similarly functioning scanners in their phones too. Is a fingerprint scanner really required? Which is the cheapest phone with a fingerprint scanner? Is it worth the money?
The Coolpad Note 3 is currently the cheapest phone with a fingerprint scanner. Sold exclusively on Amazon.in, the Note 3 uses a flash sale model and requires registration before it can be bought. While at the Note 3 launch, Coolpad expressed their desire to bring a phone with a fingerprint scanner for the masses, I really wish this was available for easy purchase via an open sale.
The Note 3 comes from the same manufacturer that made the Coolpad F2 which was sold as the Yu Yureka by Micromax. The brand also made it presence felt in the market in the form of Coolpad Dazen and sold the Dazen 1 and the Dazen X7. The Coolpad Note 3 sports a 5.5 inch display with a 720p resolution, which has become the norm nowadays with other phones like the Honor 4X. While the 5.5 inch size does look big on paper, I found the phone comfortable to use and the curved sides help to grip the phone quite well. The design is minimalistic and there is a chrome strip running along the sides of the phone that give it a premium look. We’ve seen the chrome peel off on Samsung phones but we hope that’s not the case on the Note 3.
With the screen off, it looks like the phone has an edge to edge display thanks to the black surrounds. The display is good for the price and there isn’t really much I would complain about. The back is plain jane but screams quality, the back panel is made of high quality plastic and the finish quickly reminds me of the baby skin finish on the OnePlus One. The finish improves the grip on the phone while improving the aesthetics. I was worried about ruining the white coat of the phone but I’m happy to say that it does not get dirty all that easily.
The main thing distinguishing this phone from the others is the fingerprint scanner at the back. The back panel is removable and once pulled out reveals the non-removable battery. This is a Dual SIM device and has a MicroSD card slot for expanding storage. The scanner rests just below the camera, a natural spot for the index finger. I have lots to talk about the fingerprint scanner which I will in a bit.
Software & User Experience
Software wise the phone runs on Android Lollipop and has its own CoolUI on top of it. The UI looks similar to Chinese brands like Huawei, Xiaomi and the others. I am among the ones who like the Google Launcher a lot and hence used it in place of the default launcher immediately. The UI has a lot of useful features like the Multi Window mode that makes using two apps at one time possible. The applications need to be handpicked before multitasking can be used. After using such a feature on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, I'm happy that this entry level phone can also do it fairly well. The interface for it could've been better but I think I'm asking a lot now. The UI has gestures that can be used to interact with the phone with the screen off but sadly I couldn't find a way to customize it.
The MediaTek Octa Core processor in the phone runs very smoothly and I found no lags in my daily use. This may be due to the 3GB of RAM on board which had more than 1.5GB of free RAM all the given time! The smooth functioning encourages you to get more work done at a given time. The closest competitor to the Coolpad Note 3 would be the Lenovo K3 Note which not only loses the price battle but also the spec battle to this phone. For starters the Note only has 2GB of RAM, a slightly older MediaTek processor and the Fingerprint scanner is missing.
Now coming to the Fingerprint scanner on this phone, it is among the best in the market. I know these are strong words but after using the Apple iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, the Coolpad Note 3, costing a fifth the price, is almost as good. The square fingerprint sensor sits at the back and will need you to use the index finger on the scanner. It is really fast and takes less than a second to read the fingerprint and unlock the phone; that for a sub Rs. 10,000 phone is impressive. Up to 5 fingerprints can be saved on the phone that can be used to unlock it or launch different apps based on which finger is placed, which is an interesting way to use this feature.
The Fingerprints can be bound to user profiles in the phone, a quick scan will now directly load that user’s profile which is really cool! For instance, you can create a user profile for others so when they unlock the phone with their fingerprint, your data and settings won’t be visible, since it will be a different user profile. While Android Marshmallow gets the Fingerprint API that makes full use of the fingerprint scanner, Coolpad has built their own on Lollipop. The phone comes pre installed with FP Lock, an App that Coolpad provides with the phone. So instead of switching user profiles entirely, this app securely locks individual apps on the phone and can be unlocked quickly using the appropriate fingerprint.
I found the location of the fingerprint scanner to be perfect. The scanner on the back allows the manufacturer to provide a bigger screen and thinner bezels. As a result of the location though, the device cannot be unlocked when it is resting on the table. You’ll either have to enter the PIN or lift it up and unlock it. The scanner is slightly recessed at the back of the phone, the removable back cover may be the reason for it. Once the cover is pulled out it reveals the two Micro SIM slots, the MicroSD card slot and the non-removable 3000mAh battery that is sealed shut.
I was expecting good battery life from this phone considering it has a huge 3000mAh battery and the Coolpad Note 3 did not disappoint. It could easily run for one whole day without requiring any additional charge. When it did, the provided charger was powerful enough to charge it quickly.
The camera on the back is a 13 megapixel sensor and has a single LED flash. In broad daylight the camera clicks good images, not the sharpest I’ve seen but good. However when the lighting isn’t great that is when it suffers. The software bumps the ISO up drastically and the image appears very grainy. If you want to take control there is a Pro mode that lets you adjust every camera setting as per your liking. You can also use the fingerprint scanner at the back as a shutter button but it ends up being more convenient when clicking selfies. The front facing 5 megapixel camera clicks good selfies but I have one issue with the software here. The moment the front camera is triggered it sets it to beautify mode which smoothes the face artificially. I always had to put it to normal mode to click a picture.
The Coolpad Note 3 is an impressive phone, the MediaTek processor coupled with 3GB of RAM provide a lot of go for the average Joe. The camera is decent to click that occasional pics and selfies. The battery is big enough to power the phone while you go through your day. And all of this for a price of Rs. 8,999 and it has a Fingerprint scanner at the back! I don’t think I can ask for anything else nor is there anything else for this price that I’d rather recommend.
This article has been contributed by Aditya Shenoy, Deputy Editor at Pricebaba