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Review of MTS GLONASS 945
Live photos of MTS GLONASS 945
It is an MTS carrier phone which is logical since MTS is a part of Mr. Yevtushenkov's holding who also wants to develop GLONASS production on some of his factories, it has not been going too well so far but he is entitled to boast in front of the country's top leadership of producing a "Russian" GLONASS phone capable of competing with iPhone – ridiculous statements but this is big politics and the MTS phone is not about the market demand or consumers or anything else: it is pure politics.
ZTE takes minimum production orders of 1000 handsets and, I believe, MTS has ordered about 3000 handsets or 5000 max, but the latter is unlikely. The reason is obvious – it's nothing personal, MTS is simply doing business and is not willing to just throw cash away even on contracts the company holding imposes on its affiliates. This is why the price tag is outrageous: small production order and the risk that the entire batch will not be sold. That is why a potential buyer will have to pay for two phones instead of just one: the one he gets and the one someone else should have bought. It is a weird business approach and very rare too because it is doomed to fail. On the other hand, in a political project no one is really worrying about business results – the only thing that matters is that the product exists. The rhetoric about this phone being an iPhone killer is also a part of this story – no one from the government will ever test this statement and one day the phone will be simply gone from stores and there will be no scandal.
The goal MTS in this project was simply to spend as little cash as possible. That is why they have altered the default ZTE phone specs – ZTE VF945 has a 5MPix camera, a flash and more memory. The MTS variant lacks all these to be as cheap as possible. Installing a GLONASS chip adds another $36 which is a lot for a phone with a production cost of $100. The retail price of Vodafone 945 is €110-120 without a contract or you can get the handset for free if you take it with a contract as a low-range solution.
In the end we have a GLONASS phone with a price of a decent Android smartphone which has the specs of twice cheaper phones. Who would buy it? Russian president or the prime minister or high profile officials. And I would like them to use it daily and put the iPhone killer claims to a test. There cannot possibly be a reason for a sane person to buy MTS 945. Even "Made in Russia" slogan is not a case here: ZTE is a Chinese company, Android was developed mainly in the US but the manual and the shipping box are indeed in Russian.
The phone body is made of a velvety to touch plastic which feels nice in hand. The phone dimensions are 109.1х55.9х14.1 mm/4.3x2.2x0.56 in, weighing in 130gr/4.6 oz. the phone feels solid: there is no crackling and the plastic is rather thick. I didn't find any problems with the assembly quality. The MTS version of the phone is available only in black while Vodafone 945 comes in white and in black.
MTS GLONASS 945 vs Highscreen Cosmo:
Below the screen there are three buttons – Home, Menu and Back. The central button also has a light indicator that flashes when you have missed calls or SMS. On the left side there is the volume rocker and the microUSB slot. On the right side we find the Search button and the camera shutter button. On the top side there is the power button which very tiny and buried deep into the body making it almost impossible to press consider also that this button also unlocks the screen and you will understand the scale of the problem. The bundled headset provides very poor sound quality not suitable for music which sounds funny at best.
The screen is capacitive and supports multitouch. The screen size is 3.2" with the resolution of 240x400. It has a TFT matrix displaying 262000 colors. The screen is hardly legible outdoors even when it's cloudy and it goes completely blind under direct sunlight. The screen is one of the cheapest there is: very dim with poor unclear picture. Considering that this phone was designed for navigation we may say that it failed at what it was meant for.
MTS GLONASS 945 vs Highscreen Cosmo:
The phone is shipped with a 1500 mAh Li-Ion battery. Under a regular workload (30-40 minutes of calls, 10 SMS, Gmail account with automatic sync and mail delivery) the phone could sturdily last a day. If you use it less extensively it can give you 1.5-2 days – quite regular result for an Android.
The phone is quoted to provide 6 hours of talk time and 250 hours of stand-by. It takes about 2 hours to fully charge the battery.
It is an ordinary 3.2MPix camera with no flash. It is a budget module though capable of making nice pictures on a sunny day. It lacks light sensitivity but as for the rest it is surprisingly not too bad.
Video is recorded into 3GPP container (codec H.263) at 15 fps. The sound is recorded by means of the amr codec. The video resolution is 640x480.
The handset can work in the following networks: GSM (850/900/1800/1900), UMTS 2100.
PC sync and data transfer works via a microUSB cable. The USB interface is 2.0 HS. Mass storage mode is supported. The average data transfer rate is about 4Mbps. There is a Bluetooth 2.0 module that supports the following profiles:
All the most frequently used and some multimedia profiles are there but there is no object (business card) transfer profile. The phone worked fine with my wireless stereo headset. The sound quality is acceptable but not impressive.
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g standards are supported and work fine.
The phone features 130 MB of in-built memory available to users. MicroSD memory cards are located under the back cover and the battery. Cards are not hot swappable, but we tried cards of up to 16 GB and had no problems whatsoever. The handset comes equipped with an 800 MHz processor (Qualcomm MSM7230), which ensures relatively fast performance taking into account the screen size.
The phone uses Android 2.2 and has almost no difference from the original OS in this respect. All changes are influenced by another screen resolution and additional pre-installed applications.
In the standby mode you can install "live" wallpapers or widgets. All widgets have the same size due to screen limitations, but even in this case they are easy to use. They host not much information though.
The screen keypad can be either QWERTY or standard. It can also be used in a horizontal mode.
There is a file manager here and the in-built FM radio is very basic. The headset functions as an antenna and there are no additional settings. The player is standard that is why we will not concentrate on it here.
Dictaphone application was slightly redesigned.
There is a utility to test GPS and GLONASS satellites signals. It has no practical value as it only shows satellites and it main feature is to highlight the presence of GLONASS in the phone. It is another sign that the model serves political purposes because it is completely silly to launch a phone with an utterly useless app. We could not find a single app to use GLONASS or choose GPS.
Ringtones are loud, but the vibro is a bit weak to my mind. There are no issues with speech reproduction.
Let's imagine for a second that the Russian navigation system GLONASS allows finding your location more accurately than the GPS. Now think of a situation when you have to get to the place with the accuracy of half a meter? I cannot imagine that. Moreover, as far as all navigation apps now use both hardware and A-GPS positioning, the navigation accuracy is maximum. Navigation can be used in the street and inside. Developers of GLONASS know it perfectly well and promote the idea that the second navigation system is a boost to accuracy. I also agree to have an additional navigation system in my phone if it costs the same amount, but to pay 100% more for the handset is absolutely crazy. I sympathize with МТS employees who had this political project imposed on them. It was a lose-lose situation both in terms of PR and actual sales, which was absolutely clear from the very outset.
When the model was introduced to the Prime Minister of Russia the first shipment of 500,000 was mentioned. Kremlin officials can dream on, because in real life we cannot expect anything similar in terms of volumes as I have already mentioned.
Now, let's discuss the GLONASS "chip". There is no separate navigation chip in the phone as we can find here only the antenna to receive satellites signals and MSM7230 processor responsible for deciphering the signal. There is nothing horrible about it, because hardware solutions use the same principle and dedicated chips merely move down the power consumption and calculate location data faster. I do not know how the GLONASS signal is used here as the Android navigation uses either GPS or A-GPS by default. Another alternative is the navigation on base stations. In the phone menu we could not find any option to switch navigation systems. Moreover, the comparison of standard apps sizes in this model with Vodafone 945 revealed complete concurrence. It happens that GLONASS coordinates are calculated in the firmware, but do not make their way into the main navigation system. May be these coordinates are used by the system, but the navigation software cannot work with them as it is a carbon copy of the GPS app. It is a weird solution or maybe I do not understand something and the signal management and coordinates are handled differently. Then it can be somehow explained.
I have a feeling that people who masterminded the creation of the model wanted to show off a GLONASS smartphone, but they did not promise that the GLONASS technology will be fully operational. I would not be surprised if someone will use a jammer on the GPS signal frequency and disable a radio module in МТС 945 to find out that the navigation is gone. I failed to carry out this experiment.
I will repeat one simple idea that GLONASS is important for the national security. In first GLONASS receivers the navigation system chip was attached with a double sided scotch tape to show that the chip was there, but now the situation is much better and we have fully operational navigation devices. Nevertheless, for civilians GLONASS offers a grim picture, as the system is not necessary in everyday life, while products like МТС 945 undermine the belief into the system. I do not know why you should need such a model. If you are an official reveal your patriotic feelings for China or USA by purchasing their product and funding their research and development. Unfortunately, in МТС 945 our technology looks odd. I still cannot answer the question if GLONASS is used here at all or not. I think it is another propaganda trick and satellites coordinates are only mentioned in the test software. At least they were not to be found in Google Maps.
At the price of 380$ this model does not look competitive as you can find numerous models with comparable features for $200. In the segment of $350 and up you can find more feature rich offerings with better design and without the necessity to pay 100% over the genuine price of the handsets. МТS had plans to launch А918, but those plans were scrapped. Why a complete analogue of МТС 945 without GLONASS costs $250 or even less? The story of Russian answer to Apple iPhone turned out to be rather sad.
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Published 10 May 2011
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