If the advertisements are to be believed, the G4 Gamolution mobile phone from Micromax made actor Akshay Kumar guffaw uncontrollably and decimate a hotel kitchen in his dogged determination to win a game.
The G4 made me laugh too, though this was more a disbelieving chuckle than buck-toothed cackle. That’s because the G4 is a funny sort of phone—a work of stellar engineering jugaad (improvisation) and shameless appropriation.
Micromax is a Delhi-based company that has quietly, over the last three years, become the third most popular mobile phone manufacturer in the country after Nokia and Samsung. It is popular for its line of “dual-sim” phones (the G4 among them), which allow you to receive calls and messages from two sim cards in the same phone.
The good stuff
Here’s the G4’s main draw. The phone comes with a free Bluetooth dongle that attaches to your PC. Also included is a DVD disc of games that you can install. Set both of these up, press a button on the phone, and it becomes a bona fide Nintendo Wii remote with which you can waggle, shake and jab your way through games of tennis, bowling and…strangely enough, badminton.
Here, things get a little weird. The games themselves are complete, shameless knock-offs of their Nintendo Wii counterparts (right down to the art style, sound effects and menus), and are made by a Beijing-based company called JiaJia Media (www.jiajia.tv).
Here, things get even weirder. The games and controls are excellent. It might be apocryphal to say the phone, with its home-brewed Wii-like software, is better somehow than Nintendo’s console—but after extensive testing, it is easier, and more responsive as a controller, than the plain Wiimote. The G4 handles direction input precisely. Swing to the left, and your shots are placed likewise. If you have a second G4, you can also play two-player.
Apart from this, the phone is a fairly solid device, with a host of nifty features—connect the phone to the computer, and it can use the camera as a webcam. The inbuilt FM radio function can schedule recordings of your favourite shows.
India has a long history of secretly ripping off Nintendo—an entire generation in the 1990s grew up playing hacked versions of Super Mario Bros from “10,000 in 1” cartridges. But the G4’s shameless appropriation of the Wii is troubling. The game function also fails to connect properly sometimes—a problem accentuated by the poorly written manual (sample instruction: “Append the accouterment of your mobile”). Otherwise, the G4 suffers from a few surprisingly basic problems. The SMS input is hopelessly slow, the camera is poor, and the build quality of the phone is slightly suspect.
At a price point of Rs5,999, you’re getting a decent phone, a Wii knock-off and a free Bluetooth adapter. It’s reason enough to be laughing like Akshay Kumar all the way from the store.