Smartphones have become commodities. Just one glance at the ways brands are positioning smartphones will tell you it is all about specifications and pricing. This is especially true for most of the new brands that are using this strategy for gaining market share. At times like these, the Lenovo Vibe Shot comes as a whiff of fresh air by having camera performance and design as its USP. Priced at Rs 25,499, let’s see if the Vibe Shot impresses us and is able to stand out from the clutter in the Rs 20,000-Rs 25,000 price segment. Read on:
From the front, the Vibe Shot looks like any other smartphone with a 5-inch display dominating most of the real estate with the usual array of capacitive buttons on the bottom. The metallic frame on the sides seem inspired from the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, though that might not be a bad thing since the phone does feel and look premium with an all metal and glass frame.
The real design innovation, however comes on the rear, where the designers have tried to give the Vibe Shot a point and shoot camera look, reminding us of the slim Sony Cyber-shot range. The back panel is made of glass, which doesn’t get smudged as easily as some other smartphones with glossy panels as we have seen in the past.
The Lenovo Vibe branding, the camera lens and the tri-color flash are all aligned in landscape mode. emphasizing it is a camera phone. All of these are placed on a strip that give a brushed metal impression but are part of the glass panel itself. This might be a good time to add that there is a dedicated camera shutter button as well as a tiny slider button to toggle between the auto and pro camera modes, which reminded us of some Sony Cyber-shot smartphones.
Overall, we found the Vibe Shot to be an aesthetically pleasing and well designed smartphone. Owing to the 5-inch display, it looks very compact and fits easily in the hand. It is one of the rare smartphones in this price segment to offer this screen size.
The Lenovo Vibe Shot uses a 5-inch full HD (1080p) IPS display that gives decent viewing angles, well balanced color, crisp text and respectable outdoor legibility. Be it playing games or streaming videos, it’s a soothing experience. It’s interesting to see that Lenovo has gone ahead with a 5-inch display panel over the popular 5.5-inch and even larger screen sizes. A relatively small display helps keep it compact and maintain the aesthetics as it strives to look like a compact point-and-shoot camera.
Coming to the User Interface part, Lenovo has pre-loaded its own Vibe UI over Android 5.1. The interface isn’t very extraordinary, but it’s surprisingly quite smooth to navigate, and looks good as well with vivid colors. The UI brings a slew of themes, and useful features such as tap to wake up display, shortcuts to apps and a few additional tweaks, providing more flexibility to personalize the look and feel. Despite being heavily customized, the Vibe UI gets the job done.
Needless to point out that the star feature of the Lenovo Vibe Shot is its 16-megapixel rear camera. The camera features tricolor flash system that allows auto adjustment of luminosity based on ambient light conditions. It also has Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and an Infra-red (IR) auto-focus. The phone has two modes – Pro and Auto – for making it easier for users to switch between manual and auto modes respectively. The Pro mode mainly brings more customization while clicking pictures and perhaps is aimed at photography enthusiasts, while the Auto mode is more of casual photography. For quicker access, there’s a toggle button on the edge to switch between these modes. Also, it has a dedicated camera button, which is itself becoming a rarity.
In the Pro mode, you can control ISO level, white balance, focus and shutter speed. You can get more creative with the some slow shutter-based modes such as the Star Trails, City traffic, Creative lighting and Light besides you. Despite being unique features for a mid-range smartphone, you cannot make most of these if your hand is not stable and are most likely to end up with shaky lightworks – nothing like the default thumbnail in the UI for this feature. Apart from that there are some usual photography modes such as the Pro, Smart, Artistic HDR, Blur background, Wide Selfie and Panorama allowing users to make most of the camera in different ambience and subjects. Out of these, we specially liked the Blur Background mode – if used in good lighting condition, it will deliver an excellent image with shallow depth of field and quite accurate focus. The interface in the Pro mode resembles Microsoft’s Lumia Camera but is less intuitive.
(Above: low-light indoors, Below: Blur Background mode. Click the image to see the full size)
Heading to the Auto mode, it’s fairly easy to use and has relatively simple interface. Even in the Auto mode, you can set the White Balance and ISO levels. For greater detailing, you can update the photo quality to Hyperfine (there are three quality options – Hyperfine, Fine and Normal). The Auto Mode can be used as a point and shoot camera.
(Click the image to see the full size)
Laser focus lets you focus instantly click, while the built-in OIS is for keeping images stable in case of moving subject or shaky hands. The OIS, however, is bit inconsistent and you may end up with blurry images. The camera makes subtle usage of the triple-tone LED flash that ensures your subjects don’t get the ghostly white hue because of the flash.
We enjoyed using the Vibe shot outdoors and in good light with impressive detailing, color accuracy and sharpness. However, in the low-light conditions, the phone doesn’t meet our expectations. It struggles a bit when it comes to balance with different lighting. Results are bit inconsistent and you may end up receiving rather an overly lit photo and at times color balance are not very accurate. However, the camera delivers an improved quality in indoors with good lighting.
(Click the image to see the full size)
Now heading on to the front facing 8-megapixel camera. It isn’t as feature rich as the rear camera, but delivers quite good quality, especially using the beauty mode. If you are a selfie enthusiast, you’d rather prefer the Zenfone Selfie and other selfie phones that are more feature-rich and deliver better quality.
(Front facing camera: Beauty Mode)
Lenovo could have made the video camera much more competitive and fun had it added popular features such as Slow Motion and Timelapse. It takes good 1080p videos which is very much standard for the premium and mid-range smartphones.
(Check out our full gallery of Lenovo Vibe Shot camera samples in full resolution here)
The Lenovo Vibe Shot comes with 3GB of RAM and 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor (quad-core 1.7GHz ARM Cortex A53 and quad-core 1.0GHz ARM Cortex A53 CPUs). For a mid-range smartphone, the combination of Snapdragon 615 and 3GB of RAM is a pretty decent offering and is good enough for most users. It’s worth pointing out that the similarly priced OnePlus 2 comes with 4GB of RAM and Snapdragon 810 while the top-end Asus Zenfone 2, which is also priced similarly comes with 4GB of RAM and Intel Atom 1.8GHz quad-core Z3560 processor.
Having said that, the Vibe Shot handles multitasking well without any visible lag. You can easily run 10-11 apps in the background without worrying about the performance. Shuffling between browsing, emailing, social networking and other regular apps is smooth. We played a few graphic intensive games like Real Racing 3, which it handled the game pretty well, though we noticed slight heating up and battery drain on extended gaming sessions.
The Vibe Shot comes with 32GB of internal storage, out of which about 25GB is available to users. The good thing is the phone comes with a microSD card slot, which is not something we see in a lot of phones. Most smartphones either come with a maximum of 16GB internal storage and give a microSD card slot or skip the removable storage option when they have higher internal storage.
Sound quality is not the forte of the Vibe shot. The audio quality on the phone is above average, while the earphones didn’t deliver much. The Vibe Shot has single speaker which is also not very outstanding. Call quality, however, is fine enough. Like most smartphones these days, the Vibe Shot comes with dual-SIM card support along with 4G connectivity.
The battery life of the Vibe Shot is average. On heavy usage, which includes 3-4 hours of video streaming on YouTube, about an hour of gaming, and extensive browsing, e-mailing and social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter, the battery lasted less than day. On moderate usage, you can probably squeeze a day out from the phone.
Should you be investing in this phone? Lenovo has made tall claims about the imaging capabilities of the Vibe Shot. However, the camera evidently doesn’t meet the claims and is certainly not your point and shoot camera alternative. That said, it is still better than a lot of mid-range Android phones. If you are looking for a smartphone with good camera, unique design and standard performance, the Vibe Shot is worth considering. But, if you want performance beasts, the likes of OnePlus 2 and Asus Zenfone 2 (4GB version) come across as better investments than the Lenovo Vibe Shot.