The launch of smartphone brands like Xiaomi and Motorola last year have been a major headache for existing players like Samsung and Micromax. Both the brands went the online-exclusive route and significantly undercut rival smartphones from existing players. The Xiaomi and Motorola model proved to be so successful that both players ended up selling over a million smartphones in five months, without having to endure the headache of setting up a distribution and retail channel or an expensive marketing campaign. India’s second largest smartphone vendor, Micromax, isn’t taking this lying down and has launched a new online-exclusive brand called Yu. Its first smartphone, Yureka, will go on sale tomorrow exclusively via Amazon. But will it be able to take on the juggernaut that Xiaomi has become? Also Read - Micromax teases In Series smartphone design, resembles Honor smartphonesAlso Read - Micromax's new In-series phones to launch with MediaTek chipsets
In many ways, the Yureka comes across as a very me too product. The strategy of selling a smartphone exclusively online via flash sales for which buyers have to register first and the fact that the first sale is happening at the same time as that of its rival Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G, leaves no room for doubt about Yu’s target. Much like Xiaomi, Yu too is hosting online forums where fans can report bugs; suggest new features and so on. It is almost like saying if you can do it, so can we.
But that shouldn’t cloud our opinion about the product in question. The Yureka is a very non-Micromax looking smartphone, which is a good thing. Many might point out that it is a rebranded version of a Chinese smartphone but that shouldn’t make any difference as such. The 5.5-inch phablet looks better than the clunky Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G, with which it competes. It is relatively lighter to hold and I like the soft rubber finish on the back panel. Yu calls the grey finish Moonstone grey, which sounds inspired by OnePlus One’s sandstone finish. Unlike the OnePlus One, the Yureka doesn’t have any grainy finish and is regular soft touch plastic.
Coming to specifications, the Yureka doesn’t disappoint. We are looking at a 5.5-inch 720p display with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 protection, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 octa-core 64-bit processor clocked at 1.5GHz, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, of which slightly over 12GB is available to users as well as a microSD card slot.
There is a 13-megapixel rear camera that can also shoot videos in 1080p and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera capable of shooting videos in 720p. The primary SIM card slot is also capable of dual-mode 4G LTE connectivity, ensuring that the phone supports existing 4G networks on TD-LTE Band 40 as well as new 4G LTE networks that will come up on FDD-LTE Band 3 on which newer networks are expected to be rolled out.
In terms of hardware performance, the Yureka left me impressed. The 720p IPS display offers good viewing angles and good legibility under sunlight as well. The color reproduction is decent, especially considering the price of the smartphone. The Snapdragon processor too was pretty capable coupled with 2GB of RAM, handling most tasks without any hassle. At any given moment, it did not feel as if I was using a sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone.
The only area that made me realize I was using a cheap smartphone was when it came to using the camera. Photos clicked outdoors seemed to be washed out at times. Almost all photos clicked indoors had noise and were soft. At times I managed to get better photos indoors from the front facing 5-megapixel camera than the higher resolution 13-megapixel rear camera. I believe this has less to do with the camera itself and more about how Cyanogen OS processes photos. Having said that, the results were at par, if not better than most sub-Rs 10,000 smartphones though I have a feeling it could get better.
One of the big talking points about the Yureka is it runs on Cyanogen OS, a custom ROM on top of Android. Yu is the only smartphone brand that can officially sell smartphones running on Cyanogen OS in India. Cyanogen OS offers an almost stock Android interface but adds a number of power tools that offer deep customizations.
Users can not only change the theme of the phone, but also change system-wide fonts, icons, boot animations and so on. But there is much more to it than that. While the phone itself has physical home and menu buttons, one can also opt for onscreen buttons. The top notification drawer can be customized as well right from how notifications are displayed to which shortcuts would appear on the quick settings and in what order. My favorite is the ability to change display brightness by swiping a finger across the top of the display.
Even the lockscreen can be customized not only in terms of what security method one prefers (pin, pattern and so on) but also how it behaves. Coming from iOS, my preferred method is the one where the screen unlocks automatically after entering the pin, without having to hit the enter button like in default Android.
Users can create hidden folders and add password locks, select which apps have access to personal information and so on. The number of customizations available is mind boggling. On top of that, power users can even root the phone without voiding the warranty.
The Yureka also impressed me with its capabilities as a phone. Having used it as my primary smartphone for almost two weeks, I don’t have any major qualms. The call quality was good and I didn’t face any noticeable call drops. The speakerphone sounds tiny though. The most satisfying bit was that the 2,500mAh battery regularly lasted me for an entire day with almost six hours of screen time on. I had Wi-Fi and 3G switched on at all times, two Gmail inboxes, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and about two hours of online browsing daily. Alas, with no 4G LTE networks in Delhi yet, I wasn’t able to test its LTE chops.
Priced at Rs 8,999, the Yu Yureka is a smartphone I would readily recommend. The trouble however, is that the company has only 10,000 units for its first flash sale tomorrow with over three lakh registrations. Getting your hands on the Yureka via Amazon India would be extremely difficult.