YU signed off 2015 with its latest flagship smartphone, YU Yutopia. Touted as the ‘most powerful smartphone on the planet’, the Yutopia is perhaps the most ambitious device from Yu thus far. Priced aggressively at Rs 24,999, the Yutopia checks all the boxes for being a worthy ‘flagship killer.’
It has the latest Cyanogen OS, and is powered by a Snapdragon 810 chipset along with 4GB of RAM. There is a QHD display from Sharp along with Corning Concore Glass protection, a 21-megapixel rear camera with Sony Exmor RS IMX230 sensor, PDAF and OIS.
To complete the package, the Yutopia includes an integrated platform called ‘Around YU’, which sources content from multiple apps and services and offers it to users at one place. And not to forget, it has Gaana as default music player along with built in DTS and bundled House of Marley Little Bird headphones.
As said at the launch event as well, it seems YU has assembled all the possible best hardware in what it calls the ‘most powerful phone’. But adding all the ingredients does not necessarily translate into a powerful smartphone. After all, Professor Utonium too needed the Chemical X.
In case of the Yutopia, the smartphone is nowhere close to what the company has been claiming. Issues with the Yutopia are so elementary that you almost think it’s 2013. For an example, calls go on hold or get mute whenever you are receiving or making a call. You have to press twice or thrice just to get to the home screen or navigate between apps.
Issues with the Yutopia begin with its very design. The metal back on the phone is quite slippery, and not a single day passed without it dropping off my hands. The good thing is that screen didn’t shatter or even get scratched. But, that Saturn ring glass housing the camera lens did get several scratches.
Yes, the phone is quite good looking and quite slim at 7.2 mm. The seamless metal design and antenna bands, and curved corners add to the aesthetics. With a comparatively smaller 5.2-inch display, YU has tried to keep the smartphone compact. The front is dominated by the display with front camera on the top along with YU branding and LED notification light at the bottom. The volume and power keys are placed on the right, while the primary SIM tray and secondary hybrid-SIM tray are on the left. The rear has the camera set up along with the fingerprint scanner followed by speaker grilles at the bottom.
The Yutopia has a 5.2-inch QHD display which is way ahead from the competition like the OnePlus 2 or Asus Zenfone 2 or Honor 7. Corning’s Concore Gorilla Glass is infused in the display, making it slimmer and sturdier. However, the QHD display isn’t bright enough, and it gets worse outdoors. The display tends to be on the warmer side, no matter which setting you choose. But it is not just the display brightness and legibility, even the touch sensitivity was below average – I often found myself tapping multiple times on the home button for my tap to get registered.
This experience follows on to the user interface and software. Running the latest CyanogenMod v12.1, the user interface of the Yutopia is really buggy. App crashes are quite random while lag creeps in when you try to kill the multiple apps in background or browse images in the gallery. There were also occasions when the bottom navigation buttons refused to pop up when exiting a full screen content or game. I am hoping Yu will sort out these issues with the latest CyanogenMod update.
Mediocrity prevails over in the Yutopia’s fingerprint reader, which is akin to the ones seen on Honor 7 and Gionee Elife E8. After having used snappy fingerprint sensors on the iPhone 6 and even HTC One A9, the reader on the Yutopia is a tad slow and very inconsistent. Most of the times I preferred the pin to unlock the phone over the fingerprint scanner.
Not everything in the Yutopia so bleak though. Yu should be commended for its efforts with the Around YU. The platform brings your basic necessities such as food ordering, booking cabs or flights or even online shopping to one place. I loved the concept even though it is still in its early days, and has plenty of scope to improve. Had the interface been much user-friendly or the filters (for narrowing down the search) prominently displayed, user experience would have been much better. Nonetheless, Around YU is a good effort, and perhaps implies YU’s growing focus on features apart from the top of the line hardware elements.
The camera is Yutopia’s major area of excellence. It features a 21-megapixel rear camera with Sony Exmor RS IMX230 sensor, PDAF and OIS. The camera delivers impressive results in good and medium light conditions. Brightness, color and saturation levels are quite satisfactory. Auto focus is quite fast too, though low light performance could have been better.
You might find the image processing to be a bit low even in the auto mode but that’s because YU has switched off the zero shutter lag option by default, which ensures images are stable and clear. Switching the zero shutter lag option on, however, leads to blurry shots. There are a slew of modes such as HDR, Steady Shot, Night portrait, ChromaFlash among others. I really liked the HDR mode of the camera, especially in low-light conditions. The flash, though, washes out colors.
The Yutopia also shoots 4K videos, and supports features such as time lapse and slow motion. The video quality on 4K mode is superb, and thrives in good light conditions. The 8-megapixel front camera of the Yu is quite average, and takes quite decent selfies in across light conditions.
The interface of the camera isn’t really intuitive. To switch modes, you have to swipe up and down on the display. I’d rather tap on a mode button, and switch to a particular mode instead of keep swiping on the display.
While the camera is quite impressive, the smartphone delivers an impressive sound quality for its price range. With Gaana integration and features such as built-in DTS and tri-mic technology, Yu has put a high emphasis on audio quality. What further adds to the sound features is the bundled House of Marley’s Little Bird in-ear headphone. The Little Bird in-ear headphone is lightweight and quite comfortable to wear, and unlike substandard in-ear headphones it stays on your ears.
The call quality is good enough through the headphones and on speaker mode. But as mentioned above, calls go on hold or get muted automatically.
In terms of overall performance, the Yutopia is very disappointing. YU had mentioned it had optimized the Snapdragon 810 processor to take care of overheating issues, but that isn’t the case. On prolonged gaming sessions or camera sessions, heating is bit routine for the Android smartphones. But with the Yutopia, phone starts to heat within a few minutes of Internet browsing or even music or video streaming. Put the phone battery mode from Balanced to Performance mode, the device heats to really an uncomfortable level. Games such as Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat lag and even cause screen freeze on the Yutopia. On longer gaming sessions, the phone starts to heat up and drains battery at relatively fast pace.
One of the main things that really turned me off as was about hundreds of MBs of updates to the pre-loaded apps including the likes of Gaana and Google Play service when you start up with the Yutopia. Features such as dual-SIM support, 4G LTE connectivity and 32GB onboard storage (with a microSD card slot) make the phone on par with the competition.
Battery life on the Yutopia is just over average. The 3,000mAh battery will give you back up of about 6-7 hours on normal day usage which includes continuous background running apps such as Slack, Facebook, Gmail, a couple of hours browsing and instant messaging, music and video streaming. The big respite is that the Yutopia supports fast charging, and is quite impressive. Within 20 minutes of charge, battery life gets to 40 percent from less than 10 percent.
Overall, the Yutopia doesn’t look to be a well optimized smartphone despite bringing high end hardware specifications. Cyanogen’s buggy software is one major bottleneck and hampers the overall experience. Rather chasing the best specifications, YU should focus on optimizing the experience that balances hardware and software.
Despite good camera and sound quality, it is really tough to recommend the YU Yutopia. It certainly is not the most powerful phone, and even struggles to deliver as a decent mid-range smartphone.