- 16MP rear camera with OIS
- 8MP front camera
- Pro camera mode
- 1080p display
- Great, functional design
- Rear camera captures great low light images
- Good battery life
- Images are over saturated
- Filled with bloatware
- Doesn’t support 4K video recording
Back in the day, when smartphones weren’t yet introduced to the world and only feature phones were available, manufacturers used to market various phones by highlighting one particular feature. For example, the erstwhile Sony Ericsson made the Walkman-branded phones focussed at music aficionados and Nokia followed suit with the Music Xpress series. Similarly, Nokia’s N95 and N93 were camera-focussed phones and so were the Sony K750i and the Sony K790i. Since then though, times have changed, and today we have smartphones that are expected to do everything. And do them well, at that.
Therefore, we see fewer manufacturers today touting only a single feature (camera, gaming, music, etc.) on their new smartphones. So, when a brand focuses only about the camera inside a smartphone, it makes us sit up and take notice. Showcased at MWC 2015 this year, the Lenovo Vibe Shot was a really interesting device because of the fact that it packed a 16-megapixel camera with tricolour flash, which is basically nothing but three LED flash lights and its interesting design. That said, Lenovo introduced the Vibe Shot a little late in the market. As a result of which, it now faces some intense competition in the market. Phones like the OnePlus 2, Honor 7, and the Nubiz Z9 Mini have already proved their mettle in the smartphone camera department. We try to find out if the Vibe Shot can stand tall amongst these great devices.
One look at the Vibe Shot and you immediately realise that Lenovo has designed the smartphone in such a way that it resembles a digital camera. The rear is all glass, with a brushed metal strip (or an illusion of one because you can’t really feel the metal) on the left portion of the phone. This strip houses the camera module, triple-LED flash as well as the Lenovo Vibe branding. The text is imprinted vertically and so, when you hold the phone in landscape orientation for capturing images, it gives the impression that you are holding a compact digital camera instead of a phone. We were really impressed with this ingenuity of the designers, considering how Lenovo has positioned the Vibe Shot as a camera phone.
While both the front and the rear portions of the phone are all glass, they are protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 technology, which is reassuring. Moreover, Lenovo adds an all-aluminium frame to add to the solidarity of the phone. Additionally, Lenovo bundles a transparent case in the box which doesn’t take away from the look of the phone. Our review unit’s metal frame was red in colour which cut an impressive sight. It managed to turn some heads, and we weren't complaining about the attention.
The Vibe Shot has dimensions of 142.7x70x7.6mm and weighs 145g, which makes it one of the most comfortable phones to use with one hand. However the front portion of the phone, which includes the screen, is slightly raised from the frame which makes it susceptible to dents or cracks in case of a fall.
On the front facia of the phone, one can find the three backlit capacitive buttons below the display. On the other hand, the earpiece, the notification LED, and the front facing camera are placed above the display. The 3.5mm audio port and the microphone are present on the top edge whereas the Micro-USB port and two speaker grilles are present on the bottom edge. Only the right speaker emanates sound whereas the left one is present only for design parity. The right edge of the Vibe Shot is lined up with buttons. One can find the power button, volume rocker, the camera shutter, and a switch between the cameras pro and auto modes on this edge. Two separate trays for the dual Micro-SIM card and the microSD card are present on the left edge of the phone. It is great that Lenovo decided to create separate trays for the SIM cards and the microSD card instead of a single one because even if you lose one, the other is safe. Finally, to complete the whole camera phone look, Lenovo has provided a cutout for a lanyard cable on the left corner.
The Vibe Shot is fitted with a 5-inch Full-HD (1080x1920p) IPS LCD panel. Unlike most LCD screens, the one on the Vibe Shot is saturated and the colours really pop. The display has a fairly cool tone and the blacks are adequately deep as well. Moreover, its very high pixel density of 441 PPI makes it one of the most pixel-rich screens we’ve seen in a while. Both, text and images just stand out. However, the screen doesn’t get too bright and as a result, the sunlight legibility is also affected sometimes. This can especially be a hindrance when taking photos in bright sunlight as the screen’s visibility is affected. The viewing angles, on the other hand, are fairly good.
Internally, the Vibe Shot uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 SoC which uses a quad-core 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53 chip and another quad-core 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53 chip. It has 3GB of RAM for apps and services, and 32GB of internal storage space. This can be further expanded by up to 128GB using a microSD card.
Only the primary SIM card of the two present can connect to Indian LTE networks. The other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and support for dual-band networks and Bluetooth v4.1. There are two cameras - the primary one uses a Sony IMX240 16-megapixel sensor and the secondary camera can shoot 8-megapixel fixed focus selfies. A fairly large 3,000mAh battery provides the juice for the phone to function.
The problem with Lenovo’s Vibe UI skin is that it is a complete overhaul of the Android OS so much so that it completely lacks the character that Android has. Lenovo has added this skin on top of Android 5.1.1. It lacks an app drawer and all the apps are lined up on the home screens. Talking about apps and being lined up on the home screen, we’ve not seen a single phone in the recent past that comes pre-bundled with so many apps. Thankfully, most of these apps can be uninstalled. Lenovo’s own apps such as SHAREit, SYNCit, and Lenovo Companion are present. SHAREit is a really popular app that many use to transfer large files over Wi-Fi direct.
Swiping up from the bottom of the screen brings up options that allows users to change the look and feel of the phone through wallpapers and themes. The notification panel has a plethora of options and it looks a little to cluttered to be honest. Lenovo also provides some additional software-based features like double tap to wake up the screen or double press the volume key to capture a snap from sleep mode quickly. While these minor additions are thoughtful, we hardly found ourselves using them
Coming to the raison dêtre of the Vibe Shot - its primary camera - we found it to be fairly competent, but not the best in class. The 16-megapixel rear camera can capture some impressive details even in low light and has a really easy-to-use camera UI. Having said that, there were some issues with the image quality.
On firing the camera up you will notice that the camera is fairly fast to focus and shoot, thanks to the laser (infrared) autofocus. However, it does take some time to get ready for the next shot, especially in low light situations. Our daylight shots had some issues with white balance in the auto mode. However, we could fix it with the Pro mode fairly easily. Our sample images were over saturated as the reds and the blues were a little too punchy for our taste. But we understand that some people like these sort of images. There was a slight barrel distortion in some of our shots but it was not too bad. The low light shots were also surprisingly well-detailed and the Vibe Shot managed to utilise whatever available light was there to capture the image in dark conditions. Moreover, the auto mode works really well and we think most users will probably stick to it. That said, for those of you who want to try out manual settings can resort to the Pro mode. The interface is slick and easy to navigate. There are some fun slow-shutter options (also present on the Honor 7) which allow you to create light trails and light paintings but you need a tripod or a stable surface for the best results.
One of the major letdowns of the Vibe Shot’s camera is that it can’t shoot 4K videos. Our 1080p sample videos did look pretty good, though. We didn’t face any sort of shakes or frame drops. That said, it tends to over-expose a bit around the edges. But, we are nitpicking here. The front-camera is a fixed-focus 8-megapixel shooter and just like its elder sibling on the rear, this one also captures some saturated selfies. It has a good amount of details too and could very well be one of the better selfie shooters out there.
The Vibe Shot has an average single (mono) loudspeaker which can sound muffled in a crowded room. The bundled earphones are of decent quality but the sound from the phone is again only average. Even our reference headphones couldn't do much justice to the sound quality. The phone could play all of our 1080p videos without issues. 4K videos, on the other hand, played back with a lot of stutter.
This is one area where the Vibe Shot struggles slightly. During our initial testing routine, the phone ran without hiccups but as we started adding apps and using it regularly, it started to slow down. Moreover, Google Services also started crashing quite often. Web pages did not scroll as smoothly as we would have ideally liked, but this is not all bad. The multiple cores managed to handle multitasking with ease at most times and the stutters were far and few in between for them to actually be a deal breaking experience. Furthermore, Lenovo also manages to keep heating issues in check, which seems to be plaguing a lot of smartphones the days.
The benchmark scores were also nothing extraordinary. In our AnTuTu test, the phone achieved a score of 36,981 which is about the ballpark range in which most Snapdragon 615 SoCs can achieve but it is very low when compared to phones like the Honor 7 and the OnePlus 2. The phone also scored a paltry 13fps in our GFXbench run.
The call quality was average at best and we heard a faint hiss on our end during calls. Moreover, the phone struggled to latch on to 4G in areas with network congestion.
The 3,000mAh battery on the Vibe Shot can last at least a day and a half worth of moderate usage on a single charge. We easily got through a day with around 15 percent of the battery remaining and it is important to note that we actually stress test the battery by putting it through the most strenuous tasks. In our test, we used the phone to make calls for around an hour, used the camera to capture tons of photos and at least 10 minutes of Full-HD video, play games for around half an hour, and use many messaging apps. The phone also has a power saver mode, like most Android phones these days, which can be used in case you want to extract some more juice from the battery.
Priced at Rs. 25,499, the Vibe Shot is a little too expensive. But as far as its marketing pitch goes Lenovo delivers, and it is a shot in the arm for the camera phone category. Buy it only if you absolutely need a phone with a great camera, because otherwise phones like the Honor 7 and Meizu MX5 can serve your purpose. Both these phones can capture decent photographs, if not better than the Vibe Shot, and at the same time function as great smartphones.