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BW Businessworld

Let's Talk Design

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Some people want their smartphones to just get on with the job and not make a nuisance of themselves. Some people want the full Monty, specs and features spilling out everywhere. And still others absolutely must have a phone that looks great. Gorgeous me, gorgeous phone.
 
It’s to this gorgeous-me set that Lenovo is targeting its new Vibe X2, a phone that veers away from the usual boring rectangles that everyone carries around. The Vibe X2 is designed to be colour sandwiches that you won’t want to put away in a case. From the sides, all around, you can see the layers. One of the best of the three combos on offer is black where the screen is, of course, two shades of orange, and a pale gold magnesium alloy back. The buttons are metallic orange and glint at you when you move the phone around. The other two versions include a hot red with orange inside the sandwich and a white, grey and silver model that looks professional and yet beautiful. The layers don’t add much to the weight of the phone which is light and nice to hold and even use one-handed. The backs stay clean as they’re fingerprint resistant.
 
And Lenovo has made sure it’s running with the layers theme through all the branding. From the three-coloured cake invitation to the launch to the carpet at the venue to the décor on the walls to the very lovely matching box for each phone. They’ve gone all out with the campaign for this phone too, using contests on social media and specifically Snapchat. Lenovo hopes to add more to a market share that has now leapt ahead with the completion of the company’s acquisition of Motorola. The Moto phones are meant for their own segments, say Lenovo spokesmen.
 
The Vibe X2 looks very premium and metallic and should appeal to those who like their phones dressed up. You’d expect them to cash in on the carefully designed looks and push the price beyond reason, but in fact, the Vibe X2 costs a “steal” at Rs 19,990, available for now just on Flipkart. Before we leave the layers aside though, there’s another two to peel off. The Vibe X2 has a battery accessory (optional at about Rs 2,000) that clamps securely to the back of the phone, essentially becoming another back and doubling the battery life. You can charge the phone and the second back separately too. Another very interesting accessory, still to be priced and be available, is a back that folds open and becomes a stand in addition to being a JBL speaker —designed, sturdy, and complete with its own metallic dial volume control. Sadly, I wasn’t able to hear how it sounds as the add-on isn’t fully ready yet.
 
Aside from all the design, the Vibe X2 is an Android 4.4.2 device (disappointingly not 4.4.4, though it should upgrade to Lollipop in time) and has an interface that Lenovo has customised with some tricks. The lock screen, for instance, shows a set of circles that represent the apps you use most; more usage means a bigger circle. If you’ve been Facebooking too much, you’ll have a biggish circle for that. Inside, the apps are not in a separate drawer as on regular Android phones but on the home screens as was popularised by Apple. Other soft tricks include a “wide touch” with which you press to call up essential apps, an LG-style knock-to-light to wake the phone up, a V sign held up to take a selfie using its front camera, just by way of a few examples.
 
The Vibe X2 benchmarks startlingly high and performs smoothly enough, at least at this initial stage.  
 
HTC M8 Eye
It was HTC that first proved Apple's iPhone wasn't the only beautifully designed phone on the planet, and Samsung's Galaxy flagships weren't the only way to do Android. The HTC M8 with its silky smooth metallic back and chamfered edges exuded class and elegance. Their software didn't fight with Android to plague the phone with lag and slowness. So what was not to like? Well, not everyone was convinced that HTC's "Ultrapixel" experiment was worthwhile. The 4-UltraPixel camera which debuted on the HTC One opted out of the megapixel race and tried to use on larger pixels for low-light photos and quick sharing. The images actually were all lit up even if shot indoors but then they were small and not zoomable enough and didn't contain adequate detail. For those who wanted no compromise on the camera, especially at top end prices, HTC replicated the HTC M8 and Desire with a 13 megapixel camera and an Eye attached to the name. Now, these devices should be better able to compete with their many rivals.

Unfortunately, the 13 megapixel camera is still a bit of a disappointment. Low-light pictures really are the opposite of what they were with the  Ultrapixel camera; dark and murky, with poor colour balance. There is a whole collection of manual settings, modes, and effects, dual flash and more but the result isn't matching up to the rest of the upper crust.

All the same, at Rs38,990 the M8 Eye is still a beautiful phone (too nice to put in a case) that performs well, gives you good battery life and has the most fabulous sound found on any phone. The hardware specs are now getting to be a bit dated compared with other flagships, but it's never all about specs, is it?

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 29-12-2014)