Having fingerprint scanner on your smartphone is probably the best way of keeping it safe and the data within it secure. Unless someone decides to cut your finger away and keep it, it is pretty much for granted that your data will not fall into wrong hands. Apple pretty much made the fingerprint scanners a thing of the commercial interest with the iPhone 5s and the trend has only grown. Today most of the flagship phones come with a fingerprint scanner, take the likes of Galaxy S7, Nexus 6P, LG G5 for example.
As the feature has become more and more popular, fingerprint scanners have found their way to several budget phones too. The likes of LG 5X, Coolpad Note 3 and Lite are prime examples. Joining them in this initiative to keep your phone secure is the LeTV or LeEco Le 1S. The phone combines a metallic body and a fingerprint scanner into one device and offers it for a very budget friendly price of Rs 10,999. But is the phone, even worth that much let us find out in our review.
Before we jump in, we have been using the phone for a good eight days as our primary phone and wrote down our impressions five days ago. We feel the time is good to pass a full assessment of the phone, which follows.
Availability and Box Contents
The LeTV Le 1S is available exclusively with Flipkart, just like its older sibling, Le Max. The phone retails for a price of Rs 10,999 though you will need to be registered on the portal to be able to pick the phone in a flash sale. There will always be that odd special day where the phone will go on an open sale till all the units are exhausted, but generally until the company decides, the Le 1S will remain an exclusive product on Flipkart for those who are willing to register and wait.
The box of the device is very similar to the iPhone 5s box with an embossed real size image on top of the thick box. The cardboard box is really strong and perhaps one of the best ones we have seen. Open it, and you are greeted by the phone. Under the tray that is housing the phone you have the documentations and SIM ejector tool. Below that, you have a wall charger brick with 2 A output and a Type A to Type C USB cable.
The phone is available in golden and silver variants though we got the golden unit for review.
Hardware and Construction
The LeTV Le 1S is a metallic device. The front of the phone is dominated by a 5.5 inch Full HD IPS panel. Shut the panel down and you will feel the phone has an edge to edge display, because of the black bezels, but turn the phone on and you will notice slight bezels.
Below the display you have three capacitive buttons: back, home and multitask which have an idle time of about two seconds. Sadly, there is no way to extend this. We even tried with the Galaxy Button Lights app, that works for Samsung Galaxy S6 in order to keep the backlight on the capacitive buttons on, but came back home disappointed.
On the top of the phone, you have the earpiece flanked by a 5 MP front-facing camera and an ambient and proximity sensor section. On the left side of the device, you have the SIM slot that can house two SIM cards: one Nano SIM card and one Micro SIM card. On the right flank, you have the power button with the volume rocker above it. This is an odd placement for the volume rocker as its inconvenient spot to reach especially if you are gripping the phone with one hand. At the bottom, you have a mono speaker and microphone flanking the Type C connector.
Interesting to note is that rubber contacts usually used in between the metal to allow radio frequencies to travel in and out of the device are present on the bottom and top of the phone and not back. Also, on the top are the 3.5 mm headset jack and IR blaster.
Turn the phone and on the back, you have the LeTV branding just below the fingerprint scanner. Since the scanner has a metal finish, without any matting, you see the residual fingerprint scanner after using it and that just kills the looks. On towards the top, you have the 13 MP camera with protruding lens and a flashlight accompanying it. You also have a secondary microphone for noise cancellation up there. Bottom of the back has the regulatory information.
While Le 1S is a solid phone and there don’t seem to be any creeks, we were not too impressed with the sharp edges of the phone. There are sharp chamfered edges and that means that if you grip the phone for a long time, it will leave an imprint on your hand. While the power button and volume rocker are raised enough and provide a decent feedback, there is no pattern on it to prevent the finger from slipping when atop it. Also, by not having any sort of lamination on the top, the golden metal finish picks up a lot of surface marks, when kept on a surface that’s far from idle. We also put the phone in a tight pair of jeans and the marks from the same were very visible. Despite trying our best to remove them, these marks persisted on the back so you will be advised to pick up a cover for the phone.
Other than these minor annoyances, the Le 1S is a joy to hold, and thanks to its size it can be used with one hand. Due to a low angle of the chamfer, the chamfers stood the test well and did not pick up scratches or scuffs in our day to day usage. Shake the phone vigorously, and you do hear the power button wobble a bit, but that is something that we have even seen on the likes of iPhone 5s.
The 5.5 inch Full HD display takes up pretty much the entire space on the front of the device. Being an IPS LCD panel, you expect the colors to be a little muted, but that was not really the case. The colors as we noted in our Initial Impressions are very impressive. They are deep and pack a punch. The contrast on the display is really good and there is a good balance between the cold and warm feel. Whites look white rather than creamy or blue which is good. Black are deep and blues are really deep. The screen is extremely reflective so that was an issue, especially when using the device outdoors. While the text is crisp and good to read, high reflection means there is a degree of discomfort when using the phone outdoors.
The viewing angles on the Le 1S were average and we noticed a decent chunk of color shift from white to yellow at steep angles.
You can play around with the color settings on the phone and choose between Vivid, Natural and Soft depending upon your taste. Auto brightness too worked well, especially in low light conditions, where the screen really did all it could to prevent any sort of glare from troubling you.
While most of the Chinese manufacturers have got the hardware and design right, software has been bit of a challenge for most of them. The fact that LeTV/ LeEco is advertising itself to be an ecosystem rather than just a device, software becomes and integral part of the game here. No doubt that Le 1S comes with a few interesting tweaks out of the box as compared to say a stock Android phone, but there are a few annoyances too.
To talk of the good things, the phone ditches application drawer like pretty much all Chinese phones for a laid bare all kind of an approach with all apps on the desktop.
Unlike most of the Chinese skins, EUI running on the Le 1S is perhaps one of the most subtle ones out there with a flat iconography and use of subtle colors without them splashing in your face. Despite the phone not running Android Marshmallow, there is a provision for you to give individual app permissions, so you always have your device under control.
You can go into Settings and access not just the system settings but also app settings which were neat. Managing notifications is really easy thanks to the shortcut available bang at the bottom of the Notification Bar. The fingerprint scanner at the back is really easy to setup, in fact too easy for our liking.
Another nifty little thing is that if you have your phone locked and want to unlock using the code or pattern, based on where you swipe to unlock, the phone detects the spot that is easy to reach and moves the keypad to that position for one-handed use.
To the bad part now, the Le 1S tries to do a lot of things differently for the sake of it. For example, we are used to having the system shortcuts accessible by double swiping down the Notification bar, but you cannot do that here. The system controls are in the multitasking pane which is accessed by clicking the multitasking button on the phone. You get the recently used applications as well as system settings like WiFi, Data, Auto Rotation, Flight Mode toggle in there. The entire center looks very similar to what we have seen on an iOS device, in fact, it’s like Apple decided to bring Control Center and Multitasking under one roof. This is not the most refined implementation as the icons in the multitasking pane are often distorted and badly shrinked.
The Notification bar is really confusing too, with the button to clear the notifications being placed at the bottom rather than the top right corner. Next to it, is the application notifications settings button that lets you control the notifications coming in. Two finger expansion of notification does not work and you have no option but to use two fingers to expand the notifications. Another problem with Notification bar is that it is transparent so against a white background, you lose the sight of the system icons, which themselves are inconsistent as we did not see the icon for silence when the phone was on the mute ringer.
The Remote Control app failed to recognise the AC at our workplace and the set top box. It did work well with the TV and we could pair the app and use it for most basic power functions on the said AC without a problem.
The File Management application is really a basic explorer, and you are better off with downloading something that is a little more powerful like ES File Explorer even though it does come with the ability to archive and unpack the files. The Notes app is adequately good and you can create notebooks to segregate notes. The Music Player and Gallery app are fairly simplistic to use and get the job done. You can log into the LeTV account and have your backup taken in LeCloud which is neat.
The day to day performance of the device is really good. We have seen in the past that the Helio X10 chipset is really capable and it shines through in the Le 1S. If only the software was a little more polished. We pushed the phone a fair bit playing a few 1080P videos but it did not get really hot. It was mildly warm towards the top right half of the phone but that was pretty much that.
The performance in day to day task such as quick multitasking easily put the phone above the likes of Moto X Play or the Mi4i which are in similar price point but run Snapdragon’s 615 chipset. The performance was very similar to the likes of LG Nexus 5X which runs Snapdragon 808.
We did run a few benchmark tests on the phone and the device did well for its price. For example, the Nenamark 2 gave the score of 57.2 FPS. The Quadrant score of the device was 26,325 which is very reasonable.
On AnTuTu, the phone clocked a sweet 51236. The performance was replicated in real life as gaming on the device was pretty good. Fifa 15, a game that usually struggles on most mid-range phones was actually playable. Yes, there were a few hiccups along the way but that is expected.
The battery on the device easily lasted us a whole day and quick charging meant that we got about 8% of juice on the device in about 10 minutes time. However, charging post about 80% mark is a little sluggish and took us a good 2.5 hours to get a dead device to 100%.
There are a few neat battery saving tricks in there, like Super power saving and Ultra-long standby time which turn off unnecessary things from the device to enhance the battery backup. The fingerprint scanner on the back is not the fastest and takes a good second or two to unlock the phone, but the feature is present at this price and that is adequate.
The only performance issue we had with the phone was a bad microphone. The person on the other side constantly had to prompt us to repeat ourselves as the microphone is not the most sensitive on out there. Noise cancellation worked well and so does the earpiece, the network was never an issue and if LeTV can sort this issue of the microphone with an update, it would be terrific.
The camera on the LeTV Le 1S is very hit and miss. It could be brilliant at one time and awful at the other. One thing that you definitely should not trust is judging the image by how it looks on the device. We found that the phone over saturates images on the phone and doesn’t quite give out an accurate picture that you can get on the desktop.
There is a minor shutter lag, so if you move the device immediately after pressing the shutter button, there are chances that you will get a horribly blurred image. The macro shots were generally good in well-lit conditions and the phone really struggled to pull off a decent shot in dimly lit indoors.
Landscape shots in well-lit conditions were good, but lacked in details, especially if you start to crop and zoom. It is adequate for sharing on Social Media, but that is about that. Videos were reasonable though the lack of OIS means they were distorted and the microphone ha problems picking up the sound.
The camera is really sluggish to launch when we use the shortcut on the lockscreen, but that is something which we assume will be fixed in the upcoming updates. The camera app in itself is very similar to an iPhone and you have a bunch of filters to pick up. You can set up manual controls like Exposure, White Balance and ISO. If you do not use the camera after firing the application for 90 seconds, it goes into standby to save battery.
The Le 1S is a good phone for its value. If only LeTV could refine the software experience, we would be able to wholeheartedly recommend the phone. For now, it is a classic case of decent hardware being held back because of buggy software. LeTV claims to have sold about 70,000 units in about 2 seconds during the first flash sale and that clearly indicates that there is interest around the phone. The phone is competing against the likes of K4 Note, Honor 5X and clearly the winner will be the one who can get their software to the optimum best. For now, you would be better off either sticking to the likes of Moto G Turbo or cut down and pick the likes of Coolpad Note 3 Lite if you are hard pressed for a phone in the budget category.