Yes, we know that smartphone prices have been on a downward spiral of sorts of late, but we confess that we did not expect the figures “Rs 19,999” to appear on the screen when Lenovo launched the Vibe X3 in India today (it goes on sale on Amazon from 14:00 hours on January 28). For, let’s face it, this is a very well stacked device as far as hardware goes – Lenovo’s representative constantly referred to it as “our flagship” right throughout the presentation, and is perhaps the most powerful device to come out from the non-Moto part of the Lenovo stable since the Vibe Z2 Pro more than a year ago.

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The first thing that struck many people about the phone was the presence of the front facing speakers above and below the display. This was followed by the slightly more curvy look of the device itself – the Vibe X2, remember, had had a more “boxy” look to it. Of course, the words “Motorola” were heard in the aftermath of both observations – quite a few of our friends who saw the phone felt that it represented a meeting of the Lenovo and Moto minds in the design department.

Which is not a bad thing at all, for while it is not the most compact phone around (the OnePlus 2 is shorter and less wide in spite of having a similar 5.5 inch display- 151.8 x 74.9 mm against the X3’s 154 x 76.5 mm), and at 9.3 mm, is not pencil-thin either, it certainly does cut a natty figure and anyway, is smaller than the iPhone 6s Plus (which is beginning to seem increasingly gargantuan by the day). Lenovo thinks that the 5.5-inch full HD display on the front is one of the best around as are the stereo speakers that surround it, and well the front is really about that twosome – we were impressed how the speakers managed to blend in with the phone, without seeming to bulk it up (a sin they commit in HTC devices). No, we don’t know what Lenovo has against backlit navigation keys below the display, but that does not detract from one of the most distinct fronts we have seen for a while.

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The back is rather distinct too, although you would sense that more when you touch it. It is not the glass, glossy plastic or metal that you get to see in most devices these days but something more subtle and almost pleasantly smooth – Lenovo claims it is scratch and smudge proof and it certainly has not picked up any of either in the few days we have been using it. It also has the 21.0-megapixel camera, dual LED flashes and fingerprint scanner located on it in a design that seems right out of the top of a soft drink can – it does protrude but not too prominently.

Running all along the sides is a sturdy metal frame. The right side houses the volume rocker and the power/display keys, the base has the micro-USB port, the right side the SIM card slots (one of which can be used as a microSD card slot too) and right on top are the 3.5 mm audio jack and the infra red blaster. Which also makes it pertinent to mention that Lenovo has preloaded the Peel Smart Remote app on the device, which lets you map it to your cable service provider to not just control your TV or set top box but also get details on which programmes are coming on which channel (beats surfing through them on the television) and even setting reminders for those you wish to see.

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At 175 grammes, the Vibe X3 weighs exactly the same as the OnePlus 2, but feels slightly lighter because thanks to its larger frame, the weight is distributed over a slightly bigger area. We are not going to say it is comfortable to use with one hand (Lenovo does have a one-hand mode – just draw a C from the side of the device to get a shrunk version of the display), but thanks to that smooth back, it is certainly very comfortable to hold and it exudes a rather premium feel.

And premium is the term we would use to describe its innards too, apart from that full HD display and front facing speaking stereo speakers, the phone comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 delivering processing muscle with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage (expandable). The camera on the back is a 21.0-megapixel one and the one in front is a 8.0-megapixel affair (a small part of us was hoping to see dual front facing snappers as we did on the Vibe S1, but never mind), and the phone has a pretty hefty 3500 mAh battery running matters. Connectivity wise, it checks all the boxes: NFC, Wi-Fi, 4G, Infra red, Bluetooth. This is pretty much the hardware kitchen sink being thrown at a device, although some might yearn for a Snapdragon 810, a quad HD display and 4 GB RAM in that regard. Lenovo, however, claims that the latest edition of the Vibe UI running on the device is one of the most efficient around and is largely based on Stock Android with additions made only to add value to the consumer experience (oh yes, we can hear some people go “Moto” again). And yes, before we forget, you can experience Lenovo’s version of VR, TheaterMax on this phone as well, provided you have the VR glasses handy – interestingly, however, Lenovo has not opted to bundle the glasses with this device, as it did with the K4 Note.

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But notable though the design and specs of the Vibe X3 are, perhaps the biggest rabbit pulled out by Lenovo out of its cellullar hat was its pricing of Rs 19,999, which was almost a fourth lesser than what many had predicted. At that price point, the Vibe X3 is currently in a zone of its own, with the only competition coming from the 16 GB edition of the very good Qiku Q Terra (which has the same processor and RAM combination and sports dual 13.0-megapixel cameras but is significantly bigger thanks to its 6.0-inch full HD display), which costs the same with an invite, but costs an extra Rs 2,000 without one, and is increasingly difficult to find.

So does the sub Rs 20,000 phone category in India have a new champion? We will let you know in our review in the coming days, but as of now, we will paraphrase Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront:

This coulda be a contender. This coulda be somebody…


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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.