Accuse it of whatever you wish, but one accusation that you cannot label at YU, Micromax’s sister brand targeted at geeks, is resistance to change. It has been a very eventful year and a half since the brand came into existence and in that period we have seen it flirt with different materials (all plastic, metal, metal frame), hardware and OSes (Cyanogen, Cyanogen with Around YU and Stock Android). But there were some signs of continuity – the Cyanogen flavour which was present in all devices, the ringed pattern around the camera, the curving sides and barring the Yutopia, the prevalence of plastic in most of the construction.
Well, the Yunicorn, just like its correctly spelt mythical namesake, is a very contrary animal. And it does seem to signal a new chapter in YU’s rather hectic history.
The device looks nothing like its predecessors did. The curved sides have given way to straighter ones, giving the phone a slightly more ‘boxy’ appearance. At 153.3 mm, it is on the more compact side, if not as super compact as the 150 mm long Redmi Note 3, which is the gold standard in compactness at this price point; but it is less wide than the Redmi Note 3 (75.4 mm to 76 mm) and also a bit slimmer (8.5 mm to 8.7 mm). At 172 grammes, it is slightly heavier than the Note 3’s 164 grammes, but has a solid feel to it.
The front is relatively predictable and might remind some of the Meizu m3 Note, with its 5.5 inch display, with an oval fingerprint scanner beneath it, and a earpiece flanked by sensors. There are no touch navigation buttons next to the fingerprint sensor, but the sensor also backs up as a home button when pressed (a feature we SO missed in the Moto G4 Plus).
It is at the back however that the Yunicorn makes an impact. The device will be available in rush silver, graphite and rush gold variants, and our rush gold one certainly looked very different from anything we have seen for a while. It has bands at the top and the base and in between is a brushed aluminum finish which we are told will not only keep scratches and stains at bay, but will also actually improve with use, thanks to a special manganese and magnesium spray. Just how effective that is, only time will tell, but well the back does look very distinct right now, and the chamfers along the side make it look classy. The “Saturn ring” formation for the camera unit has been dropped too, and the shooter on the back has a more routine look. You have a micro USB port and speaker grilles on the base and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the top, while on the right are the volume rocker and home/power button (metallic) and the dual SIM card tray is on the left.
The brushed metal back and the straight sides mark this out as a device cut from a different cloth as compared to its predecessors. It feels good to hold and is reasonably compact. Not super stylish, but definitely handsome.
On the hardware front, the phone has a full HD display (with Corning Gorilla GLass 3 protection, we are told), 4 GB RAM, 32 GB storage (expandable to 128 GB if you are willing to sacrifice one of the two SIM slots), a 5.0-megapixel front facing camera and a 13.0-megapixel rear one with a dual LED flash. And the company claims that the fingerprint scanner in front is one of the fastest around (honestly, we don’t get into nano second mode here, and are just hoping it is consistent). 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS are present as connectivity options and a massive 4000 mAh battery powers all this. What, however, mars its ‘flagship’ status in the eyes of some is the fact that it is powered by a MediaTek Helio P10 processor, which is reputed to be a good rather than a great performer.
The Yunicorn, however, is not banking totally on hardware. What could well be one of its most distinguishing points is its software, which has been termed “Android on Steroids” (ironically, we think that the term was used to describe Cyanogen a few years ago. We will be looking at the OS in some detail later on but as of now suffice to say that it seems to largely resemble stock Android (5.1) and comes with YU’s Around YU service which lets you access services like cabs, food, hotel bookings and the like, without having to download individual apps for each one (doctors are to be added to the list soon, we are told). Similarly, long pressing on any part of the homescreen reveals a panel with options to access settings, tweak wallpaper, manage widgets and music and most interestingly, switch the display to monochrome if needed – it conserves battery, although with a 4000 mAh battery onboard, we do not think it will be needed that often. It is a far cry from the customisation options of Cyanogen, but it is definitely a better looking interface and at the time of writing, seemed smooth enough to use.
So new design, new OS. And a price tag too which has never been seen on the YU range – Rs 12,999 (which we are told will be increased to Rs 13,499 in a month). Is this a new YU we are seeing? More in our detailed review. Right now, we can safely confess to being impressed.