Yes, I’m let loose
From the noose
That’s kept me hanging about
I’ve been looking at the sky
‘Cause it’s gettin’ me high

Those lines might have been made famous by rock group AC/DC in its iconic Back in Black number, but they could well be applied to YU, the sister brand of Micromax. After making a high-profile debut in 2014 and making a name for itself as an affordable phone brand for geeks, the brand (like Micromax) seemed to slip under the radar in the latter half of 2016. So much so that some even began to speculate that the brand had been laid to rest. The launch of the Yureka Black seems to indicate that reports of the brand’s demise were exaggerated (to paraphrase Mark Twain) to say the least. But does the device hint at a long-term revival?

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Black it is, and we cannot gloss over the gloss!

It might be named after the first YU device to have been released, but the Yureka Black is not, as its name indicates, just a black version of the original. No, it is a very contrary beast. And in fact, seems to bear a very close resemblance to the Wiko Ufeel Prime in design and spec terms (but that is not a debate we want to enter here). With a 5.0-inch display, it is more compact than the original Yureka – just 142 mm in length and well below the close-to-half-foot length that is the default mode for a number of devices today. At 8.73 mm, it is reasonably slim, and a width of 69.6 mm, makes this one of the more compact devices we have seen of late. Also unlike the original Yureka, it comes with a metal body, which is – you guessed it – black in color.

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And what a black it is. While the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus have been opting for the matte black route in their devices, the Yureka Black is unabashedly glossy black. The back curves out and has steel colored antenna bands on the top and lower parts with a camera and flash in between. But so black is it that even the YU logo looks lost in it. Yes, it will attract fingerprints (there is a transparent case in the box, though), but it is also perhaps the most notice-able device we have seen from YU apart from the Yutopia, even though it looks relatively routine in front (5.0-inch display, fingerprint scanner below it, on-screen navigation buttons and front-facing camera above the display), and has the usual combination of buttons and ports on the sides (volume and power rocker on right, hybrid SIM card slot on left, 3.5 mm audio jack on top, micro USB on base). At 153 grams, it is relatively heavily for a device of its size, but the overall “feel” of the device is a good one. Keep a good grip on it, though, those curving sides and glossy back make it slippery!

Not quite spectacular in the specs department

The Yureka Black also, in our opinion, takes a slight step back in the spec department from the competition. Unlike the original, which had pretty much out specced everyone in its price zone (a Snapdragon 615 at sub -Rs 10,000 in 2015 was a big deal), the Black tends to be more in the middling zone. On the plus side, the phone boasts a full HD display, 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB storage (expandable) and 4G connectivity. But not so rosy are the Snapdragon 430 chip, when the likes of the Redmi 4 already are toting the Snapdragon 435, and the lower priced variant of the Redmi Note 4 also comes with a Snapdragon 625 processor, albeit with lesser RAM and storage. The 13.0-megapixel rear camera and a 5.0-megapixel front facing camera are par for the course, but those spoilt by the large batteries on the Redmi 4 and the Lenovo K6 power might find the 3000 mAh one on the Black a trifle underwhelming.

Another slight let-down is the fact that the phone has been launched on Android 6.0 Marshmellow, even though a Nougat update is in the works and expected to be rolled out soon. YU also seems to have stepped away from Cyanogen and ‘Android on Steroids’ and now has opted for a relatively close to stock Android experience, with not too many preinstalled apps and no app drawer. It is a clean, uncluttered interface and the brand has also thrown in some touches like support for gestures (you can draw an O to launch the camera, for instance).

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No, I am not saying that the Yureka Black is poor in the specs department, but it is not the no-brainer value for money bargain that the original Yureka was.

Yureka, YU have a battle on YoUr hands!

And it is this relative spec mortality that makes me suspect that at its price of Rs 8,999, the Yureka Black will have a battle on its hands in its second coming. Yes, its design is eye catching and it certainly is no pushover in the spec department, but that said, it does not have a single killer feature that will pull people to it. The brand’s absence from the market for a while has also hit its reputation, and there is no Cyanogen association to pull in the geeks either. No, from what we can see, the Yureka Black is relying heavily on design and its FHD display to make its mark in its price segment – a segment heavily dominated by Xiaomi and Lenovo.

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It is not a bad combination to depend upon, but unlike in its first outing, the new Yureka has to deal with competition that has become increasingly entrenched – Xiaomi and Lenovo were relative newcomers and Moto was on its way back when the first Yureka made its appearance. Today, all three are formidable players and even Nokia is eyeing a comeback. No, it is not going to be easy for Yureka and YU in this scenario. A lot is going to depend on its performance, about which more will be revealed in our review next week.

But it would be premature to write off the brand. After all, to continue AC/DC’s song:

Forget the hearse ’cause I never die
I got nine lives…

YU must be hoping the same applies to it. The brand might just have used up a life. Eight more would be just what the doctor ordered.

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