Lenovo PHAB Plus first impressions: this 6.8-inch smartphone isn’t for everyone

“Fancy using a 6.8-inch smartphone? Here’s what we think of the Lenovo PHAB Plus”

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Among Lenovo’s multitude of launches at IFA 2015, there was one product that really stood out – the PHAB Plus. Contrary to what the name suggests, the PHAB Plus is no ordinary phablet. With a screen size measuring 6.8-inches, the device is more tablet than smartphone, but Lenovo insists that it’s ‘optimised for single-handed use’. We’re having a hard time accepting that considering its size, but according to the company, the PHAB Plus has been designed for the younger generation – those who spend a majority of their time texting, consuming media and on social networks, and who rarely use their smartphone to make voice calls. Putting our skepticism aside, we spent some time with the device during IFA 2015, and here are our first impressions. 

Let’s get this out of the way – the PHAB Plus is not a device that can be used single-handed. Even if you have really big paws. Lenovo has tried to cut down on bulk by trimming the bezels and reducing the thickness to 7.6mm, but it’s still huge. It also weighs quite a bit at 229g, which means holding it with one hand for extended periods is out of the question too. That said, it doesn’t look bad at all. It features an aluminium unibody design with rounded edges, and is available in three colours – Gunmetal Grey, Titanium Silver and Champagne Gold. 

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The bezel above the screen is home to the earpiece, the front 5MP camera and sensors, while the chin is devoid of any embellishments since the navigation keys appear on the display as software overlays. Around the sides you’ll find the volume rocker and the power button on the right, the micro-USB port and primary microphone at the bottom, and the 3.5mm audio jack on top. An ejectable tray on the left spine reveals one micro-SIM card slot and a hybrid SIM card slot which can accept a microSD card if required.

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A large strip towards the top of the back panel conceals the speaker that’s equipped with Dolby ATMOS sound. You’ll also find the 13MP primary camera module and dual-tone LED flash tucked in there. 

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The PHAB Plus’ 6.8-inch IPS display features 1080p resolution, equating to a decent pixel density of 326ppi. We found the screen to be crisp with good viewing angles and colour reproduction. Powering the device is an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor clocked at 1.5GHz. It’s paired with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, which can be extended by an additonal 64GB. Lenovo has also added a dedicated voice processor and three microphones, responsible for its 360-degree Voice feature that ensures callers on the other end hear your voice loud and clear when you use it to make regular phone calls. 

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The PHAB Plus runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop layered with Lenovo’s VIBE UI. Apart from the usual features that VIBE offers, the PHAB Plus also has a few tricks up its sleeve to make it more conducive to one-handed use. For instance, you can double tap to wake the display, long press anywhere on the screen to take a photo, shake to lock, and lift the device to answer a call. You can also draw a ‘C’ on the screen to shrink and dock the display on either side. Additionally, you can enable a one-handed keyboard that shrinks and docks to your hand position. Additionally, there’s a floating button that brings up a menu with shortcuts to your favourite apps as well as navigation controls. This button can be dragged around and placed anywhere on the screen. 

Fuelling the PHAB Plus is a large 3,500mAh battery, which Lenovo says can offer up to 24 hours of talktime and 20 days of standby time. The connectivity options include 4G LTE (both band 3 and band 40 supported), Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS. 

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In addition to the PHAB Plus, Lenovo also introduced a less premium variant simply called the PHAB. It has an even larger 6.98-inch display, but features only HD resolution. The remaining specs include an octa-core (unspecified) Snapdragon CPU, 1GB of RAM, a dedicated voice processor, and a 4,250mAh battery. While the PHAB costs $180 (around Rs 11,800),the PHAB Plus has been priced at $299, approximately Rs 19,600. Given the latter’s niche appeal, we’re not sure how many users would want to shell out that much for the device. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how Lenovo prices and positions the PHAB Plus in India.

Disclosure: This writer attended IFA 2015 in Berlin on Lenovo’s invitation 

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