Letv Le 1s first impressions: a compelling proposition with premium looks, flagship-grade specs and disruptive pricing

“Letv aims to disrupt the smartphone market by pricing the 1s significantly below its bill of materials cost”

While many recently-launched smartphones like the OnePlus 2 (review | FAQs), Nexus 6P (first impressions) and 5X (first impressions) boast USB Type-C ports, do you know that they aren’t the first devices to feature this next-gen connectivity option? Well, this title is held by a relatively little-known company from China, Letv, which entered the smartphone segment just this year in April, with the introduction of a trio of ‘superphones’ – Le 1, Le 1 Pro and Le Max. The devices offered top-drawer specifications at a mouth-watering price points, and now the company is following them up with its second-gen smartphone, the Le 1s.

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We were able to get our hands on the phablet, and it comes across as a loaded affair in the hardware department. What makes it even more attractive is its impressive pricing. Let’s talk about all this and more as you we take you through our hands-on experience with the Le 1s.

Plastic as a choice of building material for smartphones seems to be a passé as more and more brands are introducing devices that feature premium metallic bodies. The Letv Le 1s also follows this trend with its sturdy metal body featuring a unibody design. Built around a 5.5-inch display, the device is quintessentially a phablet, but it defies its size, as it nestles in the hand extremely well.

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Thanks to virtually non-existent bezels, the Le 1s has a width of just 74.2mm. The weight of the phone is also balanced well, as despite its 169g weight, it doesn’t feel as heavy. While it’s not the thinnest device around, it seems to be quite slim with a 7.5mm thick frame.

The fascia is dominated by the large 5.5-inch display, and the brand has impressed us with its attention to the detail. Above the screen, the earpiece is symmetrically sandwiched between the front camera and an ambient light sensor. The portion below the display panel is occupied by a standard row of capacitive buttons, which are backlit.

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The right spine of the Le 1s is home to both the power key as well as the volume rocker, while the left edge hides the SIM tray which can accept a micro-SIM and a nano-SIM. Up top, you’ll find the 3.5mm audio interface along with an IR emitter. The USB Type-C port can be found at the base along with the speaker mesh on either sides.

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The rear of the phablet is reminiscent of the devices in the HTC One series, although the curves aren’t as pronounced as the flagship offerings from the Taiwanese brand. Having said that, the gentle curves do add to the ergnomical handling of the Le 1s. The primary camera along with an LED flash is placed above, while towards the middle, you’ll find a mirror-finished key. Apart from functioning as a mirror, it also serves the purpose of a fingerprint scanner and a camera shutter button. It’s worth mentioning that using fingerprints for unlocking the device was extremely snappy.

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The demo unit we were checking out was in gold, but the Le 1s will also be available in a silver hue. Another design aspect highlighted by the manufacturer is the screw-free design of the handset.

The 5.5-inch display features in-cell technology and bears a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. We were quite impressed by its brightness levels as well as the colour contrast. Thanks to the pixel density of 401ppi, the screen offered crisp text too. According to the company, the screen is 70 percent tougher, though there’s no indication if there’s a protective layer.

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Le holdings, the parent company of Le Superphones, has one of China’s largest video-streaming services, and hence the content ecosystem plays a big role in its hardware offerings too. Beneath all its services and customisations runs Android 5.0. Its custom layer, dubbed eco user interface (eui), is not much different from most proprietary skins these days – offering a unified homescreen and app drawer, ability to change themes, and various system tools at your disposal.

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However, eui 5.5 also brings a useful feature called headline desktop, which akin to Samsung’s Briefing and HTC’s Blinkfeed, offers a dedicated homescreen to display news from a variety of sources. Another screen referred to as Live desktop, shows a live feed of various programs. There are various other Le services baked right into the OS.

In terms of core specs, the Letv Le 1s is able to flex its performance muscles well, thanks to MediaTek’s Helio X10 Turbo chipset. The 64-bit processor offers eight cores tuned at 2.2GHz and is coupled with a PowerVR G6200 GPU and 3 gigs of RAM. With such a combination, using the phone was a breeze and it should be able to handle graphics-heavy games with ease.

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On the storage side, the phone comes with 32GB of flash memory, out of which end users would get roughly 24.5GB of space. It’s good to see companies moving to 32GB storage as their default option, since many smartphones these days don’t offer expansion slots.

As per Letv, the 13-megapixel camera on the 1s features the world’s fastest autofocus mechanism (90ms), which is possible due to the use of phase detection AF technology. The ISOCELL sensor is accompanied by an LED flash for providing illumination in low-light environments. For selfie enthusiasts, the phablet comes equipped with a 5MP shooter, which has a wide aperture of f/2.0. In our brief usage, the camera did lock focus on the subject quickly and reproduced nice images, though we’d like to play around with its snappers properly before giving a comprehensive opinion.

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The Letv Le 1s sips juice from a 3,000mAh battery. With the flash charging tech, the phone can be charged quickly with its bundled adapter. In fact, the phone can supposedly last up to 3.5 hours with just 5 minutes of charge. In terms of connectivity, the dual-SIM phone offers the usual options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

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Letv might be a new entrant in the world of smartphones, but the company seems to be playing its cards well.Its offerings feature loades specs, and are priced attractively too. However, with the 1s, the brand is going to the next level. While the BOM (bill of materials) cost of its latest device is said to be 1,310 RMB (approximately Rs 13,500), the company has priced it at 1,099 RMB (approximately Rs 11,000).

During the launch event, the company also announced that it’ll be entering the Indian market soon, though there isn’t any mention of the official timeframe at the moment. However, the Le 1s seems to be a solid launch vehicle for Letv, as with its price tag, it would give tough competition to the incumbents such as the ASUS ZenFone 2 (review | FAQs), third-gen Moto G (review) and Xiaomi Mi 4i (review). We’ll have more on the device as well as details on the company’s plans for the subcontinent soon, so stay tuned.

Disclosure: This writer is in Beijing on Letv’s invitation

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