Like many companies at Mobile World Congress, Lenovo displayed several products geared towards the global market, and the company's mobile portfolio at the show consisted of a pair of smartphones (one designed with a higher-end camera, and one with sexy audio), a pocket projector, and a trio of tablets.
The two phones -- the Vibe Shot and the A7000 -- will not be available in the U.S., unfortunately. (Remember, Lenovo now owns Motorola, so there would probably be an internal conflict of interest to have the two smartphone brands competing with one another in the same market.) It really is too bad, because at least in terms of looks, design and price, the Vibe Shot and the A7000 are phones you may well want to buy.
Lenovo Vibe Shot Cameraphone
Built as a "premium" crossover camera/smartphone device, the Vibe Shot's design gently references those little rectangular $8 film cameras you could get at stores like Rite Aid years ago. (Surely, readers over a certain age will remember those. For some of us, those were the first cameras we ever bought.)
The back is shiny black with a brushed aluminum band running across the top of it, lengthwise. Both the back and the front of the device are Gorilla Glass. The rest of the chassis is a dark gray metal, and all of the edges are squared off. The device felt light in my hands, which is a positive trait for something you need to hold steady.
The front camera is an impressive 8 MP, but it's the rear camera that Lenovo is proud of. The 16 MP camera features a six-piece modular lens and autofocus with an IR sensor that Lenovo claims offers double the AF speed of a typical smartphone camera. Other features include optical image stabilization and a tri-color flash.
Lenovo saw fit to include a hardware shutter button so you don't have to fiddle with screen taps (unless you want to), and there's a button to switch between "Smart" (automatic) and "Pro" (manual) modes. In Smart mode, using object recognition, the camera can identify various objects and adjust accordingly. For example, you can aim it at food, and the camera will actually shoot in "food" mode. Likewise, if you put a person in the frame, the camera knows to switch to portrait mode.
Lenovo's Vibe UI for the camera is responsive and pretty, and we like how easy it is to flip through settings such as white balance, ISO, focal length and so on. You simply tap the menu item on the left of the screen and then use a semicircle swipe on the right side to pick the setting. As you switch between settings, the preview image will change in real time.
For more on the manual shooting options, watch our video demo.
Although the camera is the key feature on the Vibe Shot, the rest of the specs belie a relatively powerful device. It runs on the octa-core Snapdragon 615 SoC (1.7 GHz, 64-bit) with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage (with another 128 GB possible via microSD). The 5-inch IPS display is Full HD. There's a 2900 mAh battery inside, and the phone offers dual nano SIM capability. It ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop.
The price is a bit of a surprise, in a good way, at just $349 unlocked when it launches in March. Unfortunately, it won't be available in the U.S.
Lenovo A7000 Smartphone
Lenovo said that its A7000 smartphone is the world's first to offer Dolby Atmos audio, which is the device's defining feature. It's designed to be a more immersive audio experience by allowing the audio to follow objects, and it has overhead channels to give you surround sound on an X axis as well as a Y axis.
No, the Dolby Atmos audio does not emanate from the phone's built in speaker. It's designed to be a headphone experience, and Lenovo said that you don't need anything special to enjoy the Dolby Atmos audio immersion. To prove that point, Lenovo used a pair of $80 headphones in its demo.
To be honest, "immersive" is not the term I would use to describe the experience, but it was neat to be able to hear that sound zip over my head and behind me.
Otherwise, the A7000 is a fairly unremarkable device. It runs on a MediaTek True8Core SoC (4G LTE, 64-bit) and offers a 2 MP front camera and an 8 MP rear camera with LED flash. There's also 2 GB of RAM and 8 GB of onboard storage, with expandability up to 32 GB via a microSD slot.
Like the Vibe Shot, it has a 2900 mAh battery and ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop and the Vibe UI. It also has dual micro SIMs.
The IPS display is just 1280 x 720, but it's 5.5 inches, which is ideal for the movies and other video content you'll want to enjoy with that Dolby Atmos audio.
The A7000 is another handset that's not coming to the U.S., but it will cost just $169 off contract when it launches in March.
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(Wow, first comment, already went there. ;) )
In all honesty, after poking and prodding the Lenovo folks for every possible detail about Superfish, I believe that its PCs (and presumably, smartphones) will be squeaky clean as far as that goes. They know they messed up, and I believe they're sincere about doing a 180 on bloatware.
As they say, what's the safest airline to fly on? The one that had a crash yesterday. :D