Yu Televentures, Micromax’s online-only brand, got off to a tumultuous start, thanks to the flip-flop of Cyanogen with regards to letting other phone makers use its Cyanogen OS. It appeared as though Micromax was trying to create a monopoly on Cyanogen-branded phones. Ultimately, however, the company cleared the air with OnePlus and, as of now, Micromax will be the sole brand selling Cyanogen OS-based phones in India.
Micromax has been out of spotlight for a while now, thanks to the onslaught of Motorola's affordable 'stock' Android devices and Chinese phone makers such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and more recently, OnePlus. Micromax’s strategy of selling re-branded Chinese handsets for dirt-cheap seemed to flounder and it had to devise a new game-plan in order to retain its position as one of the top mobile vendors in the country.
Micromax’s answer is a complete new brand of devices running customisable ROMs and will only retail online. Although Xolo was the first Indian company to bring custom ROMs for Android with the launch of Hive UI, Micromax's foray into the custom ROM space may push other Indian players to enter this arena as well. This concept is relatively new in India and Micromax hopes to be at the forefront with the Cyanogen-powered Yu Yureka.
We put the Yu Yureka's capabilities to to test to find out if Micromax's latest strategy has what it takes to change the dynamics of the budget-smartphone market.
Build and Design: 7/10
Micromax phones are not exactly popular for their build quality. The YU Yureka tries to be a bit different from the regular Micromax phone you may have seen. The 5.5-inch IPS panel display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, is complemented by what appears to be Micromax’s attempt at aping OnePlus One’s sandstone finish rear cover. Sadly, it's a poor attempt at that. Though it's a lot better than a standard glossy plastic back, it lacks the finesse of the Sandstone cover on the OnePlus. The removable rear cover tends to protrude out slightly along all the sides. This may seem annoying and will take some getting used to, if you are used to phones with smooth edges. On removing the cover, you see slots for the SIM cards and microSD card along with the removable battery.
Volume rocker button is located on the left side and the power/standby button on the right. The textured finish on these buttons is appreciated. The 3.5mm audio-jack is located on top and the microUSB charging and data transfer port is located on the base. Nowhere on the phone will you notice any Micromax branding, instead, you only see the YU brand name in a light blue colour on the back.
The Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display ensures that the screen is scratch-resistant, but one cannot help but notice finger print smudges. I had to wipe the screen several times to get rid of the smudges from time to time. The first thing that will strike you when you hold the phone in your hand is how lightweight it is. Despite being a large 5.5-incher, the Yu Yureka is slender and lightweight. The rounded edges and the sandstone-wannabe rear cover does give a good grip, too.
Being the first phone from the Yu brand, the Yureka comes with impressive specs. It's powered by the 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 system on chip which houses an octa-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz and the Adreno 405 GPU clocked at 550MHz. It comes paired with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and offers 16GB of storage of which 12.8GB is available to the user. You can expand the storage via the microSD card slot by 32GB. Yureka is a dual SIM phone and it supports Cat4 4G LTE with TDD 2300MHz and FDD 1800MHz bands supported for India
On the camera front, it comes with a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing camera. It runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat OS with the Cyanogen 11 ROM. We will talk more about the ROM next, but to put it simply, Cyanogen OS allows you to customise the phone to your liking. The Yureka bundle is simple with a power adapter, data cable, battery and earphones.
The USP of the Yu Yureka is the CyanogenMod 11 ROM on the Android 4.4 platform. Thanks to this, the phone offers you multiple ways to customise your phone. Micromax has included some of its special apps on the phone such as AudioFX which lets you customise the audio output, ScreenCast lets you record your on screen navigations with the recording registering where you’ve touched the screen as well and so on. YUniverse is Yureka’s own browser which is basically a customised version of the Opera browser. In terms of the user experience, there wasn’t much different from the CM11 OS on the OnePlus One, apart from more themes.
Yureka has a dedicated app called Themes, which lets you select themes based on your preferences. Unlike downloading themes on a regular Android device, the Themes app on Yu Yureka allows you to download individual aspects from multiple themes. This means you can select a particular wallpaper from X theme, font from Y theme and so on - thereby creating your own unique theme. Under the Components section, you get access to customise the icons, status bar, controls, fonts, boot animations and so on.
The Settings menu lets you tweak the device further. You can wake up the phone with a double-tap or make the phone go to sleep by double-tapping the status bar, change screen-off animation style, customise soft buttons to perform certain functions, add widgets on lock screen and so on. You can also adjust the notifications drawer and add your own icons to quick settings menu. In short, the CyanogenMod 11 OS gives you ample opportunity to tweak your device the way you like.
The Micromax Yu Yureka sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core chipset, which keeps most tasks running at a lightning speed. Now, the immediate competitors to the Yu Yureka are the Redmi Note 3G/4G and the ASUS Zenfone 5. In the AnTuTu benchmark it scores better than both these phones. In Geekbench 3, the Yureka scored 654 as opposed to 441 on the Redmi Note 3G and 435 on the Redmi Note 4G. The test results are shown below.
The touch response of the Yureka is smooth and we did not notice any lag while using the phone. Call quality was quite good and we did not experience any call drops at the time of testing. One thing that did annoy us at times, was the phone unlocking on its own when placed in the jeans' pocket. You will need some security code to prevent it from unlocking accidentally.
Yureka can handle popular games such as RipTide GP2, Fruit Ninja, Shadowgun smoothly. In the movie mode, the default video player can play back most formats, though we noticed some stuttering when playing full HD, high bit-rate videos.
The bundled earphones are of the in-ear type and I found them to be surprisingly good while listening to range of music from classical to rock. Quality suffers when playing low frequencies, but there wasn't any noticeable distortion at higher volume levels. I felt that the construction of the earphones could have been better, as there is barely any sturdy stem between the eartips and the wire. If you yank out the earphones using the wire too often, it can affect the performance over time.
Micromax Yu Yureka sports a 5.5-inch HD display and thanks to the IPS panel, it offers great viewing angles. The display is tad reflective, though there wasn’t any noticeable colour tinge on the warm or cool side. Due to the HD resolution spread out over 5.5-inches, you get a pixel density of 267ppi, which will not give you the sharpest output when reading smaller font sizes. There are some apps such as WhatsApp, where I noticed a slight amount of smudging of the text. Sunlight legibility is decent, so long as you have the brightness levels over 70 percent.
The black levels aren’t that great, although there wasn’t any noticeable backlight bleeding. The reflective surface bundled with smudges makes viewing videos having dark scenes a bit of an issue. Just ensure you have cleaned the screen and do not have any light sources behind you when watching videos.
Yureka comes with a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. The daylight shots are good and packed with good detail. We liked the fact that the camera manages to keep chromatic aberrations under control. The various shooting filters are accessible by just swiping across the camera screen. The AF is a bit on the slower side, but that isn’t much of a concern. HDR mode does tend to wash out the image sightly. Noise is visible only on pixel peeping, though the quality is quite good for online sharing. Shooting in low light is mediocre. The image lacks detail and chroma noise is quite prominent. It supports full HD video shooting and the output is decent, as long as you are not panning the phone while shooting. The microphone does a great job at picking up audio details.
Battery life: 7.5/10
The Yu Yureka houses a 2500mAh battery, which is not much considering the power-consuming 5.5-inch HD display. The phone comes with a 1A charger and there is no rapid-charging mode, so expect charging times to be on the higher side. We did not notice any dedicated power saving feature, apart from the Power-saving performance profile. This isn’t as detailed as the ultra power saving modes we have seen on phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or Sony Xperia Z3. That said, you always have the option to download a third-party battery saver app.
While using it for the first couple of days, the battery discharge rate was quite alarming, which required charging at least once in a work day. But over a week's time the battery performance improved and it could easily last for around 10-12 hours of regular use, which included calling, messaging, internet surfing, audio playback, video playback and so on.
Verdict and Price in India
Micromax's online venture, Yu, is off to a great start with the Yureka, thanks to the attractive selling price. At Rs 8,999, the Yureka goes head-to-head with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G (which is still Rs 1,000 higher) and Asus Zenfone 5, and maybe even the Lenovo A6000, which is expected to launch soon. As it has the CyanogenMod 11 OS, the Yureka offers countless possibilities of tweaking the device. Despite the similar OS, it would not be fair to compare it with the OnePlus One, as the OnePlus One is priced at Rs 21,999 and has higher-end specs.
The Yureka is not without its share of drawbacks. The chief among them being a not-so-sharp display along with poor low-light photography. The build quality is strictly OK. But these are compromises one might be willing to make if one wants an affordable phablet, which stands out from the pool of the cheap Android phablets in the market.
Micromax has not used any of its branding, so it should be interesting to see how the Yu brand pans out. Micromax has promised more variety in future devices under the Yu brand. It will take the online-only route for selling Yureka and all future Yu products. With an attractive price of Rs 8,999, Yu surely will attract a lot of young buyers. The promise of monthly software updates is also going to be an added incentive for buying this phone.
Should other players be on guard? Only time will tell. But with Lenovo also planning to release their low-cost 4G phone, the A6000 soon in Indian market, 2015 certainly seems to have kicked off on a positive note as far as smartphones go. This trend which started last year, is sure to go on this year as well.