Sometimes, I want to like a phone more than I actually like it. There are some really alluring aspects to the LeEco Le 1s. It’s also a beautiful phone that makes you want to hold it longer. And yet, its faults are hard to ignore.
It’s the kind of phone which you won’t regret buying. It’s the kind of phone you’d even want to flaunt. But it’s the kind of phone where you can feel its problems regularly, and that makes you think, “Could I have got something better for my money?” Sadly, the answer is yes.
I’ve used the LeEco Le 1s as my primary handset for over a month now. At the end of it, I’m actually sad to part with it. But I won’t miss it. Here’s why…
There’s So Much To Love
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to be bowled over by design of the LeEco Le 1s. We’re all a bit jaded now with these Rs 10,000 phones, aren’t we? Flashy advertisements tell you how it’s a “metal phone” or “adorned by aluminium” or “perfect unibody design”. And when you go to a shop to actually see it, you’re disappointed by how much the advertisers lied to you.
The LeEco Le 1s lives up to all its hype. It is an actual metal unibody phone, and there’s a lot of care that has gone into the design. Take the top of the phone. There’s an ornamental lens outlet to complement the front-facing camera, just so that it looks symmetrical on either side of the earpiece; almost like an emoji. The chamfered edges, the sleek design, the full-flat back, the edge-to-edge glass on the front—it’s the most beautiful phone in this price range. I lost count of the number of people who thought it was a high-end smartphone.
Plus, it’s fast! The Helio X10 processor and the 3GB of RAM combine to pack a punch. Multi-tasking remained smooth throughout, even letting me switch between active games and WhatsApp messages without losing my position in the game.
You also get an above-average camera in the package, shooting images with vivid details and sufficiently accurate colours in the daylight. It’s not particularly good in low-light environments though. Let me put it this way: If you’re going to post photos on Facebook or Instagram, it’s fine, but don’t expect to print out a picture you take from this phone in a dark restaurant.
The package is rounded off by a crisp Full HD screen, the likeable custom UI (which isn’t too different from the default Android UI), and odd bits like an infrared sensor with a custom remote app to control things like your air conditioner or TV.
But all of this still doesn’t entirely make up for the two aspects of the LeEco Le 1s that bugged me the most over the past month.
More Smart, Less Phone
I’m often asked, “Why would anyone spend Rs 50,000 for an iPhone or Galaxy when you get this good-looking, cheap phone for 10,000?” It’s because when those high-end phones concentrate on design, they don’t forget about functionality.
It seems like the Le Eco 1s’ great design has ignored the antenna. The end result is that you won’t get clear calls in areas where every other phone is working fine. Your calls will drop while people around you chat away. You’ll be stuck browsing the Internet on Edge when everyone else is on 3G or 4G. In the corner of your room, your iPad and your laptop and your second phone will be connected to your Wi-Fi, while the 1s intermittently connects to the network or taunts you by saying, “Wi-Fi networks are available”.
And this plays havoc with your phone’s battery. The shoddy antenna is so often switching between Edge, 3G, and 4G while travelling, and so often flipping out about the Wi-Fi at home or office, that a battery that should last you a full day is pleading to be connected to a charger in the mid-afternoon.
Oh, that charger. Much like the phone, I wanted to like it, I really did. It’s a reversible USB Type-C charger, which means there is no “right side up”—it connects into the slot no matter which direction is facing up. But it’s also not a standard charging cable yet, and nowhere near as popular as a typical micro-USB cable. So when you’re out and about, you can’t just tell the restaurant owner, “Hey, could you please charge my phone while we have dinner?” Given how often you run out of battery, that is a real scenario, and a frustrating one at that.
For anyone who spends a substantial amount of the day talking on the phone, the LeEco Le 1s is a disaster. It just won’t last you the whole work day, let alone the whole day, and that’s not acceptable when so many other phones do this easily.
Is This the Best Deal In Its Price?
At the end of the day, what you care about is simple: Am I making the best possible purchase with my money? Unfortunately, for the LeEco Le 1s, Xiaomi released the Redmi Note 3, and Lenovo launched the Vibe X3. If you’re willing to spend Rs. 20,000, the Vibe X3 can’t be beaten in the mid-range phones. The Redmi Note 3 does everything the 1s does, while giving you far, far better battery life and network quality.
Which brings us to what I said at the start. The LeEco Le 1s is still the best designed budget smartphone. You won’t regret buying it. But you’ll notice its flaws regularly, and know that you sacrificed everyday functionality for good looks. Whether that’s a good enough trade is up to you, but I wouldn’t do it.