We’ve been seeing a steady flow of Lyf smartphones from Reliance Retail, catering to nearly every entry-level and mid-range price point. As an incentive to buy these phones over the competition, they are being bundled with Jio SIM cards. This gives buyers free access to LTE data and Jio’s suite of streaming services, which you can now enjoy without paying a dime time till March 2017.
Today, we’ll be testing the Lyf F1 , a recently launched mainstream smartphone whose pricing puts it in competition with the likes of Lenovo K5 Note and the Moto G4 (Review), to name a few. During our brief stint with the phone at its launch event, it seemed like a good package. Today, we'll find out if it’s really worth your money.
Lyf F1 design and build
The Lyf F1 is built around a plastic frame and thanks to this, it feels very light to hold. Despite going with plastic over metal, the overall fit and finish is good. There's no creaking or flex when the body is pressed, though we would still have preferred a sturdier material. The dimpled texture on the back adds some relief to the phone's otherwise ordinary look. The Lyf F1 is quite slim too at 7.9mm.
There’s a 5.5-inch full-HD screen that has good brightness and sharp text, thanks to the dense pixel count. Colour reproduction is fairly good too and there’s Corning Gorilla Glass for reinforcement. We have the power and volume buttons on the right, which have decent tactile response. There are two slots on the left for two SIM cards and we even have a dedicated microSD card slot (up to 128GB). The headphones socket is placed on the top, and a Micro-USB port is at the bottom.
Around the back, we simply have the camera module at the top and a slit for the speaker at the bottom. There is no fingerprint sensor, which is a bit of a disappointment. In the box, you get an in-ear headset, a power adapter, a long flat USB cable, and a SIM ejector tool.
The ergonomic design of the Lyf F1 makes it easy to use and carry around. The back offers good grip when you hold it and the slim borders on either side of the display offer some degree of one-handed usability. There’s no camera bump on the back either.
Lyf F1 specifications and features
Lyf has used the fairly dependable octa-core Snapdragon 617 SoC for the F1. It's paired with 3GB of RAM, and there’s 32GB of built-in storage. Other specifications include Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, USB OTG, GPS, FM radio, and 4G VoLTE support. Apart from the usual suite of sensors, the F1 also features a gyroscope.
We have Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 which is thankfully left to its stock look and feel. Reliance bundles the Jio suite of apps, including JioMoney, Jio Play, etc. The apps require you to create an account, or if you’re using a Jio SIM, you can skip this step. Lyf Care lets you find nearby service centres, call a helpline, and manage Jio’s services.
The Smart Tray app provides you with a pop-up tray of shortcuts for up to 15 apps when you swipe diagonally from either of the bottom corners of the screen. Smart Ring alters the volume level of an incoming call based on gestures like flip to mute, or based on ambient sound. In our experience, the success rate was a bit of a hit-or-miss. The video player lets you stack two videos side-by-side and have them play simultaneously. While we can't imagine anyone needing to do this regularly, the feature exists.
Smart Play is supposed to pause videos when you’re not looking at the screen. This uses the front camera to track your head movement more than your eyes, which means it tends to pause the video even if you tilt your head to one side. Other preinstalled apps include BeautyPlus Me, Yatra, and Amazon.
The Lyf F1 supports RCS or Rich Communication Service over the Jio network. This is an official GSM association programme that allows enhanced messaging, voice and video call features such as the ability to share multimedia content, contacts, etc while on a call. Currently, Jio is the only network to have deployed this in India, but soon, these features could work across operators thanks to Google’s initiative.
Lyf F1 performance
General performance is good and we didn’t encounter any major hiccups during the course of our review. The phone's core specifications and the lean Marshmallow UI help ensure that performance and multitasking are smooth. The phone doesn’t overheat, but its back does get warm when you’re using the camera a lot or doing anything stressful, like gaming. Speaking of which, even heavy games like Asphalt 8 ran smoothly, without much trouble. We got 47,562 in AnTuTu, 5,390 in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme, and 17fps in GFXbench. These are more or less along the lines of what we expect from a phone at this price point.
The Lyf F1 does a decent job at media playback too. It can handle files up to 1080p with ease and even our high-bitrate test files ran just fine. The speaker gets sufficiently loud when placed on a flat surface, but sounds a bit weak otherwise and gets muffled pretty easily if the phone is placed on an uneven surface. Audio quality with the bundled headset is strictly average.
Coming to the camera, we have a 16-megapixel rear sensor with PDAF and an 8-megapixel front camera with autofocus support. In daylight, pictures a have fair bit of detail with vibrant colours, although distant objects tend to look mushy and flat. Autofocus speeds are also pretty good when moving from one subject to another. The front camera does a good job too.
However, low-light shots are riddled with colour noise, especially in dark areas. Even with the flash, this doesn’t seem to go away. The front camera fares a bit better in this respect. Focusing speeds also dip pretty badly under poor lighting, which makes it tougher to snap a selfie.
The camera app is designed for ease of use, which we like. There’s no professional mode here but you can adjust the ISO, exposure and white balance in the settings. There are some advanced shooting options like Multiple Focus, Refocus, Chroma Flash, Opti Zoom and Low Light photo. Other than the Chroma Flash, it’s hard to tell any difference between photos taken using the other modes. A photo shot with Refocus lets you select different focus points but nothing actually happens. In the end, these feel a bit gimmicky which would probably explain why they’re buried in the Settings menu.
Video recording maxes out at 1080p and quality is good in daylight. The video stabilisation feature helps a bit. A high framerate mode lets you select between 90fps and 120fps, but this only works by degrading the resolution to 480p. Plus, the 120fps mode is simulated and doesn’t actually work well.
The 3200mAh battery ran for 10 hours and 57 minutes in our HD video loop test, which is good. With regular use, we easily got through a full day and then some. The battery charges pretty quickly with the bundled adapter and we were able to get up to 45 percent in about an hour.
As it turns out, the Lyf F1 is indeed a decent option to consider at Rs. 13,399. It’s available at Reliance Digital stores, with some interesting offers and freebies. Plus, you can unlock an additional year of warranty coverage once you sign up with the LyfCare app on the phone. For us, the only real downsides are the plastic build, average camera performance, and lack of a fingerprint sensor.
Barring these issues, the Lyf F1 does well in most areas. It offers a sharp display, reasonable CPU power, good battery life, near-stock Android, and the fact that you benefit from free Jio services till next March, with the latter also available on other 4G smartphones.
If you’re planning on jumping on the Jio bandwagon but lack a compatible smartphone, the Lyf F1 could a good option to start with.