Lenovo is gearing up to take on the smartphone stalwarts with an expanded portfolio of Android-based offerings. We managed to get our hands on the IdeaPhone P700i, which is aimed at professionals who require long battery life and dual-SIM support.
It’s compact, which is good news for those who are used to navigating their phones with one hand. However, it’s thick and bulky, too, weighing a hefty 162g and measuring 12.8mm thick. That said, the build is pretty solid for an entry-level smartphone. We get the feeling that it can probably withstand a reasonable amount of bumps and knocks.
The P700i has a 4-inch WVGA (800 x 480 pixels) IPS screen, which is pretty standard for a budget smartphone. However, the tradeoff is that the display’s quality is relatively poor: It has terrible viewing angles and low visibility in bright surroundings.
That home button looks a little different.
Under the display, you’ll find four hardware buttons to access the menu, home and back button as well as recent apps. Lenovo has traded the traditional home icon for its grid launcher icon, which may confuse some at first.
“Hyperskin”-like surface of the P700i’s back gives the handset a good grip.
The soft-touch back cover is lightly textured and feels somewhat similar to “hyperskin” on the Galaxy Nexus. Pop it open and you’ll find the 2,500mAh removable battery, as well as slots for a microSD card and two SIM cards. Lenovo has clearly indicated which slots are assigned for 2G/3G (SIM 1) and 2G-only (SIM 2) cards.
The P700i’s default home screen.
The Lenovo smartphone runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with a few tweaks. If you’re familiar with Lenovo’s Android-based IdeaPad tablets, you’ll find the grid launcher layout pretty familiar. The icons within the grid can be customized to any app you like.
Instead of a power option under Settings, you’ll have to access it via the pre-installed Lenovo PowerSaving app. The app allows you to choose between different usage patterns or customize your own, so as to maximize battery life. There’s also a useful “battery information” view, which shows you how much uptime you’ll have left for various tasks, such as calling, playing music or just having Wi-Fi or 3G connected.
The company has also included an option to automatically connect to a known Wi-Fi network, even with WLAN set to off. This feature should be useful for the average user, as it reduces the hassle to turn Wi-Fi on, as well as prolongs battery life by automatically connecting to a Wi-Fi network which generally uses less power than a 3G connection.
Lenovo has included many battery saving options.
Other installed apps include a note-taking app called Lenovo Note, which allows text or handwritten input, and also has the ability to save scribbles and attach media.
Text input isn’t the most intuitive on the P700i. Even after enabling autocorrect, it failed in correcting common words such as “the”, “this” and “in” and only kicked in after we manually added words to the dictionary. We would recommend installing a third-party keyboard app such as Swiftkey or SlideIT.
The P700i features a basic 5-megapixel camera, which delivered grainy images that were not very sharp even in bright conditions. There’s a slight shutter lag, too, which makes it unsuitable for capturing fast-moving subjects. Plus, you won’t be able to take any good pictures in dark conditions, due to the lack of an onboard flash.
Running on a dual-core 1GHz MediaTek chipset, the P700i can handle light tasks such as email, messaging and calls, but you can forget about running graphics-intensive apps or multitasking. Like the Huawei Honor, this is not a phone for multitaskers or impatient folks.
Battery life was astoundingly long on the P700i, thanks to the low-resolution screen sipping battery juice, as well as the power-saving features mentioned earlier. The 2,500mAh battery–large for the P700i’s class–was able to last around two days with our standard test settings of Wi-Fi turned off, two email accounts set on push, and Twitter and Facebook refreshing at 30-minute intervals.
We didn’t have any major issues with voice calls either, although it sounded tinny on occasion.
The P700i is now available in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and the Philippines at a retail price of around US$200 without operator subsidies.
If you want a budget Android handset with dual-SIM capability and a long battery life, the P700i may be worth a look. However, do note that the company has not announced any plans for Jelly Bean updates yet.
As such, you may be better off waiting for the new P-series handset–the P770 (link in Chinese)–that Lenovo announced at CES to hit the market. While it may be slightly more expensive when released, the P700i’s successor has more up-to-date specs: It runs on Android 4.1 and has a larger 4.5-inch qHD screen.