In about two hours, Lenovo will unveil its latest flagship in India — the Vibe K5 Note.
As the launch draws near, nearly every tech news outlet is predicting a price of around Rs 14,000 for the phone, based on the cost of acquiring the phone in China.
In its home market, Lenovo introduced the phone six months back at a price of Rs 11,300 for the 2 + 16 GB version. As a result, many expect the 4 GB version to be priced around Rs 2,500-3,000 higher.
However, what many are forgetting is the shift in the RAM market over the last six months from DDR3 standard to the faster and efficient DDR4 platform.
Most of the high-end phones (that cost Rs 20,000 or more) today come with efficient DDR4 modules instead of the older DDR3 hardware. This change not only improves the responsiveness of the device, but also cuts down on the amount of battery power consumed.
As a result, prices of DDR3 modules have come down substantially in the last six months, making it possible for Lenovo to add on more RAM without really stretching its budget.
A similar development has also taken place on the processor front. The cost of the mid-range Helio P10 chipset has also come down substantially since the K5 Note was first introduced at the turn of the year due to the introduction of new technology.
Besides, the Helio P10 is a mid-range chipset that has about significantly less power compared to the Snapdragon 652 chipset found in its direct competitor LeEco Le 2. While the P10 has a benchmark score of around 3,500, the Snapdragon 652 scores 5,300 points. The difference is even more perceptible in single-core tasks, where the Snapdragon 652 chipset is almost twice as powerful as the Helio P10.
The key reason why the price of the Helio P10 platform has declined is that its maker Mediatek has announced its successor — Helio P20 — back in February.
Unlike the P10, which is built on the less efficient and heating-prone 28 nm technology, the P20 is built on the latest and highly efficient 16 nm platform. The smaller the chipset, the less heat it generates. The less heat it generates, the faster the processor can be run. The P20, not surprisingly, scores much better on benchmarks than the P10 even though the core designs are very similar.
The K5 Note does come with a rather big 3.5 Ah battery, but that edge is lost in the lower efficiency of the platform.
Moreover, devices containing the P20, which also comes with more advanced LTE technology, will be available in the market in the coming days and weeks, with the company officially committing to a ‘second half 2016’ timeline.
IS LENOVO K5 NOTE WORTH IT?
Though Lenovo was the undisputed king of the affordable handset market in 2015, its launches in recent months have met with less success.
First off was the K4 Note, which would have clicked had it not been for the launch of LeEco’s Le 1s for Rs 1,000 less. The Le 1s, despite being cheaper, came with a far superior chipset that offered flagship-class power.
The next model to launch was the K5 Plus, which — at Rs 8,499 — was neither cheap enough to be considered an entry-level smartphone, nor had the muscle to take on mid-rangers like the Le 1s and the Redmi Note 3.
The third big launch, the Vibe K5 — the ‘HD Ready’ version of the K5 Plus — met with slightly better reception thanks to the Rs 6,999 price tag. The Rs 6,000-7,000 price range is Lenovo’s hotspot and an area where the company still faces little competition.
That brings us to the question — is the K5 Note going to click in the Indian market? Will the metallic build and stylish looks help it avoid the fate of the K4 Note?
We are inclined to say no, even if the model is priced at Rs 9,999.
The reason has to do with technology.
As a pioneer brand, fans expect Lenovo to deliver the best of the affordable market technology in its products.
In case of the K5 Note, unfortunately, the company is coming in with six-month old model at a time when both the memory standard as well as the chipset have been superceded.
That said, Lenovo can make a success of the model if it focuses on the offline distribution channels, where buyers are less worried about whether the technology they are getting is the latest and the greatest or not.
Lenovo, for example, had great success in selling its K3 Note offline as the A7000 Turbo.
Not only are offline buyers typically less aware of the latest technologies, but they are also more open to dealer suggestion. Unlike online, where users tend to go by peer reviews and ratings, offline buyers tend to value the opinion of the salesman. In addition, competition is lower in the offline market.
You can watch the live broadcast of the launch below: