There is a new smartphone player in town and its first phone is so good that manages to channel a steely resolve that you associate with Indian’s cricket captain Virat Kohli. Of course, I’m talking about the new iQOO 3 which isn’t just one the first phones to trot Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor but also is coming from the house of Vivo, which isn’t just one of the biggest smartphone vendors in the country but the sponsor of the Indian Premier League. Its first gambit is highly impressive and it certainly channels the spirit of Indian’s skipper with basically the most cutting edge computing hardware you’ll find on an Android smartphone.
- Impeccable fit and finish is a core highlight of this phone. The iQOO 3 feels very solid while looking very elegant in an understated way. It has a glass and aluminium sandwich design but it also comes with a set of unique colours and finishes. I reviewed the tornado black which has a glossy finish, but the phone is also available in a delicious looking orange which comes in a matte finish.
- The 6.7-inch OLED screen is also highly impressive. Sure, it doesn’t have a 90Hz refresh rate, but just inherently it is a delightful screen to view content on. It is bright, vivid with realistic colours that pop making all kinds of content come alive on it. One of the nicer things about this screen was also the fast touch refresh rate of 180Hz.
- The performance of this phone, as you’d imagine, is superlative. There is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip which is supported by UFS 3.1 memory and LPDDR5 RAM, a first for a smartphone in India. On the top of the line model, you’re getting 12GB RAM and 256 GB storage. Suffice to say, this is the fastest Android smartphone I have ever used, including for things like gaming as it also incorporates a graphite-based heat sink and cooling technology.
- The battery life on this device is also very impressive. The 4,440mAh battery lasts more than a day and a half on a single charge. You also get the added benefit of the 55-watt fast charger which not only charges the phone fully in about an hour but also looks very cool with its pill shape which reminded me of the older Apple MagSafe connectors, though it isn’t magnetically latched on.
- Usually, the software experience is what makes things crummy for most people, but the iQOO UI is a far cry from the travesty that’s Vivo’s FunTouch OS. It feels more like a bridge between MiUI which Xiaomi uses and Oxygen OS. Apart from a lot of bloatware, it feels functional and simple to use.
- This phone supports high-resolution audio with a 3.5mm jack which is a rarity on modern smartphones. If you’re an audio junkie, then this is going to be god sent. Similarly, it uses a new generation of an optical fingerprint scanner which works like lightning. If you opt for the top of the line model, then you also get 5G connectivity. It wouldn’t be handy in India, but if you travel a lot to the US or China it could come into play.
- The haptics on this phone are amazing. This is transformative for a premium smartphone as it impacts the way you interact with the phone and the amount of work you get done on it. Adding credence to its gaming predicted, you also get air triggers which work well on certain games.
- The cameras on this phone disappoint. They aren’t bad per se but they aren’t also flagship-grade. Heck, they are inferior to even the Poco X2 which costs almost half the price. That being said you are getting a quad-camera system with a wide-angle lens, telephoto with lossless zoom and a primary 48-megapixel camera coupled with a depth sensor. But all in all, selfies and pictures from the rear cameras are just about okay. Of course, all this can be improved with software updates and already there have been a couple of updates for the camera, but the improvements haven’t been huge.
- It is almost nonsensical that the cheaper 8GB RAM models of this phone don’t support 5G bands because the hardware is there, so there is no reason for the support to be not there.
- The amount of bloatware that comes preloaded with the phone is quite obnoxious. iQoo will do well if they reduced some of the excesses here because fundamentally, the UI is quite nice and simple to use.
To buy or to not to buy
As of now, there are only two smartphones which are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip. And on the basis of that, the iQOO 3 is the better bet. It has a nicer screen, better UI, smoother performance and quality good battery life. It also standards out because it has air triggers, it is slightly cheaper and certainly is one of the better-built smartphones I’ve tasted in a while.