Billion Capture+ review: Flipkart’s first foray into mobile making requires polishing

If you’ve been following news the last couple of months, you would have noticed that the term digital India gets called up rather too frequently in this country. And what better way to be a part of this digital euphoria than with the smartphone in your pocket. We Indians are hooked to our smartphones and out appetite for bigger and better phones seems insatiable. Chinese brands have already changed the game with their value for money offerings. So much that a Rs 10,000-15,000 phone is already offering specs as good as those found in sub 25k budget.

So it isn’t exactly surprising to see that one of the fastest growing digital companies in India and one of the largest sellers of smartphones, Flipkart, would want to get on this bandwagon and offer a phone of its own. That effort and planning has resulted in what is Flipkart’s first foray into smartphone manufacturing and it’s called Billion Capture+.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this review, it would be appropriate to introduce the phone to the audience that has never heard about the brand before. Billion is Flipkart’s home grown brand and the Capture+ is the first phone from the company’s stables. As Flipkart likes to call it, it’s a phone made for India in India. All the different elements of making the phone from R&D, designing, to manufacturing, has been done in different parts of the country. It’s been manufactured by Flipkart’s partner company Smartron. Capture+ has been positioned in one of the fastest growing category within the smartphone market, the space between Rs 10,000-14,000. Naturally, the competition in this segment is huge too. Does Capture+ have what it takes to win the hearts of millions if not billions? We find out in our review below.

Before I begin, just wanted to let you guys know that to test the phone thoroughly, I locked my Galaxy S8 in a cupboard for a week and used the Capture+ as my main driver, using both the SIM slots that the phone offers. I also installed all the apps I generally tend to use (which aren’t a lot to begin with) and also asked a couple of other people who have used similar phones for their valuable feedback. All of that has gone into making this review as thorough as possible.

 

The specs

Flipkart and partner Smartron (the company that has manufactured the device) has made sure that Capture+ is adequately spec’d to compete against the likes of Redmi Note 4, Moto G5s, Lenovo K8 Plus and other phones in this segment. Capture+ comes with a 5.5 inch 1080p display. Flipkart has stuck with the traditional 16:9 format that we’re all accustomed to seeing instead of opting for the more jazzy 18:9 ratio seen in most of the newer premium phones. On the inside, the phone is packed with all the bells and whistles including a Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB or 4GB RAM, 32GB/64GB internal memory, and a 3,500mAh battery. To complete the package, the phone has been fitted with dual 13MP cameras (RGB + monochrome) on the back and an 8MP snapper on the front (more on this later). All of this has been wrapped in a metal body shell that holds things in place.

  • OS Android 7.1.2
  • Weight 176g
  • Display resolution 1920 x 1080
  • Display 5.5 inch, IPS
  • Storage space 32/64GB
  • Expansion slot Yes, dedicated
  • Processor Snapdragon 625, octa-core 2GHz 
  • GPU Adreno 308
  • RAM 3/4GB
  • Camera 13MP+13MP, f/2.0
  • Secondary camera 8MP, f/2.0
  • Battery 3,500mAh, non-removable
  • Connectivity Dual SIM, 4G

 

Unboxing the package

The phone comes packaged in a relatively small retail box. Inside the box you’ll find the smartphone along with an 18W wall charger, a USB C cable, a small instruction guide and some promotional vouchers (we’re not sure if this is only for the initial launch or will be offered later too). Earphones aren’t a part of the package, but then they aren’t usually included in this budget. Although, we wish a microUSB to USB C adapter was included as part of the package. The phone comes installed with a screen protector, but you might want to switch to tempered glass (because most of us do usually).

 

 

Build and design

The review unit provided to us was a black one and we have only good things to say about the build quality. The overall body feels premium to hold and look at. While the specs mention a metal body, the back panel seemed like a plastic one with metallic color. Still, it looks pleasing to the eye. The metal frames running along the sides add to the premium feel and design of the phone.

Thankfully, Flipkart didn’t go the Pixel 2 or Apple way and still decided to keep a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The SIM tray sits on the side and you’d need a pin to eject the cards. Worth noting that the phone comes with hybrid SIM2 slot, meaning, you’ll only be able to use either SIM2 or a microSD card at any instant. Might not be an issue with the 64GB variant, but could be a deal breaker on the 32GB version.

The fingerprint scanner sits on the back, while the phone has a single speaker at the bottom. The front isn’t all to busy with just the screen and the camera, earpiece slit and proximity sensor above it. The volume rocker and the power button have been housed together on the right edge and the left edge runs smooth.

The back houses the dual cameras in a horizontal layout along with the flash. The camera groove is protected by a hump to protect the glass from scratches when placed on a flat surface. The fingerprint sensor sits neatly in the middle and is easy to reach with your index finger.

The phone feels comfortable to hold and the curved edges ensured that my palm did not hurt even after prolonged use. The weight doesn’t feel too heavy either.

Although it is worth mentioning that the back side of the phone is prone to fingerprint smudges and it’s going to be a challenge keeping it clean. Also, while the logo seems fine, the backside of the phone could have done without the tagline.

Having said that, we don’t have any major qualms with the build quality.

  

 

Display and sound

Coming from a 18:9 AMOLED display, it was a challenge for me to not have high expectations with the phone’s display. Luckily, the full HD resolution on the 5.5 inch screen translates into a pixel density of 401PPI, which is respectable by any standard and at par with what the competition offers. This resulted in sharp images on the screen without any jarring edges when viewing the phone from a normal distance.

However, the display isn’t the brightest in the segment and that translates into sub-par readability in bright daylight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing deal breaking and absolutely fine to use indoors, but I’ve seen much brighter screens on phones like the Nokia 5 and the Moto G5 in this segment. You can check some of the comparison shots against the Galaxy S8 in both indoor and outdoor settings at the end of this section.

The temperature of the display is also a bit towards the cooler spectrum which while gives appreciably deep blacks, might not be to everyone’s taste. It also impacts the maximum brightness and contrast to an extent and it would have been great if the phone came with an option to adjust the color settings manually.

A mono speaker on the bottom is loud enough to hear even in a fair bit of noise. The loudness levels were at par with those in other phones, with the sound being crisp and clear.

 

 

Battery

With most of our time spent looking into that tiny screen, it’s convenient if you don’t have to keep looking for a wall socket every now and then. The Capture+ comes with a 3,500mAh battery which is fairly adequate for a 5.5 inch phone. With that Snapdragon 625 inside, the phone was able to last me between 33-38 hours on moderate use. These are great numbers since my Galaxy S8 is barely able to go beyond 18 hours. Not having to plug my phone to a wall charger every now and then felt like a relief.

On a few days, I forgot to get the phone into charging in the morning and managed to survive the whole day with just 30-35% battery. I still used to have enough battery when I plugged it into a wall charger in the evening. That’s more impressive since I had all the apps I use on my S8.

Having said that, the Achilles’ heel is the charging. Yes, it comes with Quick Charge 3.0 technology and the company touts its ability to last 7 hours on a 15 minute charge. Sadly, that didn’t happen with me.

Charging from a blank while keeping the phone switched on (the phone, not the display) took between 2 hours 20 minutes and 2 hours 40 minutes to charge completely. This doesn’t feel like quick charging to be honest. The phone managed to get only 20-25% juice in the first 30 minutes of charging which again doesn’t feel like the fastest charging in the world.

While the battery might be able to last you for over a day, you should be prepared for long charging hours when your phone would be plugged to the wall.

 

Software

Capture+ comes with Android 7.1.2 out of the box and that’s a great thing. Flipkart has tried to keep things as close to the stock experience as possible which should be appreciated by vanilla Android fans.

It also comes with a few other pre-installed apps, which honestly, would have been nice if one could remove them. You cannot though. These include goodies from Microsoft’s stables, a Kotak 811 app and a few more.

You also get unlimited cloud storage on tronX. Setting up the account was fairly simple and for those who like to keep large data on their phones, is a useful feature.

All in all, the phone scores well in software department and we’ve nothing really to complain here.

 

Hardware and real life usage

As we mentioned before, Capture+ has been packed with decently powerful specifications. It features a Snapdragon 625 which is an octa core processor along with 4GB LPDDR3 RAM. Suffice to say the phone does exceptionally well in daily use. There’s hardly any lag when running or switching between apps. The UI feels smooth and fluid to navigate. I tend to never close my apps and have them running in the background. But the phone did not break sweat with so much information still running in the background.

To test the true potential of the phone, I installed Asphalt 8 and Injustice 2 on the phone (both taxing games). To my surprise, Adreno 506 handled both the games beautifully on the phone on top settings. Again, there was no lag or slowdown (except some very few moments in between, which is usual). I tried playing the same games on my S8 and they were pretty much running like they did on the Capture+.

I also ran some benchmarks on the phone and the results were in line with what is seen on other phones with the same processor. You can check the results of these benchmarks in the screenshots below. Capture+ manages to score about 62,000 points on AnTuTu. On Geekbench, the score was close to 850 for single core and 4,200 for multi core.

AnTuTu

Geekbench

Also, the fingerprint scanner on the back is quick and accurate. It successfully recognized my prints on most occasions and was quick to wake the phone up. That’s impressive for a sub-15,000 phone.

Overall, the hardware feels adequate and you would be happy with day-to-day usage of the phone. The octa-core processor makes multi-tasking a breeze, while the Adreno 506 handles even the most intense titles perfectly.

 

Camera

Capture+ comes with a 13MP dual rear cameras. The set up is similar to the Moto G5s Plus, where one sensor captures colors, while the other is monochrome. This setup allows to capture photos with better contrast and details and is supposedly able to capture depth better, resulting in better brokeh (DSLR like images). It uses a Samsung made sensor with a large aperture of f/2.0 which should allow better low light photography. The cameras have  been paired with a dual flash.

On the front, there’s an 8MP snapper to capture selfies in all their glory. No flash, but then you don’t really need one very often, do you?

The default camera app is simple to use. There are a couple of modes to choose from including Auto, Portrait (which helps with the brokeh effect), Supernight, Panorama, and Pro. Switching between these modes does take a second or two and the app usually throws up a load screen. Then there are different filters you can choose from too including monochrome, sepia, etc.

While these are strong specs on paper, in real world use, the camera is a major let down. The 13MP rear snapper fails to capture photos in detail. Zoom in a bit and the photo quality degrades to the point that it doesn’t look like it’s been taken using a 13MP snapper. The photos are akin to those taken at high ISO, meaning, there’s too much noise. The color reproduction is poor and far from accurate.

Worst of all the colors bleed from the edges of the objects being captured. This is not acceptable for a phone that sells for this price in 2017-2018. The night shots fare equally worse with the same issues plaguing the photos. Check out a few unedited pics below.

 

Even the portrait mode gives mediocre results at best and our experience tells us that you won’t be using it much given the poor quality.

The front camera fares comparatively better. While some of these issues plague the front camera too, it’s not nearly as bad as the rear camera.

We hope this is more of a software issue than a hardware one, because on paper the cameras sound superb. But in it’s current state, these cameras fail to live up to their jobs and this is the  Achilles’ heel for Capture+ if you ask us.

 

Conclusion

Having spent a week with the phone, I was fairly happy with the performance. The key things that struck out for me were the excellent battery life, good build quality, snappy performance, and near stock Android experience.

Having said that, a few things that let me down were the screen brightness, the long charging times and most notably the rather poor camera performance which at the end of the day seems like a deal breaker.

Given it’s Flipkart first attempt at making a phone, it’s not a bad one at all. Remembering what seems like a decade ago now, Amazon’s Kindle wasn’t perfect in it’s first iteration either. To build a successful brand would require Flipkart to not only offer a competitive pricing, but ensure the phone gets timely updates, vast support network and continued push from the company.

Looking at the competition, the most obvious competitor for this phone is the Redmi Note 4. Being almost an year old now it still offers value for money. It performs well or at-par across most of the criteria and has a much better camera. It;s successor is also just around the corner.

You can also consider the Lenovo K8 series of phones which also offer similar specs for a similar price and come with Android Nougat on board. Then there’s the G5 Plus and G5s Plus, both of which are better phones in all aspects but command a premium price for it.

There’s much to like about the Capture+. It’s not perfect and might not be our first choice, but given the effort that’s been put into making this phone, it certainly deserves the attention. If Flipkart can come with a better camera and display in the next iteration, we might have a serious contender to the Chinese manufacturers in this segment. And who wouldn’t want a phone made in India to do well?