Monsters from Asia: the Smartisan T1 and its stylish, full-glass body

In today's edition of our fortnightly column on awesome tech from faraway lands, we'll be highlighting an overly interesting phone from an overly young, new company in China -- the stylish T1 by Smartisan.

New smartphone vendors are cropping up all over the place in the world's most populous country, and Smartisan is one of the latest to add its name to the burgeoning list. This isn't a wholly surprising fact, all things considered. For one, Chinese manufacturing plants have been tasked with the production of big name phones for a good part of the last decade, so the know-how is definitely there. That massive pool of potential talent is not to be underestimated either.

Looking at the Smartisan T1, its portmanteau of a name (Smart + Artisan) is a defining part of the package and reveals the vision of the company's CEO (Luo Yonghao). Indeed, the T1, unlike many of its local competitors, is not at all about affordability. The devil is in the details, they say, and those were instead a primary focus for the folks behind the stylish phone. 

Starting with design, it's hard to argue the source of inspiration for the T1 -- despite some discrepancies, the flagship does remind a whole lot of the iPhone 4/4S. With that in mind, it should not surprise that the T1 went for a sleek, clear-cut design language that is dominated by glass -- nearly 84% of the chassis is covered by it. Interestingly enough, Smartisan went for pronounced hardware navigation keys instead of opting for a flush surface that could have been achieved with capacitive keys, but Mr. Yonghao claims those are more prone to unintentional clicks. Another point of differentiation are the T1's two button rockers on both sides of the device -- one for the volume, and one for easily adjusting the brightness of the display.

Of course, most of you will be looking for something beyond an attractive device. Thankfully, the T1 delivers, and is no wimp when it comes to the hardware embedded within. It's got a 5-inch, 1080p display by JDI with Gorilla Glass 3 for protection (both front and back), and is powered by the mighty 2.5GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset and 2 gigs of RAM. As for imaging, the device makes use of a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with wide, f/2.0 aperture. Smartisan made a point out of the reportedly very close collaboration of its imaging team with Fujitsu, though what kind of practical benefits will that entail remains unclear. That said, we're curious to see the T1 perform in low-light conditions, as its proprietary camera night mode is said to take six consecutive shots before combining them into a singular, enhanced shot with reduced noise levels.

The rest of the hardware highlights include a 2570 mAh cell, a secondary, noise-cancelling microphone, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0. Much alike to the audiophiles-targeted Vivo Xplay 3S, the T1 also makes use of a Texas Instruments operational amplifier (OPA2604) in order to deliver Hi-Fi sound.

Last, but not least, the Android-based Smartisan OS that drives the T1 is anything but ordinary. A tile-like design dominates the homescreen, and is at the core of what makes the Smartisan OS... well, the Smartisan OS! And while the proprietary interface won't allow you to set a custom wallpaper (in order to keep the looks clean), it does offer quite a few customization options. For example, that aforementioned side rocker for the brightness can be reconfigured as to allow for one-click image snaps -- you squeeze both side rockers (even when the phone is asleep), and that'll instantly launch the camera app and take a shot. Indeed, the likes of gesture recognition, general OCD settings, and a dedicated one-handed mode, all make an appearance in order to round up the features list.

The 3G version of the Smartisan T1 goes on sale in China in July, and, as already mentioned, won't sell on the cheap. The equivalent of $480 is what the price tag demands for the 16GB version, while the 32GB model will cost about $505. As for an LTE version, Smartisan has promised to have one up by the end of the year, and cost $560/$590 for the 16GB/32GB version, respectively.

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