- Accessory maker Tonino Lamborghini makes a smartphone. It’s called the Alpha-One.
- The company shares a heritage with the carmaker Lamborghini, and a penchant for premium prices: The Alpha-One costs $US2,500 (£1,900).
- Beyond its fancy materials and brand name, the Alpha-One is also a more than decent Android phone.
Lamborghini has a phone, and – as you would expect – it costs $US2,500, or about £1,900, and it tells two distinct stories.
The first one fits with the company’s narrative: This is an ultra-premium device, made for the limited number of people who can afford it and appreciate the build quality of a pleasingly hefty, well-crafted piece of technology.
The Alpha-One blends unusual, pricey, and entirely unnecessary materials such as kevlar, liquid metal, and genuine leather (which, of course, tries to remind you of the inside of a Lamborghini car), which make for a ludicrous first impression.
You may find it glamorous, or ugly – those are the words uttered by most of the people I’ve handed this phone to – but there’s no denying that the Alpha-One looks and feels different from other smartphones, and will immediately make you feel strongly about it.
And that’s precisely what it wants to be: A rare object and a visual, concrete statement, if you will.
That’s fine; if you are dropping $US2,500 on a phone, that’s likely because that much money is nothing more than a drop in the ocean for you, and the exclusivity it will inevitably speak for is worth more to you than anything else.
Here is something you should know, however: It’s not actually Lamborghini that makes the phone, but rather an independent company called Tonino Lamborghini, which shares the same heritage but focuses on accessories and hospitality projects.
If you forget about price, the Alpha-One is actually a decent smartphone…
There’s also the story the Alpha-One tells you day after day, which really is no different than that of a range of good and yet somewhat compromised high-end Android smartphones.
If I were to do nothing but read the spec sheet, the phone would sound like a respectable high-end device: There’s a Quad HD, 5.5-inch AMOLED display surrounded by dual stereo speakers at the front, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage, a 20MP camera with f/1.8 aperture, and a hefty 3250mAh battery.
In addition to that, you also get a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, a USB-C port, and even a headphone jack. On paper, save for the almost-two-year-old Snapdragon 820, the Alpha-One isn’t missing out on much when compared to other Android flagship phones.
It even ships with Android 7.1.1 out of the box – granted, it’s not the latest version, 8.0 Oreo, but even recent phones like the OnePlus 5T are missing out on that (only a meager 0.3% of devices around the world are running the new OS, according to Google’s latest available data).
The Alpha-One’s only immediately apparent fault is the unbearable ugliness of the themes built into its custom MiFavor UI, which desperately try to match a futuristic and Lamborghini- (the cars) inspired aesthetic but goes no further than badly replicating an “Iron Man”-ish style that clashes with the overall premium tone of the rest of the phone.
The screen is colourful and vibrant, if a bit too cold (this can be tweaked in settings, but the “warm” option throws off the balance on the other side); the dual, stereo, front-firing speakers are surprisingly loud and clear, which helps if you plan to use the Alpha-One as a media consumption device.
The fingerprint reader is fast and accurate, although in my experience it did take it a full day of use before becoming fully reliable. Battery life is also surprisingly good, even after some gaming-based stress testing, which is likely going to be more brutal than the average Alpha-One user will require.
…but it still has annoyances you wouldn’t want (or expect)
Tonino Lamborghini’s smartphone has, more than anything else, one major problem: It is – ironically – slow and sluggish, at least way more than I would want it to be.
Its more-than-occasional slowness is something that would bother me on any smartphone, but it becomes particularly bothersome considering both the phone’s price and its actually strong internal components.
Especially coming from the fluidity of iOS on an iPhone X (or even Android Oreo on a year-old Pixel XL), the Alpha-One consistently takes that extra split second to complete any given task to become sufficiently annoying in everyday use.
The launcher often lags when scrolling between pages, and the animations you see when closing and opening apps are not always smooth either. Playing games was fine in my experience (the phone gets a little hot, but no more than most phones do), but you never get the feeling that the Alpha-One is ploughing through tasks.
The phone is far from unusable, mind you, but the raw power an old processor like the Snapdragon 820 lacks is the kind of shortcoming you wouldn’t expect, particularly given how the company seems to have treated all the other components.
Last but not least is the camera – the quality is not bad, and I managed to take some good shots out of the phone’s rear shooter. The app itself is too slow, however, and reproduces its (annoyingly loud) focus beep and shutter sounds even when you turn all the volume sliders down.
The Alpha-One’s insane price is basically the only reason it should exist
And that’s all that matters when it comes to reviewing the Alpha-One. It won’t win any battles against more fine-tuned, high-end smartphones, but it’s not bad to the point that even those who do buy it feel like they got an unworthy product.
If it didn’t carry the “Lamborghini” name and cost somewhere in the $US400/£350 neighbourhood, there could be a point in recommending shoppers give the Alpha-One a go.
Instead, its $US2,500 price tag becomes at the same time both pointless – moot, at best – as those who can afford it (and will actually spend money on it) likely wouldn’t flinch were it to cost twice as much, and its only real selling point, because it immediately puts a desirable exclusivity stamp on it.
If you are looking for high-end quality in a mobile device, there are phones that look and feel as premium as this – Samsung’s latest Galaxys, the iPhone X, or Sony’s aptly named Xperia XZ Premium.
None of them cost nearly as much as the Alpha-One, but they are still on the high end of the manufacturing quality spectrum while being ostensibly better smartphones as well.
If you just need a phone that does its job, instead, you certainly won’t casually land on Tonino Lamborghini’s web page, but it’s still worth remembering that you can still get something better for a fifth of the price.
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