Yes! Its again been long, since when I wrote last time, but I hope to make it up again with a detailed review of the product, about which I talked out in last blog post, the slimmest phone in the world right now, Gionee Elife S5.5. Slimness is obvious introduction, but trust me, this review would make you learn really a lot about the product and slimness would be just a little part of that.
Let’s know the brand first….
Brand Gionee: Preface
If we look at landscape of phones or more precisely smartphones, then sometimes it looks literally unbelievable that what has happened within less than a decade. We seen how less relevant conventional calls and messaging have gone in last decade, we seen how outdated non-touch phones became in a short period of time and we seen once towering personality of phones, the Nokia, going out from even top three manufacturers from once 80% market share. Same happened around prices of smartphones, which risen up with unbelievable rise in smartphone specs and crossed even cost\ capabilities of desktops even.
In high priced game of HTC, Samsung, Apple etc, players like Micromax, Karbonn, Xolo etc also tried their bit, but even if some of their products succeeded a bit or offered a valid alternative, the difference between premium products and their products was always visible even by single look at product. But then, Gionee entered into the market. Trust me, you need to read further and see this product in action to know why I feel a strong endorsement for this particular product. It definitely helped me in enlightening myself about the new players, the bright future ahead and I expect it would leave the same effect on you as well, that never write anything off, the landscape has changed in past and can change again.
Before starting the review, one should have a look at my earlier two posts 1 & 2 to have an idea about the company and why it galvanizes hope even in early interactions. This is a company, who entered in a market where “china” was literally synonym with duplicate, mediocre, unreliable etc (Might not be true for all in reality but the common perception) and rather than bending own ways to handle the market perception like many other competitors, decided to take it heads upon over itself to change the entire landscape.
Be it kind of products finishing/ logo etc, be it bold & unprecedented market strategies, be it kind of blogger interactions, be in unique Tier 1 retail relations, Gionee seems to be combining all the good parts of their competitors like Nokia, Apple, Samsung and Huawei into one and its definitely seem to be getting it right till now at least.
Brand Gionee: The terminologies
“Gionee”, the word is English derivative of Chinese word “Jing Li”, which means “Golden Stand”, (though many other meanings as well). The company likes to state that the name stands for “Golden Quality” and if Elife E7, S5.5 or even recently launched Gionee M2 are to go by, then I would vouch for the same.
Another terminology brought by the brand is “Elife”. Gionee introduced this brand concept less than one year back at Beijing’s 751 D-Park while launching their another product that time, which was Gionee Elife E6, the kind of unique full uni-body design. “Elife” stood for “Enjoy my life” with a brand philosophy "Easy, Entertaining, Energetic, Sincere".
Then there are two different streams in which Gionee would be catering and marketing their flagship devices as of now. E Series and S Series. In own words of Arvind, Gionee India Head “Gionee ELIFE S Series will focus primarily of design and style moving forward from its predecessor ELIFE E series that focused on camera and build quality” or in crude flashing terms, S stands for “Stunning, Sexy, Smart and Slimmest”. I didn’t receive any confirmation or denial from company if plans for S series are to go even more slimmer than this.
At the end, another terminology introduced is “Amigo”, the specific launcher, Gionee phones are using (like Samsung uses “Touchwiz”, HTC uses “Sense”). “Amigo” stands for “Friend” in Spanish, and in Gionee words “An operating system that listens to the voice of users”. Amigo consists of four parts: NAVI (desktop), PHONE (mobile phone function), CARE (life assistant), PLAY (entertainment).
Now when we are aware of brand, let’s talk about the product.
First let’s start with the traditional unboxing step and know what the package contains even at this price point (current Flipkart price is around 21K INR & official MRP 23K INR).
Gionee Elife S5.5: The Unboxing
When it comes to package a product at considerably lower price point than competitors, then companies tend to remove the non-essentials from the package (non-essentials of course as per their own definitions), like it was case with missing headphones in Nexus 4 package or missing Data cables in Moto E package. I had every reason to be skeptical, as since days of Nokia N8, it never happened that you get more than essentials from the packages.
But I feel I should stop talking about the price point from here now as once I opened the package, from that moment to till now after using it for days in multiple use-case scenarios, I never found any single thing pointing towards a compromise due to price.
The box content was definitely uncompromising as the phone already is. Here goes the list:
1. Gionee Elife S5.5 Smartphone
2. Flip Case
3. 4 Scratch Guards: 2 for front and 2 for rear
4. USB to Micro-USB Cable
5. USB Adapter
6. USB OTG Cable (Small)
7. In-ear Headsets (with untangling flat cables)
8. SIM Ejector tool
9. Phone Manuals
Not a single of box component feels anything less than premium by any look.
Leave phone, the flip case is a treat of its own (though personally I always prefer doing without them), Scratch guards in the box, I seen last time with iPhone 5S package from AT & T, really strong & toughened USB cables if I compare then with that of Apple, Samsung likes, reminded me of Nokia cables with Nokia N8 etc. Bonus was USB OTG cable (ultra small 6”), which didn’t stuck me as OTG in first look as I wasn’t expecting the phone to have OTG, but again, Gionee sure breaking all the biases and stereotypes.
Note of caution, Flip case attaches itself with phone by adhesive, so I am not sure about removal & then re-attaching part.
In-Ear headsets with non-tangling wires was something I always longed for but happened to never get them out of box with any phone. Seen it with Micromax Canvas 4 last and seeing with this phone now. I just have no idea that why bigger players disregard this basic need of many (though Amazon recently launched their phone with such headsets). The particular headsets shipped with this handset manages to shield you away from background noise of any kind being in-ear design & sound details also seem to be top notch (If I be more critical, then I would say its loud & crisp but might lack certain details).
Gionee Elife S5.5: The Exteriors
Having claims like slimmest smartphone in the world, any reviewer supposed to stress on this particular section of review with “Wow! How slim it is” and similar were my thoughts when I first met with the phone during Goa Launch of the same. But the victory of the brand is, people actually find it much more than slim alone in such a way that slimness becomes secondary soon in conversations.
Its fascinating to see the kind of finish the edges of the phone offers to you and even more fascinating to know the process through which its been. Kind of reassuring that its not just beauty but offers durability as well. Who would have thought that someone would be making such slim phones with using even an inch of plastic in the exteriors?
The phone has glass on both the sides at front and at back, just like Nexus 4, but unlike Nexus 4, the edges didn’t got any single scratches in days of my usages. Won’t say I did drop it anytime by even mistake but yes short fall over wooden floor didn’t do even minor harm to this thing. Thanks to well crafted metal frame around it than rubber or plastic.
May be we can thank to Gorilla Glass part for that. Sharing the official video again of the process through which its crafted in. Had to share the public videos as nothing else can describe it more beautifully.
Yes! The size might be bigger than my taste right now, but over a period of time, it grows over you and the fears related to holding such slim device would go once you are assured of its sturdiness.
The front of the device is entirely made of thinnest Corning Gorilla glass 3, which is slightly curved at the top & bottom ends to give a feeling of merging. Smart part from Gionee is kind of hairline raise in the metal borders than the glass surface to take of the impact of fall, in case device falls flat & also to insulate if device kept at flat surface front down.
The phone is flat at sides though little curvy at top and bottom means it can stand on its own by one side only, which has the Micro-SIM slot as rest two sides are curvy and one side would have power & volume buttons. Looking at the sharp & precise cuts on the metal frame tells you a lot that how wrong it would be to call this thing any less premium than even top of the player in market, when it comes to design.
The front contains three capacitive keys at bottom in Samsung ways with back key on the left than right as it is in Nexus 4. Also a menu key than traditional multi-tasking of Nexus. At top of the front, you find a big camera, usual front speakers and an invisible array of multiple sensors beneath them.
Speaker placement been always tricky for companies and its always been about finding a balance than getting it perfectly right. Gionee doesn’t make an exception. Flat position of speaker at the back panel means I have to face the muffled rings at times when its kept at surfaces like car seat etc. Side speakers though do much better in comparison but you can understand the physical limitations about their placement.
The phone has two microphones, one at the bottom near 3.5mm Jack and another at the raised camera unit at the back. One for calling while another adds up to handle Video recordings with crisp audio along with noise cancellation. The noise cancellation though wasn’t in the same league as my iPhone 5S, but I don’t think I could find any complaints with it either.
If you look closely or might have gone with the first video of how the metal body is crafted then you would know that metal frames which are made of four pieces actually doubles up as antenna in a unique way to ensure that this phone doesn’t suffers the same fate due to its thinness as was faced by iPhone once.
The camera bump carrying out the LED Flash, 13 MP stacked Sony Sensor ridden main cam unit is sure odd to the design but in a way blessing for the phone. Flat face back cam like my Nexus 4 has, tends to get scratches over time and hence becoming useless due to bad quality of pictures due to them in long term. The bump certainly helps a bit in that though won’t offer anything in terms of holding the device. There are speakers at the bottom of back panel, which are sure loud and crisp enough for any premium phone though won’t call them extra-ordinarily loud either.
I was specially impressed with the kind of logo Gionee has. Shiny, beautiful, minimalistic, elegant and classy. Sorry to say but I been totally disappointed on that front with certain other brands (don’t want to name here but you know the other player). With Gionee, you really don’t feel like hiding the logo as happened with me with some other device which were beautiful but their logo screamed as cheap. This sure adds up with Gionee appeal & word of mouth marketing.
Gionee Elife S5.5: The specs
If you been following specs of leading brands, then this section set to break a lot of biases and stereotypes for you against so called “Chinese Brand”. Yes! The device stand amazingly thinner at 145.1 x 70.2 x 5.5 mm (5.71 x 2.76 x 0.22 in) but knowing that what brings this thinness is even more intriguing.
- 0.55 mm front glass panel made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3*, world’s thinnest TP cover.
- 1.0 mm SUPER AMOLED screen, World’s slimmest SUPER AMOLED with same ppi as Samsung Galaxy S4.
- 0.6 mm PCB Plate holding all the circuitry. Goes without saying, World’s slimmest.
- 0.4 mm rear glass cover made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 again, yes, world’s slimmest.
*Corning Gorilla Glass 3 is 3 times more durable than second generation, visible scratches decreased by 40%, compressive strength increased by 50% & molecular structure is now even more stable.
If you thought that its just about slimness, then hear this out, the phone packs a 2300 mAh battery in this slim uni-body, which is even bigger feat than slimness which many would be talking about. Technically speaking, this is world’s highest capacity/ density ratio battery, which is a massive feet in technology and I am expecting other manufacturers to pack even more on the same tune in coming days. Gionee mentioned that the battery capacity would increase to 2450 mAh by next upgrade, but I am not confirmed whether they talked about next firmware update or anything else.
The other interesting part about the Gionee Elife S5.5 is use of metal. The body is crafted with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and distinct metallic frame made of Aluminum-Magnesium alloy. Its not only beautifully crafted, but also is technically well competent as GPS\ WiFi\ Bluetooth\ GSM Antennas. Challenging task to make it slim yet not prone to death grip, as been the case with even Apple likes seasoned giants, but Gionee managed to get it right even in first attempt.
The kind of elements used in metal also help in different colored models as Gionee Elife S5.5 comes in five colors namely white, black, pink, blue and purple as the frame colors change as per model color.
Then it comes about the display. Trust me Man! You have to see it to believe it.
Not long ago when Apple coined a term called Retina for 300 ppi plus saying it’s the upper limit for human eyes after which human eyes can’t say about pixels, but I wonder what Apple would say about a display which is not only Full HD with huge 1920×1080 resolution but holds 441 ppi (173 ppcm) on the 5” display? This all with a SUPER AMOLED screen means with surreal 24 bit 16M colors.
Club these all with the kind of thinness they achieved with the display and you just feel respect for the technical advancement in the field and towards Gionee for bringing in form of full package.
While these things were still just a tip of Iceberg in terms of usability, the real deal breaker for me was the camera package. Gionee Elife S5.5 comes with a 13 MP rear AF camera unit made of stacked Sony CMOS BSI sensors, which is capable of shooting 1080p videos (2.07 MP) at 30 fps along with 12.98 MP images (4160 x 3120 pixels) of course. In many other features offered by camera, which I would cover in software part, it also can vary between ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800 and ISO 1600, sure a treat for anyone specifically looking for a nice to have detailed camera in a trendy package. The king though still remains the other Gionee Model, which is Elife E7.
Camera story doesn’t end here. Building upon what it got inherited from Gionee Elife E7, the thinnest smartphone in the world also is one of the best selfie or velfie cam as well. 95 degree ultra wide angle front cam with a Fixed Focus lens delivers some amazing results actually worthy of getting printed on paper even. Adding to arsenal, it can also shoot at 1080p (without AF) with exactly same resolution & frame rate as the main rear cam. You really don’t ask for more. First time for me, front camera of any phone is not just a place holder anymore.
The camera (rear & front both) comes with many of actually usable noteworthy software features as well but we would discuss about them in later section dedicated to camera only.
The features discussed above been the visible ones, now let’s dig deeper into specs.
Dimensions 145.1 x 70.2 x 5.55 mm, 130g with metal chassis
OS Android 4.2.2 Jellybean with a custom UI AMIGO 2.0
5” SUPER AMOLED Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Screen with a FULL HD resolution of 1920×1080 pixels with multi-touch capacitive screen of ~441 ppi pixel density. Similar to Galaxy S4 display
True Octa-core processor with 1.7 GHz Cortex A7 CPU, Mali-450MP4 GPU, MediaTek MT6592 chipset
2 GB RAM, 16 GB Mass Memory
HSDPA 42 Mbps, HSUPA, WLAN IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (LTE version might come in end of June or later)
Accelerometer, Gyro, Compass (Magnetometer Sensor), Proximity Sensor, A-GPS
13.0 Megapixels with stacked Sony Sensor AF camera with an aperture f/2.4
5.0 Megapixels with fixed focus camera with an aperture f/2.4
1920 x 1080 pixels video recording resolution with 30fps
FM Radio with RDS
2 Microphones inside, Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
Micro SIM Support only (Single SIM)
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, +EDR
Non-removable Li-Ion 2300 mAh battery extensible to 2450 mAh
microUSB v2.0, USB On-the-go (OTG)
Did I told you that this device is capable of UMTS video calling as well along with FM Radio with RDS? The two things which I missed after moving from Galaxy S to Nexus 4 and even with iPhone 5S.
USB On-The-Go is really a godsend for the devices with a capable camera once you are on some long trip. You can just keep on snapping and moving the pictures to drive whenever free. Even more necessary when the phone doesn’t have MicroSD support. Same time it also helps in consumption of media as I use it to watch movies on the go, which are not stored in the smartphone itself.
Going by the benchmark tests, doesn’t seem that these specs are just numbers. It does deliver & even above HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 like big names.
I would be concluding here on Hardware part and in next post, would be covering the details related to software front & various other features including camera/ battery performance. Meanwhile you can contact me over twitter @nkumar_ or Facebook pages Layman’s Take on Technology or Nitish Kumar: The Blogger if wanna know anything additional on Hardware front or software front. I would add the requested info into the blog post itself.
Keep the feedback coming.