When you are reviewing an entirely new product about which you never knew anything before, nor you would have reviewed any sister product of it to understand part of things, then it becomes absolute necessary to give it undivided attention and comparatively longer period of use to understand the bottlenecks & possible issues that may start nagging over time. Because such issues can never been checked during two three weeks period as product remains comparatively new.
I should thank Gionee on this part that they allowed me to retain the unit for a longer while to understand it and to put it in real world use (I kind of forgotten that it’s a review unit and sure gonna miss it hard as it became part of life).
I remember the time when I was to review a keypad phone while my own phones been all touch phones. During entire period of review, I restricted myself to use the touch phone to feel the essence of living with that particular keypad phone. Same was the right thing to do when it was about an entirely new brand.
So how did Gionee Elife S5.5, which is sure a marvel on hardware front and head turner wherever I go, fared on software front? Did it performed at par with iPhone 5S or Nexus 4 which I had? Does it produce images worthy of 13MP camera? Does the battery sails through day? Does the glassy build survives in long run?
A number of questions which I intend to answer in the rest part of blog….
Android version on Gionee Elife S5.5
When I first received the product then the handset has Android 4.2.2 on it which was a little annoying to me coming from Nexus 4 which already had Android 4.4.4 but that was a Nexus. Though in OS usages, its hard to tell what’s difference but issues which been nagging to me were, lack of Google Camera hence missing 360 degree Panorama option despite of such capable camera unit, Bluetooth Streaming with Car Audio which sometimes may miss in earlier version of Android and compatibility of many apps.
Though Gionee surprised every other player by coming up with an upgrade to Gionee Elife S5.5 in start of July 2014, which bumped the Android version to 4.4.2 along with considerable changes in its own skin named Amigo. So those naggings became story of past.
Quite bold move to upgrade to 4.4.2 as Google from their side not providing special preferences to Gionee & updating is not just simple ports but many underlying variables along with propriety skin changes along with that. But I am happy that they listened what we bloggers discussed with them about during Goa Launch on Android version.
Amigo UI on Gionee Elife S5.5
I remember the time when I bought Samsung Galaxy S, my first Android phone. There was a lot of talk against TouchWiz but coming as an empty slate about Android, it didn’t bothered me much during my extended usages. I tried many a times but it was hard for me to stay with any launcher back then considering resource consumption by launchers on top of existing. But things changed over years, I went through many versions of CM since then and even now my old Galaxy S boasting Android 4.4.4 due to that. Then purchase of Nexus made me away from TouchWiz completely. So was Amigo of my likeness?
I would say, I am adaptable to changes when it comes to mobile UIs. Reviewed Windows Phones, Symbian Phones, iPhones, Android, Asha Phones quite frequently and with shorter gaps, so I was little better equipped than average.
The above screenshots give a glimpse of the Amigo UI on Gionee Elife S5.5 and trust me, its definitely not that bad. Moreover, you always have the option of switching to other launchers (that’s always the profit of being on Android) in case stock Amigo is not of your likeness.
Amigo reminded me of MIUI a lot and it might be intentional as well. Animations, fonts been all good and even folder creation/ usages etc, on the con side, having all icons on the home screen was kind of mess. You can make folders but how many? Also that limits usages in widgets in a way.
Though many a thing in Amigo been piece of beauty. Huge number of customizable Desktop transition effects with visual icons, gesture for locking the phone without even pressing buttons, Lock screen having Camera, Torch, Recorder and an interesting option of FakeCall (quite useful in some scenarios). Best part was, it always remained responsive, floating and smooth animations all around, wherever you go. Also certain inconsistencies in animations which been there earlier been sorted out with the new update.
Also huge number of options in notifications area (total of 16 options) and one interesting option of removing excess load without any third party app.
Conclusion is, if you come without any bias or perception with the UI then sure its enjoyable and doable though yes, there are better options available like Nova Launcher etc.
Issues: like one I faced, persistent SMS notifications on lock screen which won’t go away, custom icons for apps like twitter, YouTube etc which won’t be updated even if original App icon has been updated long back. Also the desktop blurr effect, often forgets the focus. Sure some things need improvement even after KITKAT update.
Many geeks might shift to Nova Launcher instantly, but I would recommend everyone to spend at least some time to explore Amigo, just for fun.
Camera UI, performance & results on Gionee Elife S5.5
I wasn’t impressed with Camera on Gionee when I first checked out the handset during the launch. May be the reason that my judgment was clouded by the supreme performer on that front which was Gionee Elife E7. But once you start taking its performance as separate with others without comparing and also the results on PC than just the screen alone, the results might leave you stunned sometimes.
For example, in last January, I visited Mussoorie when majority of my photos (roughly 900 of them) was taken by iPhone 5S due to its comparatively better performance in low light and snappy performance in HDR. But months later, when I been to Manali-Rohtang, then despite of iPhone 5S being present with me in entire time, Gionee Elife S5.5 had taken roughly 950 photos while iPhone 5S a mere 200 photos. Tells all about it that what impressions the photo quality left over me…
While UI of the camera is completely different (professional mode) than anything you might seen on mobiles till date, it has a toggle for layman mode and professional mode. Professional mode is a little fancy one with visual and might be some extra options. Only complaints with the camera is lesser frame rate (possibly 30 around than 60) which though doesn’t impact results but might be annoying. Also HDR performance on little slower side which sure improved a little with KitKat update but much to be done yet.
As about results, then you can check out the pictures …
A superb part of the camera was the sensitivity in the smile mode, which actually made the feature useful. It was quite of an importance to me as taking snap of my always running daughter was quite a challenge for normal modes. Check out the impressive results of smile mode, in which I didn’t need to tap for taking picture but just was needed to keep the camera focused on her face all the time to take unlimited photos.
Apart from the rear camera, the front camera was one of gem that Gionee managed to pull off. Even though Fixed Focus, it cover extra wide angle that is 95 degree means you can take snap of entire family or even full body picture of yours by the front cam. Then there is 1080p video recording by front cam too.
Yes! Both of the above pictures are taken from the front cam in Selfie mode. Do you really see any better selfie capable phones around? I am not even talking about the price point. iPhone 5S is really a shame when it comes to front cam in comparison.
Also the functionality of camera can be extended by various apps like Camera 360 etc to get some interesting results.
Gionee Elife S5.5: The battery life (Kitna Deti Hai…)
The display unit on Gionee Elife S5.5 been amazing in comparison to the devices I own right now, be it iPhone 5S or Nexus 4 or SAMOLED unit of older generation Galaxy S, but considering the generation of display, it was quite obvious as well. Such bright colors and such high resolution was parallel to none I might have experienced till date.
But when display shines brighter then another fear hits in, battery life. Fortunately the most dense battery in the world totally lived up to the claims and I was hardly needed to charge my handset during office hours. I usually kept charging the device from Car Charger in “to office” and “back to home” journeys and that always been sufficient, despite of maniac usages of mine which range from sometimes 200 tweets a day and hundreds of FB posts along with four email accounts on push covering roughly 100 emails per hour.
Note, I never placed the display on dim brightness but been on Auto most of the time.
Gionee Elife S5.5: Bundled Apps
Gionee was possibly the first phone which made me go through many third party apps, because it comes with many of them bundled with the package. Apps like Battery Doctor, CharmCam, WPS office, Cleanup apps though didn’t liked NQ Mobile nor used UC Browser much though it wasn’t bad either. Amigo Paper, WeChat been among other apps which might be useful for many.
GioneeXender on other hand was extremely useful app. I had seen some paid apps doing similar tasks, but a bundled app.. sure awesome. You can copy things in and out from your phone to anywhere using WiFi via a just a browser .. you can think of possibilities. Out of all bundled apps, I personally found this one the best of the lot.
NQ Mobile on the other hand could be considered as worst one, not because of any issue with functionality, but its nature of deducting your balance in case you want to update the virus definition. Paying for Anti-Virus definition updates? Meh!!!
After a long while Gionee Elife S5.5 made me realize that there are a number of useful apps out there which Android users might be missing in order to keep their installations at minimal. Not a bad way to make a point with package.
Conclusion and final verdicts on Gionee Elife S5.5
Contrary to common perceptions & biases, the extended period in which, the handset remained with me been an enlightening experience. It makes you question self that for what feature you are paying a hefty premium to some big brands? What exactly you getting in return, if much worthy camera, much better better life and much better build quality available at just 23, 000 INR in form of Gionee Elife S5.5? Why paying for another Me-Too when you have significantly standing out handset bound to turn heads wherever you use it, placed in comparison to any handset out there.
I would give a special mention to the sturdiness of the device as I was skeptical about the build quality of such thin device which was totally made of glass. I always thought one day when I would sit down on chair, it would broke down in my back pocket or one day I would observe scratches on the surface because of sharp objects in pocket or from the table top where it usually gets kept. I also was worried if camera surface develops scratches over the time like the way it happens in Nexus 4. But the device won over all these mentioned fears.
Not only hardware front, but on software front, be it smile mode of camera or double tap to wake, every functionality which usually hit and miss over even premium brands, gets captured perfectly on Gionee Elife S5.5 showing the fact that even Software part is no half baked or hurried up approach by Gionee. Some of the nifty things like in call details mentioning that how many rings the missed call had or in-built call blocking like Samsung (though allows one ring) or in-built call recording feature, sure adds into the entire experience. Signs of great things to come.
Do you really feel that you can brush this handset aside when its storming your doors?