Gionee is back this year with its all new A-series of smartphones. Announced at MWC (Mobile World Congress) the Gionee A1 and the A1 Plus combine a large battery and a powerful selfie camera. The A1 has officially entered India and Gionee even has a whole 'Selfiestan' campaign around the smartphone.
The company says that it is changing its smartphone strategy and will be combining the large battery and selfie focused smartphone into one. So does the A1 deliver to its promise? Check out the in depth review.
Build and Design: 7/10
The A1 comes with a metal back and a glass finish at the front. The metal casing at the back curves at the edges and while the finish is matte, it does get a bit slippery. Thankfully Gionee offers a case as well as a screen protector in the box.
The handset does feel a bit bulky though. Now that's something that one would expect in a smartphone with a large battery, but it isn't completely unavoidable. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 offers a similar display size and a large capacity battery. Yet the Gionee A1 weighs a bit more than the Redmi Note 4.
The finish is premium and Gionee usually takes care of its smartphone design. At the back you can see the rear camera, the dual LED flash and the round dimple with the Gionee logo which always feels like the fingerprint scanner. You can also see the antenna bands which are chromed up. On to the edges, the right side has the volume and power keys which offer a good feedback, the headphone jack is up top, the hybrid SIM tray sits on the left edge and the speaker and microUSB port at the bottom.
At the front there is the 5.5-inch display covered with a 2.5D curved glass. The home button sits below it with two capacitive keys for back and recent apps. Above the display is the earpiece, the front camera, a bunch of sensors and an LED flash.
I was pleased with the design although I think Gionee needs to pull up its socks as almost every other smartphone looks the same. It could've cut some corners and made the overall dimensions smaller.
The Gionee A1 uses a MediaTek SoC, the Helio P10 MT6755 which features an octa-core processor and a Mali-T860MP2 GPU. This is paired with 4 GB RAM which is slowly becoming a standard for most mid-range Android smartphones. For storage there is 64 GB internal memory. There is an option to add a microSD card (up to 128 GB) to expand the storage as the smartphone comes with a hybrid SIM tray. There is also a fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button.
There is a 5.5-inch AMOLED display up front which offers a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. In the camera department, there are is a 13 MP rear camera with an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection autofocus and a dual LED flash. Since this is a selfie focused smartphone, the front camera has a 16 MP resolution camera with an f/2.0 aperture and an LED flash.
In terms of connectivity features the A1 offers 4G LTE with VoLTE support, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS/A-GPS, FM Radio, microUSB with OTG support and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Other features include a fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button, Amigo 4.0 UI based on Android 7.0 OS and a large 4,010 mAh battery.
Overall the features sound good, but considering the price, there are smartphones in the market that offer a better value for money package.
The smartphone features a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) resolution. I love AMOLED displays for their high-saturation and vivid picture quality. It offers sufficient brightness and colours look punchy.
I compared the display with the OnePlus 3T and was left surprised. Not only was the display on the A1 less warmer, it felt brighter as well.
As for sharpness, I didn’t have any complaints. With a pixel density of 401ppi, everything looks crisp on it. The screen to body ratio is about 71 percent which is just average. I wish the manufacturer could’ve tried to thin down the bezels and the room above and below the display.
I had no trouble reading text under sunlight and viewing angles are also great. Touch response on the display is also smooth and quick.
While smartphone manufacturers are cutting down on their UI skin features to make it closer to stock, most Chinese vendors are still offering a heavy UIs on top of Android. The Gionee A1 comes with Amigo 4.0 over Android 7.0 making it the company’s first handset that comes with the Nougat update.
Like most Chinese ROMs, you don’t get the app drawer and the UI is mostly inspired by iOS. The quick toggles slide from bottom (rather than sitting in the notification shade) as you would see on an Apple device. Even some icons seem to be ‘highly inspired’. The UI is smooth even though it is heavily customised. Apps open quickly and multitasking was a breeze.
I am not a big fan of bloatware, and there are apps that could’ve been avoided. Also, why not make G-board/Google keyboard as the default keyboard? There are also a couple of personalisation apps for themes and wallpapers which are honestly not very impressive, at least for me.
There are other embedded features like beautified video that enables some beauty filters when making video calls on WhatsApp and Messenger. You also get a split screen mode thanks to Android Nougat, MaxxAudio enhancement, and an inbuilt virus scanner.
Gionee A1 runs on a MediaTek Helio P10 MT6755 SoC. There is an octa-core processor (four 2.0 GHz Cortex A53 cores and four 1.0 GHz Cortex A53 cores), a Mali-T860MP2 GPU and 4 GB RAM. Offering a Helio P10 SoC at this price point makes no sense. Having said that, I think it does manage to perform fairly well. As I mentioned above, the overall software experience is smooth on the handset. Multiple apps including email, browser and social media run without any issues. The 4 GB of RAM makes multitasking efficient and even switching between apps is handled smoothly.
The smartphone doesn't heat all that much on regular used, but as soon as you start gaming, you are left with a hot back. I played Mortal Combat X for just 15 minutes before I could feel the back panel warming up. As for the gaming performance, it actually offers a good experience. I hardly noticed any frame drops or any sort of lag or stuttering.
Moving to synthetic benchmarks, it wasn't very impressive. Almost all benchmark results were lower when compared to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and even the Moto G5 Plus. The only consolation it gets is that it scored higher than the HTC Desire 10 Pro which has a similar hardware configuration. It scored 48464 on AnTuTu and 6871 on 3D Mark Ice Storm Extreme.
Call performance as well as network performance is all good. The smartphone offer VoLTE as well and I tried to using Reliance Jio. Call quality is actually quite good and crisp. The loudspeaker sitting on the bottom edge is loud and offers a bit of bass too, but I have seen smartphones with louder and better quality sound output. Not saying that this one is bad, but not the best out there. I was quite surprised with the fingerprint scanner as it was the fastest and one of the most accurate ones I've seen. I have noticed similar performance on other Gionee smartphones.
This is one of the USPs of the smartphone, specifically the front camera. The resolution on the front camera is 16 MP and there is an f/2.0 aperture lens as well as a soft LED flash. At the back there is a 13 MP camera with similar aperture size, a dual LED flash, phase detection autofocus and other basic camera features.
So let's take the front camera first. It can shoot some good and bright looking selfies. The front LED flash does flatten the pictures at times but it definitely helps when you are clicking pictures in low light. Overall, the quality of the front camera is good and using some of the beauty filters on the camera app, you can tweak your face to be lighter, slimmer and smoother. Frankly, pictures could use a bit more detailing but maybe that's asking too much.
As for the rear camera, you can get some decent looking pictures. Low light does tend to kill some detailing and colours go a bit neutral. I was a bit unsatisfied with the HDR mode as well. Just look at the two landscape pictures of the buildings in the image set above. The HDR mode just messes up with the saturation. Other than that, focusing is really quick and shutter speeds are also good. In well lit environments, you can get some sharp pictures with natural looking colours. Even the macro mode is really good and gets nice sharp images.
The camera app is fairly simple to use. There are many modes including time-lapse, barcode scanning, a manual mode, slow-motion, GIF mode, card scanning, and even a translation feature where you can scan a word and translate it, just like Google Translate.
Both the cameras can shoot 1080p videos which just above average. I really wish they could employ 4K video recording but I think the Helio P10 chipset is the main culprit.
Apart from the selfie camera, Gionee has focused on the battery performance. The A1 features a 4,010mAh battery which is claimed to offer about up to two days of backup with mixed usage. I managed to use the smartphone all day with a bit left at the end of my day. Heavy usage does lead to depletion of the battery before the day ends, but if you are a light user then the phone will last you at least one and a half day. As for the PCMark Battery bench test, I got 9 hours and 9 minutes which is pretty good when compared to most smartphones.
The Gionee A1 also supports fast charging and gets the battery charged up quickly. The supplied charger is rated at 2A which means you can get similar charging speeds as on Qualcomm Quick charge 2.0.
Verdict and Price in India
Gionee has actually done well with the A1. While the smartphone doesn't offer anything unique in the design department, it is solid and feels premium. The claims of long battery life and good looking selfies get a thumbs up. Performance is good enough but it isn't as good when compared to some other smartphones at a similar price range.
Comparing the A1 to the offerings by its direct rivals, Oppo and Vivo, I feel it is priced fairly. When it comes to just selfies, the Oppo F3 Plus and the Vivo V5 Plus both offer excellent front cameras, but the A1 also offers a competitive one and at a lower price of Rs 19,999. If you are looking for a smartphone with a long battery life and love shooting selfies, then the A1 is a recommended device. But at that price is it the best smartphone to get? Maybe not.
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