Gionee A1 Plus Smartphone Review

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Gionee announced two new smartphones Gionee A1 and A1 plus during the Mobile World Congress 2017. Out of these two, we have already reviewed Gionee A1 (Read Review) and now we are reviewing the “Plus” variant i.e. Gionee A1 Plus. Gionee A1 PLus again falls into the category of selfie focussed smartphones similar to other brands like Oppo, Vivo etc. selfie focussed devices. Gionee A1 comes with 20 MP front shooter with f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.8″ sensor, 5P lens along with selfie flash making it a good selfie smartphone. In this review, we will check out how good this new smartphone from Gionee is and how it fares with other similar selfie focussed smartphones such as Vivo V5s (Read Review), Vivo V5 (Read Review), Vivo V5 Plus (Read Review), Oppo F3 Plus etc.

This review is based on our experience with Gionee A1 Plus as our primary device for more than two weeks with dual SIM, one having an always ON 4G LTE connection and other for voice calls with 2G network.

Gionee A1 Plus Specifications

  • Display: 6-inch 1080p Full HD IPS 2.5D curved glass display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection
  • CPU: 2.5 GHz Octa-core MediaTek Helio P25 processor
  • GPU: Mali-T880
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB, expandable up to 256GB with micro SD
  • OS: Android 7.0 (Nougat) with Amigo OS 4.0
  • Misc: Hybrid Dual SIM, Fingerprint sensor
  • Main Rear Camera: 13 MP with LED flash, PDAF, f/2.0 aperture, 1/3.06″ sensor, 5P lens, + secondary 5MP camera with f/2.2 aperture
  • Front Camera: 20 MP with f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.8″ sensor, 5P lens, selfie flash
  • Dimensions: 166.4 x 83.3 x 9.1 mm
  • Weight: 226g
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz / 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
  • Battery: 4550 mAh Li – Polymer, with fast charging
  • Colours: Mocha Gold, Black

Design and Build Quality

The first thing you will notice while picking up the Gionee A1 Plus is the weight and size of the device. It feels so heavy while holding and even bulky, thanks to a weight of 226 grams and the 6.0-inch display. For most users, it may take 1-2 weeks before you get used to it. Obviously, it is not suitable for one hand usage most of the times. Similar devices such as Xiaomi Mi Max 2 with 5300 mAh battery and 6.44-inch display weighs just 211 grams.

In terms of design & build quality, Gionee A1 looks premium with a solid metallic build. The fingerprint sensor is embedded in the front Home button, though a circular Gionee branding at the back often confused us or our fingers as the fingerprint sensor. The Antenna bands are there at top and bottom, while the phone is slightly curved at all the four sides at the back which means thinner sides compared to the middle body. The dual camera module at the rear is vertically aligned with LED flash placed next to it.

In terms of buttons placement, the Power button is on one side with a different colour, while the Dual SIM slot is on the other side of the phone. The dual SIM slot is a hybrid sim slot which can use two nano SIM cards or one nano sim card with a MicroSD card. The 3.5 mm audio jack is at the top, while the micro USB port & speakers grills are at the bottom.

Check out some of the device shots below to understand better. Click on the images for full resolution images.

Display, Performance, Gaming and Benchmarks

The phone sports a 6-inch 1080p Full HD IPS 2.5D curved glass display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Thanks to a big 6.0 inch Full HD display and negligible borders at sides, it is great for watching videos or browsing the Web. The display looks great producing good vibrant colours, sharp and clear. The display works great with good colour reproduction, brightness under normal lighting conditions and even under severe sunlight in the outdoor environment. The viewing angles are good letting you view the screen even at steep angles.

Gionee A1 Plus is powered by 2.5 GHz Octa-core MediaTek Helio P25 processor with 4 GB of RAM. Thanks to 4 GB of RAM, the phone performs great under day-to-day normal usage. It runs well under daily usage with gaming, browsing, music etc. without any issues including some graphics intensive games such as Asphalt 8 Airborne, Nova 3 etc. under default graphics conditions and performs much better than what we have seen in Gionee A1. Yet, it’s not good as many popular devices priced under same price range when it comes to games heavy gaming with games such as Asphalt 8, Nova 3 etc for prolong gaming. Under those gaming conditions, it lags a bit and you can clearly feel the difference if you have used high-end devices such as OnePlus3T which is priced almost same as Gionee A1 Plus.

There is no heating issue while playing heavy games for more than 15 minutes. The heating is normal and You can easily play even heavy games for 25-30 minutes without feeling anything hot.

It comes with 64 GB of internal storage out of which about 52 GB is available to end-user. It also supports USB OTG and MicroSD cards. The call quality during voice calls was pretty clear without any issues including that on VOLTE network of Jio. The dialer app also gives you an option to record calls without installing any additional app or rooting the device. Usually, in most devices, you need to root your device first and then install an additionally paid app to record calls.

THe problem which occurred even with Gionee A1 still continues with A1 Plus i.e. we encountered slow speeds while using the WiFi. We managed to get a speed of only ~3-4 Mbps on our WiFi connection of 20 Mbps. We rechecked with other smartphones at the same spot in our home and they managed to get WiFi speeds of 20 Mbps. We are slowly getting sure that this has something to do with MediaTek processors.

The AnTuTu benchmark score for Gionee A1 comes out to be about 65,000+ which is a below-average score for a device priced ~Rs. 27,000 and it reflects in performance in various conditions, especially during gaming. Even during normal usage, you can feel the slowness of the device while opening apps frequently. Smartphones such as LeEco Le 2 (Read Review) offer better performance and score 80,000+ in Antutu Benchmarks, yet priced almost half of Gionee A1.

It includes IR Remote support using which you can use the phone as remote for your household appliances such as TV, Air Conditioner and much more. We tested it with our TV and it worked great.

Camera

The phone comes with dual camera module at rear consisting of 13 MP primary sensor with LED flash, PDAF, f/2.0 aperture, 1/3.06″ sensor, 5P lens & a secondary 5MP camera sensor with f/2.2 aperture. On the front, you have a 20 MP shooter with f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.8″ sensor, 5P lens along with selfie flash to shoot great selfies. This is where Gionee A1 Plus offers a considerable improvement compared to Gionee A1.

The Dual camera module did produce better images under normal lighting conditions, with good colour reproduction and contrast. But under varied light conditions such as with shade and sunlight in the same shot, we got not so good results. Gionee A1 plus comes with a portrait mode similar to what we have seen in Apple iPhone 7 Plus, which does produce some great portrait yet it is far from perfect. An average user has to go through a learning curve while using the portrait mode which also includes an option to adjust the camera aperture while shooting in portrait mode and can be confusing to an average user. But after using it for a week, you can definitely shoot some great portraits. Also, the portrait mode is not available for the front camera.

The low light performance remains bad as with most of the entry-level and mid range smartphones. The noise is visible the moment you start shooting in low-light conditions.

The main camera can shoot full HD 1080p and 720p HD videos of decent quality. The camera app comes with some great modes such as beauty mode, professional mode, Night mode, time-lapse mode, slow-motion mode, smart scene mode and GIF mode etc. Using professional mode, you can shoot some great shots if you know what to do with professional settings such as exposure, white balance, shutter speed and more.

The 20 MP front camera with selfie flash is an upgrade over 16 MP camera in Gionee A and makes it a great phone to shoot selfies for the selfie obsessed younger generation. Thanks to a good front camera and front flash, the phone managed to shoot some great selfies with good colour reproduction and details. Thanks to the Beautify 4.0, it manages to fine-tune the selfies based on your requirements, but often in may result into odd selfies with too much of beautification. But once you get used to those beautify features, you can shoot some good selfies. The front flash worked well, but yes it can’t be a replacement for ambient light. Thanks to front flash, it does shoot some decent selfies even in low-light yet noise starts creeping in spite of a front flash. Still, it is one of the best selfie cameras you can get your hands on in this price segment.

Camera samples

Check out the images below taken under different light conditions and different modes. Click on the images for full resolution images on Flickr.

Fingerprint Sensor

The fingerprint sensor in Gionee A1 is embedded in the Home button at the front which works with decent accuracy and speed. But it is not as fast as we expected it to be nor it is as accurate as it should be, unless you are placing your finger properly on the sensor.  For random or irregular placement of finger, it can be slow or inaccurate. But when you place your finger properly, it works great. We have seen better fingerprint sensor performance from devices such as LeEco Le2 (Read Review) or even the Coolpad Note 3 Lite.  You can add up to five fingers, but these can be used only to unlock the phone.

One odd thing, the Home button needs to be pressed hard to act as a home button. Usually, in most smartphones with a fingerprint sensor embedded with the home button, you just need to touch the button to make it act as Home button but it is not the case here.

If you read our reviews, then you may find this common in almost all smartphone reviews which has a fingerprint sensor.  We expect customization ability for different fingerprints so that each fingerprint can be used for different functions such as opening an App or dialling a contact or any other custom function. Coolpad Note 3 lite fingerprint sensor comes with these features which makes fingerprints much more useful than for just unlocking the phone.

Battery

Gionee A1 Plus comes with a massive 4550 mAh non-removable battery along with fast charging support. The battery performance of Gionee A1 Plus is better than what we saw in Gionee A1 and can be clearly termed as impressive. The phone easily lasted for more than two days for an average use of the phone with a 4G LTE data connection.Our average use includes some Voice calls, browsing Twitter, Facebook, messaging apps such as Whatsapp, Telegram & other social sites. Even for a heavy or moderate usage, it lasts easily for a full one and half day without the need to charge. During our review period, we used dual SIMs with a 4G Airtel SIM for data and another SIM for voice calls. Even if you need to recharge the battery, it comes with support for fast charging which means you can charge up to 40% in almost 20 minutes and the full battery in almost one and half hour. It also comes with different battery modes such as Battery Saving mode, Extreme Mode etc.

During our review period, we used dual SIMs with a 4G Airtel SIM for data and another SIM for voice calls. Even if you need to recharge the battery, it comes with support for fast charging which means you can charge up to 40% in almost 20 minutes and the full battery in almost two hours. It also comes with different battery modes such as Battery Saving mode, Extreme Mode etc.

There is a minor issue while fast charging i.e. the phone heats up too much till the ultra fast charging is going on in initial 30+ minutes and during that time, the phone gets too hot to handle.

Operating System and UI

Gionee uses a pretty different kind of UI for its smartphones i.e.Amigo OS and our opinion remains same as it was while we reviewed the Gionee A1. Gionee A1 Plus runs on Amigo OS based on Android 7.0 Nougat operating system and brings features of the latest Android operating system such as Split Screen support. You can get to notifications by swiping from the top, while you get access to feature toggles by swiping up from the bottom screen. Amigo OS comes with loads of additional features such as smart Gestures which lets you answers calls automatically by picking the phone up, or pause alarms by flipping over and more.

It does not come with an app drawer and uses a launcher similar to iOS. We recommend installing a launcher app such as Nova launcher which also comes with App drawer. Gionee A1 comes with loads of bloatware or third-party apps pre-installed such as UC Browser, Amazon, Xender, Hotoday, Messenger, Saavn, Truecaller, Asphalt Nitro, Bubble Bash 3, Danger Dash, Real Football etc. We expect Gionee to offer consumers an easy way to uninstall them if they wish to which at the moment is not possible. The Amigo OS also supports themes and ability to customise your theme based on your surrounding colours with Chameleon feature. The phone also comes with messages on Lock Screen which can be considered as Spam messages and the option to disable those messages is very difficult to find. Also, there is no way to control or customise those message. After much digging, we found the method to disable those lock screen messages (Screen Locker – Disable by Clicking subscribe >> settings>> uncheck subscribed).

One additional issue is the default Touchpal keyboard which unfortunately is pushing advertisements all the time including the notification centre. We just hope that Gionee gets rid of Touchpal or the advertisement part while the consumer uses the default keyboard out of the box on any smartphone.

Conclusion

Gionee A1 Plus is a great phone with a big display, dual camera at the rear and can shoot great selfies having good battery life running the latest version of Android. The design and build quality is good but is heavy and bulky. It comes with a decent processor with good performance, but the pricing of ~Rs. 27,000 makes it a less desirable buy as many more good options are available if you are ready to buy online. But if you only consider the offline market, the price seems competitive as Gionee is selling these on Offline channels or stores similar to Vivo V5 Plus and Oppo F3 which are priced similarly.

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