Gionee A1 Smartphone Review

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Gionee announced two new smartphones Gionee A1 and A1 plus during the Mobile World Congress 2017, followed by launch of Gionee A1 in India few weeks back. Gionee A1 falls into the category of selfie focussed smartphones, on which manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo etc., are concentrating on. Gionee A1 comes with a 16 MP front-shooter with f/2.0 aperture and 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 V5 (Read Review), Vivo V5 Plus (Read Review), Oppo F3 Plus etc.

As usual, this review is based on our experience with Gionee A1 as our primary device for one week with dual SIM, one having a 4G LTE connection and other for voice calls with 2G network.

Gionee A1 - Gionee A1 Smartphone Review
Gionee A1

Gionee A1 specifications

  • Display: 5.5-inch 1080p Full HD IPS 2.5D curved glass display
  • CPU : 1.8 GHz Octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor
  • GPU : Mali T860
  • RAM : 4 GB
  • Storage : 64 GB, expandable up to 128GB with micro SD
  • OS : Android 7.0 (Nougat) with Amigo OS
  • Misc: Dual SIM, Fingerprint sensor, Waves Maxx Audio
  • Camera : 13 MP rear camera with LED flash, PDAF, f/2.0 aperture, 1/3.0+” sensor, 5P lens and 16 MP front-shooter, f/2.0 aperture, 1/3.06″ sensor, 5P lens, selfie flash
  • Dimensions: 154.5 x 76.5 x 8.5 mm
  • Weight: 182 gm
  • Connectivity : 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
  • Battery : 4010 mAh with fast charging

Design and Build Quality

In terms of design & build quality, Gionee A1 looks very premium and comes with solid metallic build with matte finish at the back. The company claims that the phone uses A6000 aircraft-grade material used for making premium cars and planes.  The fingerprint sensor is embedded with 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 back which means thinner sides compared to middle body. Thanks to weight of 182 grams, the phone feels heavy to use or hold. The weight makes it more difficult to use it with one hand. Similar devices such as Redmi Note 4 with 4100 mAh battery and 5.5 inch display weighs just 165 grams.

In terms of buttons placement, the Power button is at one side, while the Dual SIM slot is at 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 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 5.5 inch Full HD 1080p display with 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution with 2.5D curved glass. It comes with negligible borders at sides, making it great for watching videos and browsing the Web. The display looks great producing good vibrant colors, sharp and clear. You will love the display while watching the videos or even browsing the web. Even though it is not an AMOLED display, yet it is one of the better displays that we have seen in mid range smartphones. The display works great with good color reproduction, brightness under normal lighting conditions and even under severe sunlight in outdoor environment. The viewing angles are good letting you view the screen even at steep angles.

Gionee A1 is powered by 1.8 GHz Octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor with 4 GB of RAM. Thanks to 4 GB of RAM, the phone performs great under day-to-day normal usage, in spite of decent Mediatek Helio P10 processor. It runs well under daily usage with casual gaming, browsing, music etc. without any issues including some graphics intensive games such as Asphalt 8 Airborne, Nova 3 etc. under default graphics conditions, but still it’s not as good as few other devices priced similar when it comes to games such as Asphalt 8, Nova 3 etc. Under those gaming conditions, it lags a bit though frame drops are not visible. The color reproduction and graphics were good for a full HD device. The phone hanged sometimes while adding Gmail accounts to the phone.

The main drawback here is the heating issue that occurs with playing heavy games for more than 15 minutes. The heating is too much and becomes unbearable after 25-30 minutes.

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 additional paid app to record calls.

The phone comes with MaxxAudio enhancement for better sound quality from speakers and earphones. The loudness of speakers is good enough and even the earphones offers good quality sound.

We encountered slow speeds while using the WiFi which is odd. We managed to get a speed of ~4 Mbps on our WiFi connection of 20 Mbps. We rechecked with other smartphones at same spot in our home and they managed to get WiFi speeds of 20 mbps. I am not sure if this is anything to do with Mediatek processors??

The AnTuTu benchmark score for Gionee A1 comes out to be about 46,000+ which is an average score  for a device priced ~Rs. 20,000 and it reflects in performance in various conditions especially during gaming. 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 13 MP main rear camera with LED flash, PDAF, f/2.0 aperture, 1/3.0+” sensor, 5P lens and another 16 MP front-shooter with f/2.0 aperture, 1/3.06″ sensor, 5P lens along with selfie flash to shoot great selfies. The 16 MP front camera with selfie flash 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 color 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 be 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.

The main camera produced some decent images under normal lighting conditions, but often you feel them as over saturated or not natural. Also, 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.

But, the phone heats up with prolonged use of camera or games for say 30 minutes with temperatures soaring up to 45 deg C.

Camera samples

Checkout 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 of the smartphones with fingerprint sensor embedded with 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 dialing 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 comes with 4010 mAh non-removable battery along with fast charging support. The battery performance of Gionee A1 is quite impressive and it easily lasted for 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 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 te 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.

Now let’s talk about a small 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. Gionee A1 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 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 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 to install 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 support themes and ability to customise your theme based on your surrounding colors 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).

Overall the user experience was great with Amigo OS based on Android 7.0 Nougat except few issues that we described here.

Conclusion

Gionee A1 is a great phone if shooting great selfies with your phone having good battery life and running the latest version of Android, is your primary requirement for buying the smartphone. The design and build quality of the smartphone is good though a bit heavy, comes with an decent processor with decent performance, good front camera with flash and a decent main rear camera. Heating issue is a big problem and we expect Gionee to fix it with a software update. But the pricing of ~Rs. 20,000 may be considered more if you are looking just the Online sales channels, but the price seems competitive for the offline market as Gionee is selling these on Offline channels or stores similar to Vivo V5 and Oppo F1s which are priced in same price band.

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