Flaunting a 5.5mm slim profile Gionee eLife S5.5 is a testimony to the long strides the company has made in India after its debut last year. In a short span and thanks to its aggressive social media presence, the company is no more stranger for many and with handsets like Elife E7 and now Elife S5.5 they are on a roll.
I knew it is slim. We heard it. We read it. We saw the promos but nothing prepares you when you unbox and hold the device on hand the first time. It looks insanely thin and I wonder how they cram so much of the internals into such a thin chassis. It’s a far cry from the first Gionee device I reviewed just last September.
Encased in a 5.5mm-thin magnesium alloy frame sandwiched on both sides by glass , the Elife S5.5 packs a MediaTek eight-core 1.7GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, a 2,300mAh battery and a 5-inch full-HD (1,920×1,080 pixels) Super AMOLED display.
Can this thing of beauty be joy for ever? I been using the slim beauty for a fortnight now and let’s see if it houses more than just the charm and brawn.
Elife S5.5 Design and build
“Beauty is the promise of happiness”
And happiness it delivers at least when you marvel at the ultra slim magnesium alloy unibody chassis with Corning Gorilla 3 coated glass on the front and back.
Weighing just 129 gram, the Elife S5.5 is delightfully lighter for a 5-inch flagship and measures 145.1 x 70.2 x 5.5mm, you also note that it is a tad taller for the screen size which is more pronounced in the white colored device than in the black device we got here. The dual-sheets of glass and the metal unibody definitely gives it a premium look but then you also have to live with the finger print smudges on the glass now on both sides. Though the gorilla glass coating might be a comforting news, Gionee does not want you to risk the scratches on prolonged usage, that explains why they big-heartedly included four scratch guards in the box.
It’s just not a rectangular slab. Elife S5.5 has a subtle curved top and bottom and flat sides with an angular slope that merges to the rear. The power and volume rocker finds place in the left which is neat when you use without the flip case but clad with the flip case which am sure most of the users would do, a right side positioning would have been better. The top gets the USB port and the bottom a 3.5mm audio jack. The only thing you find on the left side is a microSIM compartment and you need a pin to eject the tray.
The rear is clean with the camera on the top left corner and speaker grill on the bottom. Gionee branding on the middle is unobtrusive. The glass rear also means the device can be slippery.
Elife S5.5 features a 5-inch Super AMOLED screen of 1080 x 1920 pixels resolution and 441 ppi. The colors pop up vividly and the screen has a good contrast and viewing angles. Blacks are deep and colors are bit over-saturated and eye-popping.
Elife S5.5 Hardware and Software
“Beauty is skin deep or is it? …”
All that glitters are not gold so how is Gionee Elife S5.5 beneath the good looks and build? The S5.5 is armed with Mediatek MT6592 Octo-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz , Mali-450MP4 graphics and 2GB of RAM. In India, the device comes with only 16GB of internal memory and out of this only 9.6GB is available for users. Considering their is no external memory slot, this is a bit of a let down.
The device supports a single Micro-SIM and the connectivity options include 3G with up to 42Mbps of download speed, dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, plus an FM radio with RDS. There is a microUSB 2.0 port and can be used as USB On-the-go mode for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives. The box includes a USB OTG cable. There is no 4G or NFC support.
Out-of-the-box the Elife S5.5 comes with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS and their were initial concern if the company would release KitKat update as they did not give any time frame. The good news is the company has released the KitKat update a week back via OTA update. The update is 865.71 MB of file size. Prompt software updates are always a good indicator and Gionee has proved the critics wrong by releasing timely updates.
Though running on Android, the UI is nothing like the stock android experience. Gionee adds a thick customization and the device like the rest of Gionee’s smartphones runs on the proprietary Amigo OS. The customization runs very deep and more pronounced with notable lack of app drawer. The heavy customization and included own themes and apps along side the usual set of Google apps explains why the user is left with only 9.6GB available. The interface is clean and easy to use.
The default lock screen has two panes. The first one shows the date and time and a upward swipe unlocks the screen. Swipe to the right, you get a widget with four shortcuts – camera, voice recorder, torch and fake call. The widget has a viewfinder to make quick snaps. There is even a fake call set up which will initiate a fake call in 15 seconds.
The homescreen has the familiar android grid though there is no widget drawer or app drawer. The weather widget shows in all the screens. You can make up to nine home screens and the apps directly sits on the homescreen. You can also create folders and group the apps into a bucket.
Then there are themes if you like to refresh your phone theme very often. You can also play with the transition effects and set the wallpapers to change in intervals. New themes change the wallpaper and system icons.
The notification area gets a new look with the Kitkat update and we are talking about the new notifications area in the Elife S5.5 here. There are two tabs – notifications where you get the alerts and settings tab which is a 5×3 grid housing the shortcuts. On top of the grid is an indicator of the RAM used and you can free the used RAM via a single tap on the green rocket icon.
Double tap on the home button or swiping up the home button brings to the task switcher and also you can swipe up and close the unwanted apps from here.
On the features scale, Elife S5.5 comes with smart gestures like Smart dial, Smart answer, Pause alarm which allows you flip back the phone to pause the on-going alarm and double click wake to wake up screen from sleep mode. There are array of apps like GioneeXender for quicker and faster file transfer, System manager to clean junks and memory, manage apps and allot permissions, monitor the data traffic and a power optimizer to extend the battery life when you are running out of juice. The device also comes pre-installed with apps like NQ Security, DU Speed booster, CamCard, TouchPalX etc.
Elife S5.5 Camerea
” From the beginning, the camera and I were great friends. It loves me, and I love it”
The camera set up includes a 13-megapixel rear camera with a maximum resolution of 4208 x 3120 pixels, autofocus and LED flash. The camera app interface is standard and straight forward and also allows for good play around. There are five shooting modes – Auto, HDR, Sports, Panorama and Night. Further each modes allow you to fiddle with size, white balance, EV and ISO settings. There is also geo-tagging, face detection and level meter. Along side normal, touch and smile capture mode, there is also a V-sign mode that captures pictures automatically when you flash a V-sign.
The outdoor pictures on good natural lighting impressed me a lot. The low-light conditions pictures were also not disappointing but focusing has a slight issue in low lights and the pictures tend to get a tad blurred in close observation. I expected a bit more from the HDR mode but it was not exceptional and dramatic like I saw in the Lenovo Vibe Z. Though there was no separate macro mode, the up and close up shots really fascinated me. Check out our sample shots below.
Gionee has included some fancy features like s Beauty Face, Make up shot, Best Face, Eraser, Life filters, Stamps but instead of incorporating them in the standard camera app, they have included another camera app – CharmCam.
The 5-megapixel front camera with wide-angle lens should keep the selfies happy and busy. The Gionee Elife S5.5 is capable of capturing 1080p video at 24fps and the UI is similar to the still camera.
The Gionee Elife S5.5 delivers a decent benchmark scores in our AnTuTu and Quadrant tests, though a better GPU would have pushed it heads up viz-a-viz other flagship devices. In daily use, I was quiet happy with the device. Yes, an ultra slim profile and glass packing on both the front and rear also means that the internals are crammed and heating would be an issue. The KitKat update manages to cool down a bit but still it is noticeable while playing game and fiddling around for a brief time. The included flip case manages to solve the heating issue from being felt.
The S5.5 is very responsive. The video playback is naturally very good and the device makes for good media consumption. The music app is my pick and the UI is delight to use with large, clean tiles. Another bit of disappointment is the battery life but then most smartphones I use these days drain up faster. So S5.5 is no exception either. The Gionee Elife S5.5 features a 2,300mAh battery FYI.
Gionee Elife S5.5 breaks the stereotype we have about Chinese phones. With a svelte body and an amazing build quality, the S5.5 grabs immediate attention. At a sticker price of Rs. 22,999, the smartphone offers an oodles of joy in terms of look, feel and internals that can compensate for few odd disappointments here and there.