Gionee Elife S5.5 review: Poor battery life ruins a beautiful phone

Price

22,999

Tech2 Rating

6

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6
By Alina Lewis /  11 Jul 2014 , 10:45:32

The Gionee Elife S5.5 comes with a stylish design and a mid-range price tag aimed to go one step ahead of its plastic counterparts. Gionee also went ahead boldly claiming that the S5.5 was ‘more than just a pretty phone’.

We have to admit that the Gionee Elife S5.5 makes quite a style statement with it’s glass and aluminum body and a thickness of just 5.5mm. But is it up to mark with the essentials? We put the Gionee Elife S5.5 to the test to find out for ourselves.

Design and build

The aluminium alloy edges, glass panels on the front and back, coupled with the ultra-slim design makes the Gionee Elife S5.5 quite a looker in comparison with other smartphones in its league. Despite the smooth surface, it grips easily thanks to the tapered edges. However, the glass covers on the front and back are moderately susceptible to fingerprints.

Stunning design and build
Stunning design and build

The rear camera area is slightly projected, which causes the phone to wobble when placed ‘screen-up’ on a flat surface. This is not very favourable, as it could make the camera lens vulnerable to cracks and knocks when dropped. To mitigate this problem, you’d be better off using the phone with the supplied cover, which levels out the back and prevents the camera from being easily hit by anything sharp.

The glossy back is a nightmare for fingerprints
The glossy back is a nightmare for fingerprints

The S5.5 has a fantastic 5-inch display, with punchy colours and good viewing angles. The colours can look a bit too bright and unrealistic, though, thanks to the AMOLED screen. The sharp display makes it great for watching videos and reading on the large screen. The phone also responds well to gestures.

The camera module could get damaged easily without the bundled cover
The camera module could get damaged easily without the bundled cover

The S5.5 features all the ports and buttons you’ll see on common Android phones, including volume and lock buttons. We found the lock button oddly placed towards the centre of the left edge, so the chances of it getting pressed accidentally are high. The Back, Home and Options buttons are at the bottom of the display, and the capacitive buttons light up only when pressed. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom edge, while the USB 3.0 port is at the top.

Features

The Gionee Elife S5.5 runs on the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS, but Gionee has released a KitKat update which is available for the phone.

KitKat update has started rollingout for the Gionee Elife S5.5
KitKat update has started rollingout for the Gionee Elife S5.5

The Elife S5.5 comes with 16GB of internal storage of which 12GB is available for use. The storage is divided into system capacity and phone storage. Apps that need access to your SIM contacts, such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter use the system storage, while the others can be saved on the phone storage. Around 2GB of system storage and 10GB of phone storage is available for use, though there’s no memory card slot to add to this.

The S5.5 is powered by MediaTek’s 1.7GHz Octa-core processor. When tested for speed, the S5.5 keeps up high-end Android smartphones such as the LG G2 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. In practice, this should mean quick response times and good multi-tasking capabilities. While the phone had no trouble running high-end games, we noticed that it quickly heats up when playing games and running multiple applications.

Other features include the smart gestures, which allows you to pick up the phone to answer a call or flip back the phone to pause the alarm and double-tap the screen to wake from the locked screen.

Some benchmark numbers
Some benchmark numbers

The phone runs on a customised version of Android called the Amigo UI, just as with all Gionee smartphones. This isn’t as straightforward as the stock UI you’ll see in many Android smartphones. For example, you can’t add widgets and applications appear on the home screen instead of in an app drawer.

Amigo UI on the Elife S5.5
Amigo UI on the Elife S5.5

The phone comes with an ergonomic case which lets you prop it up on a flat surface – useful when watching videos. We recommend using the phone with this flip cover.

Call quality is fairly good and in line with most smartphones available in the market. Both incoming and outgoing calls sound reasonably clear and we did not experience any call drops.

Media

We found the music player pretty easy to use, with large icons neatly categorising your music into Artists, Collects, Songs, Albums and Folders. There’s a sleep mode, which stops the music after a set amount of time and a DTS option to adjust the music settings based on your preference. The overall interface of the music player is very clean and you can access the playback settings from the home screen as well.

Media playback is handled well
Media playback is handled well

Connectivity

The S5.5 works with a single micro-SIM and only supports GSM networks. It supports 3G HSDPA and HSUPA for high speed internet, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. There’s no GLONASS or NFC, but we can forgive Gionee for that.

It comes with the user-friendly UC browser for browsing the Internet. It has the usual bookmarking, history and downloads sections along with a host of useful features such as a night mode that turns the background to a darker shade and the ability to capture web screenshots on to the clipboard.

Web browser
Day and Night modes on the UC Browser

Camera

The 13MP camera does a good job at taking outdoor shots. Colours are natural and the S5.5 keeps noise levels low. While the phone is pretty speedy at capturing shots, it’s focussing ability isn’t as good. This points to the poor image stabilisation capabilities of the S5.5’s camera,which means if you’re trying to capture a fleeting moment, you’re likely to get a blurred image. This problem is more prominent in low-light conditions.

The familiar UI we first saw on the E7
The familiar UI we first saw on the E7

The phone also takes brilliant macro shots and outdoor pictures such as landscapes. We noticed a slight purple veiling glare on the edges in some photos taken in bright outdoors. This is not too drastic, however, and is common among many smartphone cameras. Low light photos are good too, if slightly slow at picking up the details.

Indoor shot with ambient light
Indoor shot with ambient light

The phone comes with a HDR mode for taking photos with greater detail, which also works pretty well.

Macro shot
Camera good for macro shots

The 5MP front camera is better than most cameras we’ve seen and should give you decent selfies and quality images in video calls.

Purple glare in bright light
Slight purple tinge in bright outdoors, though colours are vibrant

Battery life

Battery life was underwhelming sadly. The 2300mAh battery barely managed 6 hours and 30 minutes before shutting down during our tests. This is at least 90 minutes short of what most phones usually last in our tests. We also found that it takes a really long time to fully charge the phone, sometimes almost as long as 2 hours.

Verdict and price

The Gionee Elife S5.5 was launched at an MRP of Rs 27,199, though it’s available in most retail stores for approximately Rs 22,000.

The S5.5 is a great device to consider if you’re looking for a smartphone that stands out with its looks. With the premium design it gets high scores for its aesthetic appeal. For the price, it also delivers good results in terms of its hardware i.e the camera, speed and overall build quality. That said, there’s also a learning curve involved in getting used to the customised Android interface and for some people that might be quite a put off. There’s also the heating issue, which could affect the overall longevity of the phone and worst of all, is the sub-par battery life.

It’s a nice device if you need a premium-looking device at an affordable price, but otherwise, you might be better off with the Motorola Moto X that does better in terms of battery life and ease of use.


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