Gionee is not a brand that readily comes to the mind of most Nigerians. To be honest the brand never quite registered on my radar till about 2months ago when I read up on the Elife E6. Recently, I made a trip to the almighty Computer village, Ikeja, Lagos to grab a HTC One (M7) for a buddy and as usual patrolled around each brand segment in a popular store, inspecting their offerings.
It was while making my rounds I discovered the Gionee S5.5 and my first reaction was wow, this is amazing. Coming from someone who thinks HTC flagship designs kinda sucks (emphasis on ‘kinda’. Don’t nag, it’s my opinion) that reaction meant something.
Minutes later, I was out of the store. Fast-forward 5 days and my Blackberry Q5 was stolen in a setup that still angers me and it was no contest. My next device was going to be the Gionee S5.5.
A quick rundown of specs:
SIM type: Micro-SIM
Released: March, 2014
Dimension: 145.1 x 70.2 x 5.6mm
Type: Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size: 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches (441 ppi)
Memory: 16GB, 2GB RAM. No memory card slot
Camera: 13MP back with LED flash, 5MP front-facing
OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Chipset: Mediatex MT6592
CPU: Octa-core 1.7 GHz Cortex A7
Battery: 2,330 mAh
Price: N46,900 (launched at N65,000)
The packaging looks like a case for a bible. However, there was NO MTN SIM in my unit so I have no idea what the promised 6-month freebie is about:
As far as accessories are concerned, the package looks good: Black ‘leather’ stick-on case, wall plug, USB OTG cable, earphone, table mount and a USB cable:
I purchased the black version as the white version made the top and bottom bezel pronounced (plus I detest white phones…mostly). The box has a standard earphone, USB charger, USB OTG cable, a Table mount, 2 protective screen-guards films; one for the screen and the other for the phone’s glass back, a 15-month warranty card (they have a repair centre somewhere along Ikeja so you are guaranteed post-purchase service). Because of the non-removable back cover, the flip-case is a stick-on variety. I usually prefer cases that cover just the back but since this is free, I cant complain much. Removing the stick-on case did mess with my back screen guard as it pulled it off the phone. You may want to avoid removing it after you attach it to your device.
HARDWARE AND DESIGN
The Gionee S5.5 is made of glass; front and back and can be mistaken for a Sony Xperai flagship till you notice the waist line. Coming in at just 5.5mm thin it claims the title (according to Gionee) of thinnest device in the world.
The S5.5 isn’t just an anorexic pretty device, it packs a heavy punch; an Octacore 1.7Ghz Mediatek MT6592 chipset and 2GB of RAM guarantees an absence of lag. Internal storage comes in at an un-expandable 16gb. Usually, a lack of expandable memory is a deal-breaker for me especially after I had to make do with an 8gb Nexus 7 but I did not seem to mind much in this case. This is probably because I intend to replace my stolen BlackBerry Q5 with another qwerty as my primary device and relegate the Gionee to secondary position. The device is powered by a 2300mAh battery.
Hardware cons: No LED notification light, Lack of expandable storage, battery capacity could have been bigger but that may have resulted in a fatter waistline.
The Amigo UI is pretty interesting and takes some getting used to. I had initially installed, configured and made default Go-launcher Ex but grew bored with the familiar appearance so I reverted to Amigo. There is no app tray in Amigo so all apps appear on the home screen (like in iOS). It took several precious minutes to configure the UI into folders and have it un-clustered and useful. I do like the card-style Gionee implemented in the ‘recently-opened app’ tray. Note, It is only active with Amigo launcher, app tray returns to default vertical arrangement in any other 3rd party launcher.
I am not big on photography (evident in my purchasing a Blackberry Q5 which arguably has the worst 5 megapixel camera on any BlackBerry device). The Gionee rocks a 13 MP back camera with LED flash on the back and 5MP in front. The camera app has a pretty basic and functional interface. I installed Photosphere but caught myself using the default camera more often. Simply put they take amazing images (by my standard). My conclusion was that the Gionee S5.5 had the best camera on a mobile phone, until I got a HTC Desire 816 for my older brother and the similar-specified 13 and 5 megapixel cameras on the 816 rained heavily on my parade. Pictures taken with the Desire are very sharp and I may just give in to momentary jealousy and scratch the camera lens when no one is looking.
PERFORMANCE, APPLICATIONS & GAMING
Pairing an Octa-core processor with 2GB of RAM is a proven recipe for awesomeness. Granted most people scoff at Mediatek and scream Snapdragon 800 but to most users, a seamless experience is all they desire and the Gionee S5.5 gives you that. I currently have over 72 applications installed, along with my heavy e-book library and almost 6GB of media files – music, videos and pictures. I have just over 1GB available space left.
Applications run smoothly. No lagging. Experience constant forced-closing only when using UC Browser
Some pre-installed apps are pretty useful e.g. the Note app simply named “Note”. It doesnt back up or sync online but you can import or export to memory storage.
The 2300mAh battery does a fairly great job of powering the device. Enable internet connectivity and the battery drains real fast. Play a game for a few seconds and the top right corner warms up. The Gionee S5.5 does heat up fairly fast but it is understandable considering its thin profile and the glass component. If you are a heavy user, the Gionee S5.5 won’t see you to the end of the day. Invest in a power bank because the battery isn’t removable and would likely be flat by lunch time. Moderate to light usage (with internet service disabled) may just get you through a day. Yes, battery isn’t this device’s strongest point.
Default keyboard is Google keyboard. I much prefer Swiftkey.
The dialer app is pretty basic. But it does have a very functional calendar app:
Cool music player interface with amazing DTS effects:
The music player interface is clean, though it could be prettier. I installed Google Play Music as a secondary player. There is a pre-installed Video player and file manager too. The file manager gives a breakdown of memory used up by file types. However, I installed and use ES File explorer more often though.
The Gionee S5.5 is great value for money. It has a great premium look and attracts attention. The Amigo UI takes some getting used to but overall its usable. Comparing the Gionee S5.5 to the recently purchased HTC Desire 816 (N55,000) has the S5.5 beating the Desire in almost every category save for Battery, Camera and the expandable storage, proving that the Gionee brand does have something to offer and can compete with the established brands even at premium flagship level.
Am I happy with the Gionee S5.5? You bet. Will I recommend it to anyone? Absolutely. This is the first device I’ve owned that I did not want to get rid of after two weeks. Great job Gionee.
PS: Device used to capture every image above is the iPad 3. Take note, the wallpaper on the lock-screen isn’t pre-installed.