Removable extra battery, power banks, car charging adapter and what not. We prepare with such stuff whenever we plan even a small trip, and that is unavoidable, thanks to the fact that smartphone batteries drain faster while traveling, and there are again some reasons like changing networks, usage of GPS, etc. Recently, there has been a surge in number of new smartphones with high capacity battery coming into the market. One of them that caught everyone’s attention, was the Gionee Marathon M3. A massive 5000 mAh battery is what defines the name “marathon”.
But is the 5000 mAh just a number and the phone still struggles to stay strong for the entire day? Let’s find out.
The design of the Marathon M3 looks very decent, if not great. It indeed feels heavy for the size, but Gionee has managed to pack in the heavy battery, and still keep this not huge in thickness. The metallic strip on the sides add to the aesthetics, and the plastic back cover curves down towards the sides.
The removable back cover exposes the card slots, but the large battery cannot be pulled out. The bottom has a MicroUSB port as well as a microphone, while the headset jack is on the top. The power / lock button is on the side, just below the volume rocker button, both of them being hard to press and gives a good tactile feel. On the back, there’s a camera and LED flash along with a secondary mic, and towards the bottom, there is a speaker grill.
Comfortable in the hand, the Gionee Marathon M3 is designed not to attract but to give enough comfort so that one doesn’t feel there is a heavy stuff packed in.
The display is quite decent at 720p resolution, and the HD res. keeps the pixel density at a decent 294 PPI. But on actual brightness, the display is indeed bright and readability is good, and viewing angles are decent enough so that you don’t have to always stick your eyes right in front of the screen for a good read. Under bright sunlight, you will struggle to read even some bright text on the screen, as the display turns more into something like a reflective glass with very little brightness struggling to have enough brightness for a clear view.
OS, Apps and Interface
The M3 runs Android 4.4 KitKat with the Amigo 2.0 UI layered over it, but surprisingly this is a different one from the Amigo UI in the Elife series, because there is a full-fledged app drawer and you get the home screens to edit and use as you wish. And this looks more polished, though the notification and quick settings panel on the top don’t have much difference from the ones in the Elife series phones.
It has the same Amigo weather application, whose shortcut is seen in the notification panel, and as a widget as well. The quick settings on the top has a RAM management widget, with the rocket launcher to free RAM (basically by killing background apps), and the entire screen area is filled by several toggles.
Bloatware, there’s a lot of it. This is something that doesn’t impress us much, as always, you find a lot of space already used by the phone for several apps, most of which are never used. For example, there are a few games, apps such as Camcard, WeChat, Yahoo Cricket, Saavn, Clean Master. A few other applications such as NQ Mobile Security, Kingsoft Office, GioneeXender, TouchPal X and DU Battery Saver come pre-loaded in other Gionee devices as well, and some of them are well integrated already with the needed widgets and shortcuts, thus no much complains about the latter.
Although there is the entire list of Google Play apps already in the device, you get to see UC browser as the default mobile browser instead of Google Chrome. Switching to Chrome isn’t the hardest task though, so we’re fine with the inclusion of UC browser.
For personalization, Gionee has given Amigo Paper, Theme and Color apps where the Color app has three sections – wallpaper, theme and effect for home screen transition.
Under the settings, you would find well organized options based on categories, and the company has introduced the new “HotKnot” feature that has started becoming a part of Mediatek-powered smartphones. It is basically a feature that allows exchange of data where the screen of two devices touch each other. NFC does a similar job, but that doesn’t involve the touch of screens, and HotKnot is said to have a lesser cost for implementation. Again, HotKnot works only if the other device has that feature.
There are smart gestures such as Pause alarm, Double click wake and Quick Operating. Limited number of options, but still good for those who wanted to wake the screen without having to lift the phone and press the physical buttons. One of those reasons why LG’s recent smartphones have been famous (the Knock On feature).
The system apps such as User Feedback, System Update, System Manager, File Explorer, Sound Recorder, Notes and Compass are all not always useful, but these are essential apps for system functions when needed.
The UI has been good for the reason that the Amigo 2.0 that you see on Elife S5.5, or the Amigo UI on Elife E7 are all inspired from iOS, without an app drawer, and this one on the M3 gives a past Gionee user a new feel and a real better interface when compared to the previous devices.
About half of the RAM is used by system and any background services, because on a fresh boot, it was about 51% RAM available, i.e. 475MB available, out of 954MB original capacity.
The performance is not great, as the Marathon M3 fails to play high-end games with ease, and on some games such as Asphalt 8, the default settings for graphics is set to medium, and you cannot switch to better graphics quality. The phone has a MT6582 quad-core CPU and ARM Mali-450 MP GPU with 1GB RAM, and this combination looks good only for a basic usage, and nothing extra-ordinary. Even on multitasking, the phone gave up and reached the home screen without switching to any app that was running already on the background.
If we are talking of web browsing, playing Youtube videos and such, it all happens without the M3 breaking a sweat, but the actual issue is seen only when trying to squeeze more out of it. The reason could be for limiting the functions, to get more out of the heavy capacity battery, but whatever it is, the performance doesn’t make the phone stand out in the crowd.
The Marathon M3 has a 8-megapixel camera on the back, with an LED flash. The capture quality is decent on bright conditions, but the photo becomes too grainy in low light conditions, sometimes even makes you wonder whether it was a stable capture or not. The camera app is also made quite different from the one we saw in Gionee’s flagship devices, and although we won’t vote for this to be better, it does have all those options needed for simple effects and filters.
Capture modes include Normal, Panorama, Eraser, Best Face, Face beauty, Best shot, EV bracket shot. Capture Action includes Normal, Touch shot, Gesture shot, Smile shot. The White balance settings have Auto, Incandescent, Daylight, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Twilight and Shade. There are a few color effects as well, including Mono, Sepia, Negative, Aqua, Blackboard and Whiteboard. Apart from having a few picture frames, the settings in the camera have HDR (which doesn’t do a great job), face detection, geo tagging, scene mode, continuous shot (20, 40 and 99 shots), exposure control, self timer, saturation, brightness and contrast settings.
Without / With Flash in Low Light
Video capturing is possible at 1080p but it doesn’t work well with even a little shaky hand, and the entire frame becomes dark under the sunlight if there is a cross ray aiming the camera lens. This is well negotiated by other smartphone cameras, but here, it wasn’t the case and the camera could do nothing but capture whatever came out, naturally.
In the photo captures, though, the Marathon M3’s camera tried to brighten the pictures by giving more exposure on the object. It is clear in the camera samples, where there was a bright background and the object seemed brightly lit, although it wasn’t getting any extra light source.
The 2-megapixel front facing camera is not great. It is good for a video call, but selfies with such grains don’t look good.
Here comes the most important part of the device, the battery. Unsurprisingly, it is a powerful 5000 mAh unit (which is about 4650 accd. to some expert tests) which didn’t give up on normal usage, for over a couple days. To be fair, we did play videos, games and such for hours before seeing the battery drain down to zero towards the end of second day.
While testing the battery, we don’t continuously put a load on the device, and that is not how a user would use a smartphone. Some regular social network apps usage, a few calls, Youtube video playing for some gaming to end the day, and again similar stuff the next day. It went down to 59% towards the end of the first day, and the best part about its standby was that it didn’t go down even a bit overnight on unstable mobile network. That doesn’t relate to only the battery capacity, but also the optimization done to keep it stable.
A few other observations about the battery:
- On 3G network, the battery went down by 11% in about 35 minutes while playing Youtube videos.
- On Wi-Fi, the same 11% drain was for around 1 hour of Youtube video playing.
- Games are optimized in a way not to play high-end graphics, thus the battery didn’t show any significant drain.
- While keeping the data network on, overnight the battery drained down by 6% (where social apps Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp were kept
- ON with notifications, Gmail and other apps as well were Auto syncing).
- A video call on Skype took the battery from 100% to 91% for a 22-minute call.
The battery isn’t removable, and it is better to keep it in place and not try to pull it out to explore, although the back cover can be pulled out.
Reverse Charging is possible, and this could be one of those good devices which you would want as a secondary one, while traveling. There are power banks available with 5000 mAh capacity, and they are just with that single purpose – to give an extra charge to your smartphone. But that is always useful and interesting when one of the smartphones itself is able to charge the other one.
The speaker is located on the back, and although that makes you either place the phone on its screen, or you compromise and place it on its back, the audio output is great. It is not the cleanest and crisp, but the output level is good enough.
The connectivity in the Marathon M3 is good as well, and you see only the HotKnot feature to be something different, and the device lacks NFC. The Wi-Fi connectivity, data network are all quite stable and not very powerful to keep up with the low signals, often seeing a drop in data network connectivity, instead of quickly switching between the 2G and 3G networks.
It is called a powerhouse, for a reason. And it indeed is. The Gionee Marathon M3 does have a battery that doesn’t want you to keep checking for the percentage and run for the charger. In fact, this would charge your other phone if it is running out of battery. But that is the only great thing about the Marathon M3, because the performance is a downer and the camera doesn’t do a great job.
But for its price, the Gionee Marathon M3 is a great choice because if you are someone who wanted a smartphone with not the best high-end specs, but wanted it to stay good on charge for more than a couple days (especially for regular travelers), this is something you should get your hands on. The battery charging takes not a very long time, because on direct charging, the M3 went to 100% in about 2.1 hours, and that on USB charging took a little less than 5 hours.
The alternatives for this, at this price point include Moto G 2nd gen, Xiaomi Mi3, Asus Zenfone 5 and each one of them have a better performance for sure, but the battery capacity is not even 50% of that in the M3, and the battery performance as well don’t come close in comparison.