Gionee, a Chinese manufacturing giant, has been gearing up since last year to make its online presence, after operating couple of offers offline in the country. The brand that has a lot to offer to its Indian consumers has finally being aggressive with its launch plans. In the past couple of months, we have seen the company launch quite the number of handsets in China and India, both countries. The handsets like Marathon M5 Plus, M5 Lite, and M5 Enjoy Edition, and finally a new S series handset called S6, which is equally stylish like its previous generations. Usually, its E and S Series come under Elife tag, but it seems like the brand is parting away with its old tag name. As it’s just called Gionee S6, launched just around two weeks back exclusively to the Flipkart customers, the new handset has a lot to offer for Rs 19,999. We have had this device for quite a while now, and it’s time we share our experience in this detailed review. Let’s dive in, shall we.
The Gionee S6 comes with a full metal unibody design and sports a stylish aesthetics, but it isn’t any similar to the earlier S series handsets, such as Elife S7 and S5.1, since they both were quite slimmer. But looks likes it isn’t about a slimmer experience anymore, because of that company had to cut down certain important features like battery capacity, and that sacrifice would go to vain as the device would struggle to offer good battery life. This time, the approach is different, and that’s why it isn’t the slimmest device at 6.9mm thickness, which is fine as long as it’s compact and operable in one hand. Yes, despite its large 5.5-inch display size, the brand was able to pull together a cumbered surface design, which would allow the phone to fit perfectly in your hands.
In the first look, you might fall in love with the device, because of its stunning golden color and shining edges. As well as that bezel-less look on the front side. The device is nothing short of marvelous in engineering; one can’t actually stop admiring it’s small but attractive design patterns. You can notice the white signal bands on the top corners of the right and left edges while the same can be seen on the bottom side. On the front top, it houses an earpiece, camera module, and set of sensors, whereas, on the front bottom, it has capacitive buttons, which unfortunately doesn’t have backlit light. So, you might have a problem when you’re operating on the phone in dark light conditions. The back side of the device houses a camera module and LED Flash along with a microphone on the top corner. Apart from that everything down is clean, except the logo in the center. In the retail packaging, the company is offering a transparent, back cover that’ll protect it from getting any fingerprint marks, or dirt on it. I would recommend using that, as after using it without the cover for couple days, we saw device getting pretty dirty in the wild.
Moving on to the talk of ports placements, the device keeps ports minimalist as well as offer textured button actually to feel while pressing them. The top edge houses an audio jack while the bottom edge has a dual speaker and in between that is the USB Type-C port. Yes, that’s right, it has a USB Type-C port, day-by-day they’re becoming more prevalent, but it’s still a long way to go. The dual speaker grills are just concealing on the loudspeaker, which isn’t clear or loud enough. The right edge has volume rocker keys and power button; they’re robust and can be easily operable even from the outside of the cover. The left edge has a hidden slot for SIM and microSD card, which houses dual SIM, later on, that in the connectivity section below. Overall, the device feels pretty sturdy, it’s full frame, and almost everything is constructed out of metal, the company claims 89%. For its size, it feels compact while holding in one hand, thanks to a 1.5mm polish cutting and a 45-degree angle ID design. Gionee has always been good in the design department, and with S6, it has improved a lot.
The display on this handset is of 5.5-inch and since it’s a Super AMOLED display I can bear the low 720p resolution, but if you’re an enthusiast, who likes their displays crisp and sharp, I’m afraid, and then this handset will not do you justice. With a claim of the screen-to-body ratio of 77.8%, the vast real estate looks quite good even at a pixel density of 267 PPI (Pixel Per Inch). The color saturation and white balance on the outputs look pretty nice; all thanks to the AMOLED display technology, instead of the LCD technology. Gionee has become consistent by using AMOLED technology on its recent handsets like S Plus and M5 Plus. Good move I would say, I have always liked AMOLED displays over any kind of LCD, as they offer far superior quality outputs.
Talking about the combination of large real estate and an AMOLED display, it would have been a real treat for movie buffs, if the device supported the Full HD (1080p) resolution, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t. The screen is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which will prevent the display from getting scratched, and any wear tear happens in your daily usage. We tried putting the device and a pair of keys together in our pockets, and it came out scratch less. What more? We also scratched the surface of the screen with sharp pins and it resistance quite quickly. The viewing angles on this screen were pretty neat, and you could expect to share your screen with others and watch tons of YouTube videos together, and you should be satisfied if the 720p resolution is fine on your side. The sunlight legibility of the display is not great, but you can see content if the brightness levels are high. Overall, the display of the device is decent and can be considered more than average because of the AMOLED technology used.
The Android these days is growing fast not in terms of just changing the look, but it feels much quicker and lighter. The operating system on this Gionee handset is based on the Lollipop 5.1 version; it’s called Amigo OS. If you do not recall, the brand has changed the name of its custom Android skin from Amigo UI to Amigo OS last year when it was first introduced on the Elife S7 smartphone. The latest version Amigo OS 3.1 comes with tons of enhancements, it feels buttery smooth to operate. It has no app drawer, which might be difficult for some users who haven’t used to it, as they get used to an auto arrangement. When all the apps are on home screen, there won’t be such feature, so you have to manually arrange it. The settings area is entirely changed from the stock Android, if you’re first time user, it might take a time to get used to it. But you will eventually have fun using this interface, as it has so much to provide.
There are large numbers of pre-installed apps present in the system that might be helpful for you or not. We will address that and make it easy for you. The third party pre-installed apps that you’ll definitely like to use includes Facebook, WhatsApp, and UC Browser, while apps like default Gallery, File Manager, Music and Video player would also be helpful for daily operations. As for the other apps, the company has loaded enough the number of games, which are mostly trial games; you can choose to uninstall these apps. There are some tools like WPS Office, DU Battery Saver, 360 Security and TouchPal Keyboard app that might prove resourceful to you based on the needs. All these apps shouldn’t worry about the storage, since the device comes with 32GB of internal storage, out of which around 23GB was free, 1.5GB used by apps and remaining by the operating system. If you’re still worried about the storage space, then you shouldn’t be, as the device has a microSD card support up to 128GB. Although it wouldn’t support your average OTG drive, unless you have a USB Type C OTG drive, as the device doesn’t have a microUSB 2.0 port.
Moving on with personalization talk, the interface lets you change appearances using the Theme Park app, it is an internet connected store, which allows you to download themes to your local storage and use them, whenever you want to change the look, with one tap. The multitasking on this interface have a similar interface like Stock Android has just tap on the recent menu button, and it will open the cards like UI, where you can switch between running apps or close all at once. The multitasking experience on this handset is pretty neat since it has a 3GB of RAM. Usually, you’ll find around 1.7GB of RAM free whereas .92GB used by the system and around 200MB used by apps running in the background. But that escalate quickly once you are running a lot of heavy apps together. Now do you want to know if Gionee S6 is a good multitasker? Well, it is good in terms of switching between apps as well as app management. Meaning, the S6 handset knows how to use the RAM efficiently. Overall, we had a great time using the Amigo OS in these past days.
Hardware & Performance
Under the hood, the Gionee S6 handset is powered by a MediaTek processor, it’s an Octa-core chipset clocking at 1.3GHz. The MT6753 is the same processor seen on the Coolpad Note 3 and Lenovo Vibe K4 Note, and these devices are priced quite lower than Gionee S6. Despite a lot of features difference, it can be noted that this SoC might not be a suitable candidate company opt for their stylish metal handset. Well, we found out the truth when we took the device for a spin; gaming. We played a lot of games on the S6 such as Riptide GP2, Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 8, all these games were handled well by the chipset, along which it has the support of Mali-T720 doing the graphic processing for the processor. It also has a 3GB of RAM, which is quickly becoming the standard for smartphones priced in this range. Talking about the gaming experience, we have had a blast playing the above-mentioned games, there weren’t any lags that we experienced, and moreover, these apps didn’t crash. Well, at least for whenever we were using them. While about heating, the screen of the device was heating up quite a bit, but not more than 40 degree, which is a considerable temperature. It cools down super quick, so no worries about the heating.
Moving on with the talk of the benchmarking tools, we tested the device on these two popular benchmarking apps; Antutu and Vellamo. These scores would reveal the potential performance of the device. The Antutu score was at 38084, which isn’t the highest in this range, but it’s on par with other devices in this segment. The score can be divided into four aspects; 3D, UX, CPU and RAM, the scored, 4258, 15863, 13148 and 4815, respectively. While the Vellamo score is divided in three aspects, unlike Antutu as it calculates the total score. The three elements include Multi-core, Metal, and Chrome Browser, the scores are 1527, 1126 and 2225, respectively. We did the real life browsing test and this device sporting large real estate passed with flying colors, as the Zoom-in and Zoom-out operations were pretty good. Overall, we had enough experience with the device regarding the performance, despite it has around average horsepower. You can get away with daily tasks, but if you want heavy gaming or multitasking, it isn’t the right device.
The camera package in a smartphone priced in this range has become one of the most important deal breakers, and if it’s not good, then there’s no point in recommending that device. Keeping in mind that it has 13-megapixel image sensor in mind, we took it out for a good spin to understand whether this camera deserves a “yay” or “nay” from us. But before we take you through that let’s talk about the features of the camera module and what has it go to show off. Well, the rear camera module comes with a 13-megapixel resolution; it sports PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) technology and has an aperture number of f/2.0. These all features make it on par with other handsets, but are that enough? Find out below.
The rear camera module was able to capture with decent color saturation, but white balance and exposure levels were bitten off. While HDR wasn’t of any good as it increased the contrast level to triple fold. There seemed to be focusing issue, particularly when taking macro shots, the module was not able to keep its focus on it once tapped. So, the PDAF technology was a total waste, as it was supposed to give quicker auto-focusing, but instead, what it did was stop us from capturing the real macro shots. But thanks to the Magic Focus, which is one of the modes present in the camera app, help us click good macro shots. This feature helped us to change the focus after capturing the shot. But we weren’t satisfied with that either, as it wasn’t much clearer as we thought it would come out.
Talking about the camera interface, the device has a pretty familiar UI, as we have been testing Gionee devices for quite a while now. But if you’re new here, let me take you through, the camera app (hold the device in landscape position) has shutter button for photos and recording on the right side, along with access to the gallery app. You can access the modes from bottom left corner, in the same line, you can choose to turn ON flash light or not or maybe put it in Auto mode. The other two icons let you access the front facing camera and settings. The modes available on this device include Face Beauty, Filter, Night, HDR, GIF, Ultra Pixel and Smart Scene. Out of these modes, my favorite is Ultra Pixel and Smart Scene, what Ultra Pixel does is that it maximizes the resolution up to 9312 x 6976, which is quite high. While the Smart Scene is quite an interesting mode, as it automatically identifies what mode would suit the lighting conditions you’re trying to shoot in. For a 4:3 ratio you can capture in 13MP resolution but if you want to capture in 16:9 ratio, then you have to come down to 10MP resolution, which can be selected from the Settings area of the camera app.
Moving on with the video recording, the device can be able to record up to 1080p videos, but unfortunately, there is no Optical Image Stabilization present on the device. Moreover, the video recording capability of the camera module is not quite good; it has a lot of noise. Though, there is electronics image stabilization, which is basically the post-processing stabilization done by the camera software. But overall, we weren’t satisfied by the video output. The front facing camera is the only thing good about this device in the camera department. With a 5-megapixel image sensor, the module was able to capture great shots in natural as well as low light conditions. The company doesn’t claim that it has a wide-angle, but it fits a lot of people in one capture. It is a recommended front-facing module for taking selfies out at the beach party, or at the dinner table; it’s quite good for the resolution it offers. Overall, the camera package isn’t as we expected and for such pricing, it’s a total letdown, except for the selfie cam.
The battery capacity on this thing is at 3150 mAh, which should be good for a 720p display, but it looks like the chipset isn’t as power efficient as we thought so. The same issue we had to experience with Lenovo Vibe K4 Note, which has the similar processor, while Coolpad Note 3 was somehow able to manage good battery life. Gionee S6 is quite unlucky in this department as well. It is promised that the USB Type-C port provided on this device supports fast charging, but it wasn’t as fast we have seen this feature on other devices. The battery percentage drop in standby mode was quite large at 5%, even when no SIM card was inserted. But when we did it was around 10%, now you can imagine how poor is the battery life on this handset, we were able to get as much as Three hours of Screen-On-Time (SOT) on this device.
This handset is one of the first to offer VoLTE in this segment of a smartphone, what VoLTE means, is that you can make voice calls over the LTE connection. It promises to give you HD voice quality as well as faster download speed than an LTE connection. Current, a 4G LTE connection can carry only data, leaving voice calls to older 3G networks, but with VoLTE support on this device, you’ll have access to the higher voice quality network, so expect much crystal clear sound. Unfortunately, 4G services in India don’t support this technology yet. Think of it as a future proof device, although, if you’re aware, Reliance is going to launch nation-wide VoLTE services sometime this year. Another usual set of features includes dual SIM connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS and USB Type-C port.
Companies are gearing up this year and getting aggressive with pricing and features they offer in the price segment they launch their devices. Gionee S6 was announced in the first week of this month exclusively for the Flipkart users; we think the company could have priced it better. I mean 20K for a 720p display, 13MP camera that can’t offer better results than low-priced devices such as Xiaomi Mi 4i, Obi Worldphone SF1, and these are just a few to name. We hoped it had a lot to offer than just pretty design, guess, Gionee still has a lot to learn about its online consumers as the company is strong in offline sales, but has yet to penetrated a good amount of share market for exclusive online devices. So, I advise to go with handsets like QiKU Q Terra 808, Honor 7 and even OnePlus 2, some of these might be little costly, but spending 20K on the Gionee S6 isn’t worth it.