The Chinese invasion of the Indian smartphone market was helmed early on by the likes of Gionee. Somewhere between the price wars and the somewhat lackluster high end products, the brand never managed to gain the favor of high end smartphone buyers. Sure, the company has done exceedingly well in the mid to low end segment with record breaking turnovers that the enigmatic head of Gionee’s Indian business is proud to trumpet but the higher end has remained elusive. While the company has regularly produced ultra slim devices, with the Elife S7, Gionee hasn’t broken any world records and this very well might be for good reason. All said and done, we went over the handset with a fine toothed comb to ascertain whether the company has learnt from its mistakes and has finally created a high end product that can be wholeheartedly recommended. Did it succeed? Read on to find out.
The Gionee Elife S7 offers a bit of a conundrum when it comes to design. Look at it head on and there’s nothing really special about the phone. However hold up the handset in your hand and even a cursory gaze around the body will show you the precise engineering and attention to detail. This is a beautiful phone though not without it’s flaws.
As we mentioned, the front of the Elife S7 is somewhat lackluster, then again there’s only that many ways that you can arrange a display within a shell while minimizing bezel size. There’s a large 5.2” display up front with relatively narrow bezels on the sides. Above the display you’ll also find the front facing camera and proximity sensor. The phone functions without capacitive buttons and employs onscreen controls for UI navigation.
Take the phone in your hand and you’ll notice the U-shaped aviation grade aluminum frame running around the edges of the handset. The aluminum has a hint of a chamfer and is chromed out at the U bends. The inside of the bend is colored black to match up with the rest of the body of the phone. The phone also measures a svelte 5.5mm. While Gionee might not be able to claim the title of having the world’s slimmest phone anymore, the phone still sports a striking design that manages to offer a fairly compelling experience while avoiding most of the problems associated with ultra slim hardware.
The volume rocker and power buttons are placed within the U bend of the aluminum frame which ensures that you won’t accidently press the button but also guarantees great tactile feedback with the buttons giving you a reassuring click on pressing down. The 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB port both are placed at the bottom where you’ll also find the mono speaker port.
Over at the back, things are a bit tame. Gionee branding is placed in the upper half of the handset while the camera module is placed at the top left corner next to the single LED flash. The use of Gorilla Glass panels at the back as well as the front of the phone means that you’ll have to deal with a fair amount of scuffs but on the flipside, the glass is somewhat resistant to scratches. The Gionee Elife S7 measures 139.8×67.4×5.5mm and weighs just 126 grams, which makes it quite the pocketable package. The feather light weight of the handset stands out in particular.
Based on Android 5.0, the Gionee Elife S7 runs on a highly customized version of Android. Called Amigo 3.0, it is a take that is entirely unique to Gionee. The company has been working on Amigo UI for quite some time now and the first two versions were fraught with software issues despite showing promise.
With Amigo 3.0, it is obvious that Gionee has listened to feedback but it is still isn’t enough to make the interface very visually appealing. The lags around the interface are gone for the most part but we just can’t see the appeal in having the notification center and quick toggles segregated into two separate sections drawn out from above and below the display. Gionee has dropped all semblance of the gorgeous Material Design that Google has adopted for Android Lollipop and has overlaid it’s own interface layer that lacks the sensibilities and for that matter, the usability offered by stock Android and competing ROMs.
As you’d expect, there is no traditional sub menu for the application launcher with all applications being placed on the homescreen itself. You can create folders for app management but little more. A permanent weather and clock widget is placed at the top of the screen and you can install just the few pre-selected widgets available on the device. As you lose a lot of the customization offered by Android here, a third party launcher is a must. The phone also comes preloaded with a boat load of third party software that can’t be uninstalled. The applications don’t add much functionality and most can be written off as a gimmick.
The Gionee Elife S7 is powered by a 1.7Ghz MediaTek MT6572 Octa-Core processor and is paired with 2GB of RAM. This is a 64 bit chipset and is quite the capable workhorse. The problem with Gionee handsets has been that traditionally they’ve not been very well optimized in terms of software. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Elife S7 where the handset is fluid throughout the interface and doesn’t exhibit much lag at all. In fact multitasking, viewing HD content, high resolution images and even gaming doesn’t really take a toll on performance. Gaming does result in the phone heating up but not to highly uncomfortable levels. Since this wasn’t something we faced in day to day usage, it is hard to fault the device. The heavy skin of the handset takes a toll on the available RAM as we noticed that free RAM levels hovered around the 600MB mark post a fresh reboot. We put the handset through a slew of benchmarks to see how well it compares to the competition in its price range.
The phone scores 42046 points in the AnTuTu benchmark which is an all encompassing benchmark.
In the GPU centric Nenamark benchmark, the phone manages 61.9FPS which is higher than the likes of the Desire 820 that is priced similarly.
The Gionee Elife S7 scores 15201 points in the Quadrant benchmark.
The Full HD display on the Gionee Elife S7 proves itself to be a gorgeous panel. The pixel density of 424 pixels per inch is more than adequate for the 5.2” panel. We found the colors to be bright, vibrant with an excellent contrast ratio. The AMOLED display used can be thanked for the excellent black levels and well saturated colors.
Surprisingly, unlike many AMOLED panels, the display avoids being overly saturated and the whites lack the hues commonly associated with AMOLED technology. The software onboard the Elife S7 allows you to tweak the saturation levels and you can chose between warm and cool presets. The display on the Elife S7 is perfectly adequate for the phone and it is hard to find fault with it.
On paper, the Gionee Elife S7 is well endowed in terms of camera hardware. From the 13MP module over at the back based on the Sony IMX214 sensor to the 8MP camera module at the front, Gionee has been sure to talk about the camera prowess as well as the pro photography mode. Unfortunately, it appears that the camera is once again more hype than function.
While not bad per se, it isn’t really able to match up with the likes of the Xiaomi Mi4 and higher end handsets. That said, Gionee has clearly tried to offer the chance to tweak your shots using the professional mode in the camera module. It offers features like aperture control, focus selection, white balance, ISO and exposure control.
Images look fine on the display of the phone and if that’s all where they’ll end up, then you probably won’t find much fault with the camera. Dump them on a computer and view them on a large display and problems start showing up. Images are highly oversaturated, all too often there are issues with focus locks with images turning out softer than you’d gauge from the onscreen viewfinder. The phone struggles with taming the highlights. We wouldn’t bother with taking low light images as the shots were nigh unusable due to the level of noise on display.
Connectivity & Battery Life
Connectivity options on the phone are a very standard affair with WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS on offer. The phone lacks 802.11ac connectivity that is becoming standard in this price range. Moreover, it had a tendency to drop the WiFi signal even when placed next to the router. The Gionee Elife S7 is a dual SIM handset with a tray that takes two nano SIM cards. The phone is 4G LTE compatible and the company claims that it’ll work across India. Built in storage on the S7 is 16GB of which under 10GB is available at launch and no microSD expansion as an option. This is rather woeful and your only recourse will be the USB On The Go port should you require additional local storage. Battery life has always been the downfall of ultra slim handsets so we were quite surprised to learn that the Elife S7 breaks this trend and delivers quite impressive battery life. The 2750mAh battery unit easily lasts a full day of usage. Most users shouldn’t need to top off the handset during the course of the day.
The Gionee Elife S7 represents the best of Gionee. The hardware is rock solid and looks stunning. Performance issues have also been sorted out for the most part. The phone delivers a fast, fluid, lag free experience with excellent battery life to boot. Sounds perfect? Not quite. The software experience falls below our expectations and clearly needs to be toned down. The built in storage is also woefully low because of the amount of bloat and the lack of expandability further hurts the S7’s case.
Priced at Rs.24,999, it is hard to make a case for the Gionee Elife S7’s case purely from a price to performance ratio perspective. That said, the gorgeous hardware design is certainly enticing and should that be your main criteria for selection, the S7 won’t disappoint you. The Elife S7 could have been a winner for Gionee but the sub par software experience and the woeful amount of built in storage make it lose out to it’s Chinese brethren.
- Beautiful hardware
- Great battery life
- Amigo OS
- Very limited storage