I love browsing for affordable yet powerful phones. It amazes me how companies are able to push prices down while maintaining upper mid-tier specs, like a quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, decent cameras and screen resolution, and fairly large internal storage. However, the trade-off for these pocket-friendly mobiles are often times their build quality. Most smartphones come with plastic shells and those that sport a metal body are waaaaaay expensive. The Elife S5.5 is Gionee’s attempt at creating an equally powerful and durable phone with a reasonable price tag. Is it as good in the real world as it is on paper? Let’s find out!
Operating System: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Physical Dimensions: 145.1mm x 70.2mm x 5.6mm (H x W x D)
Weight: 133 grams
Processor: Mediatek MT6592, Cortex-A7 octa-core 1.7 GHz
Screen: Super AMOLED capacitive multi-touch with 16M colors
Resolution: 1080×1920 pixels, 5.0-inches, 441 ppi
Cameras: 13MP back and 5MP front cameras
Internal Memory: 2GB RAM, 16GB non-expandable storage
Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 2300mAh
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Direct, and Hotspot; Bluetooth 4.0; HSPA
The phone is advertised as “more than sleek” and “more than slim,” and boy, they weren’t kidding. It’s about as thin as the magazine you’re holding now, and is 133 grams light. Our review unit was clad in black with dark blue-finished metal running around the phone’s sides. The front and back are covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and is a huge fingerprint magnet. It is not a huge problem, but will be a bit of a bother if you like your phone spick-and-span.
The five-inch screen occupies the phone’s front, with the options, home, and back capacitive buttons below it. On top of the screen are the speaker grille, the proximity sensor, and the 5MP front snapper. The right side is mostly bare except for the tiny pinhole which releases the microSIM tray. At the back lies Gionee’s logo with the speaker grille near the bottom and the slightly raised 13MP main camera with autofocus and LED flash on the top left. The phone’s top and bottom house the microUSB port and 3.5mm audio jack, respectively. Finally, on the left side is the volume rocker and the power button.
Gionee did a good job designing the S5.5. The components above don’t even add more than 1mm to the phone’s overall form. I also liked the phone’s bezel: it’s thick enough to keep my palm from accidentally triggering the screen, and thin enough that it doesn’t distract from the gorgeous display. Overall, the phone looks very premium.
The 1080×1920 resolution with 441ppi of the Super AMOLED screen produces wide viewing angles and makes colors pop like nobody’s business. Colors are well-defined without jagged edges, or noticeable pixels. The five-point multi-touch display is also very responsive. The octa-core MediaTek Cortex-A7 paired with the Mali-450MP4 GPU are both top notch processors fitting for a flagship. These, coupled with the sizeable 2GB RAM, provides smooth and powerful performance multitaskers and gamers will appreciate. Meanwhile, the 2300 mAh battery is able to fuel the phone throughout a work day.
Why then the low score, you ask? Users only have a measly 12GB internal storage to work with as the Android OS and preinstalled apps already take up 4GB. Moreover, there’s no external storage tray so you’ll constantly have to back up your files on your computer or the cloud. Photography and gaming enthusiasts have to micromanage what they store on the phone lest they run the risk of slowdowns and inopportune “not enough memory” warnings.
User Experience: 4/5
The first time I picked up the phone, I immediately knew that I was going to have a lot of fun with it. Though ridiculously thin and light, it felt very premium and sturdy in my hands. Even my parents were amazed at how lean it is and told me that it would probably snap in half if I put enough pressure on it. Challenge accepted!
I deliberately roughed it up in the two weeks that I had it, at times worse than my actual smartphone. I placed it in my bag with my keys and coins; carelessly lugged my bag around public transport; threw it on my table and bed; and just for fun, scratched it with my nails. At the end, the phone not only survived my physical abuse but escaped virtually unscathed. Not that I recommend treating your phone like a chopping board, but rest assured it will remain immaculate in your day to day activities.
Performance was likewise unproblematic. I ran games on it ranging from casual ones like Candy Crush, and graphically intensive games such as Modern Combat and GTA San Andreas. I saw no slowdown whatsoever even when I switched back and forth between the above titles. The S5.5 also breezed through my daily tasks including document creation, SMS, calling, audio and video playback, and surfing the net.
The cameras produced very excellent images in well-lit conditions. The 13MP primary snapper captured accurate colors and details that were decent enough for macro-esque shots. The 5MP front camera was a pleasure to use with its 95-degree ultra-wide angle lens, which captures more people and more scenery with details that will give other front cams a run for their money. Honestly, returning from the S5.5 to my old phone’s selfie snapper was a jarring step back in my self-portrait game.
Knowing its data capacity, I didn’t encounter any low memory warnings as I backed up my camera roll every day and limited my installation of apps and games to only the essentials. Audio files were likewise accessed through the cloud and online streaming services.
Though it performed well, there’s an alarming problem with the device: the area near the camera gets uncomfortably hot when using the phone for hours at a time. Hopefully, it’s just the metal being a huge thermal conductor and not a problem with the phone’s internal architecture.
Available in black, white, blue, pink, and purple colors, the phone retails for a wallet-busting PHP 21,999. For that price, give or take PHP 2,000, you can already get the flagship of other brands which are as good, if not better, than the Elife S5.5. Even though it has powerful specs and premium build, the lack of storage options and other creature comforts may make you do a 180-degree turn from buying this one.
- Premium glass and metal construction
- As sleek and slim as advertised
- Very impressive selfie cam
- Eyebrow-raising price tag
- No expandable storage
- Gets hot in marathon uses
The S5.5 combines performance and durability in an impossibly small package—at a rather steep price.