“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
Gionee as a brand is known for its deep roots in offline market reach in India, thanks to its robust distribution channels. The company has even established itself as a major player and holds a considerable market share. Now as per the trends, Gionee also hopped on the selfie train and came up with its A1 lineup to lure the ‘selfie generation’. It first introduced the Gionee A1 and A1 Plus globally earlier this year at MWC held in Barcelona. And soon, Gionee A1 made its way to India. Gionee even came up with a dedicated ‘Selfiestan’ campaign to market the Gionee A1 in India. Well, to be frank, this ‘Selfiestan’ song is mind numbingly annoying. Although the phone is not. I hope that’s comforting.
To justify its selfie tag, the phone comes with a 16-megapixel selfie camera accompanied by a front flash. The company has even added numerous modes, some of them being especially made for the selfie camera. Well, do they really assist in capturing better images or are they just another marketing gimmick? Is the phone just about selfies or offers anything more? Let’s find out.
Design & Display:
The Gionee A1 gets a metal unibody built from A6000 aircraft grade aluminium. Combining the sturdy built with a weight of 183 gms, the handset feels a bit bulky to us. The metal back is slight slippery too and is advisable to hold the device carefully. Both power and volume buttons are placed on the left side of the device. Considering the footprint of the device, you might have to move your thumb a little to access the volume rockers. The power button, however, is well within the reach of thumb. It also gets a little garnishing with reddish touch and it does look good.
The handset also houses a round dimple on the back featuring the company’s logo. At first glance, it looks like a fingerprint scanner, but it’s not. The fingerprint scanner is located on the front which doubles up as a physical home button. It is snappy and very efficient. Actually, it’s one of the fastest fingerprint scanners I’ve experienced on an Android smartphone after the OnePlus 3/3T and Vivo V5s.
Talking about the display, the Gionee A1 puts on a 5.5-inch Full HD in-cell display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Gionee has done a great job in the display panel. It produces such a vivid picture quality and crisp output that is only found in AMOLED panels. Additionally, the display also gets 2.5D curved glass on top further making the experience even more smooth. Beneath the display, there sit two capacitive buttons with a physical home button in the middle. The action of buttons can also be interchanged as it suits you. Most of the Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi, don’t allow swapping the actions of capacitive buttons. And, most of them arrange them in opposite order of what Google Stock UI offers which usually doesn’t suit to purists like me.
Overall, the Gionee A1 gets a decent design and excellent build quality, but it isn’t great. It’s not something which will turn heads when you hold the device in a public place. But, Gionee has done a splendid job in terms of display quality. It offers nice viewing angles, good brightness and most importantly, a stunning picture quality.
The Gionee A1 sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with an aperture size of f/2.0. Accompanying the camera, there also sits dual tone LED flash. The default camera app offers different modes such as Night Mode, Slo-Mo recording, Beauty mode, and also a Pro mode which lets you manually adjust the White Balance, ISO, Exposure, Saturation, and Contrast.
In outdoor photography, the images turns out to be really good and offers optimum saturation. The picture quality was up to the mark, and the phone’s display is just icing on the cake. The images were sharp and there’s no noticeable noise.
Images in low-light conditions, however, were found to be little grainy but that won’t be troublesome for a normal user. The default camera app is user-friendly and is also quick with focusing on subjects in outdoor conditions.
Coming to the real USP of the device – the 16-megapixel selfie camera with front flash. It captures pretty good selfies and the LED flash does helps in low-light conditions. Gionee has also included a “Group Selfie” mode which allows you to take selfies in panoramic style.
There’s a Beautify mode’ to capture a more glamorous version of yourself. Gionee has also added a software backed ‘Bokeh Effect’ with the latest update which we found more of a marketing gimmick rather than a real feature. Overall, we have nothing to complain here and it completely justifies the tag of a selfie phone.
Software & Performance:
The Gionee A1 is powered by MediaTek Helio P10 chipset and gets 4GB of RAM for multitasking. The Helio P10 chipset grinds whatever you throw at it with perfect smoothness and does a decent job. Gionee has also done a commendable job at RAM management. The app loading time as well as switching between multiple apps is fluid and frictionless. We didn’t came across any lag even while playing graphic intensive game (such as Asphalt 8). The app loading time for games, however, could have been better. Still, we’re not complaining about it considering the overall performance and the budget. Only one thing which needs complaining is the heat efficiency of the device. The Gionee A1 does get warm, even making it little uncomfortable to hold, especially while playing games.
Overall, the Gionee does an excellent job in terms of performance and completely outstand its competitors.
Coming to the software part, the Gionee A1 runs the Amigo OS built on top of Android Nougat. To be frank, if it weren’t for Amigo OS, the Gionee A1 could have been the perfect device at this price point. But hey! Welcome to the real world where nothing is perfect. So let me repeat, Amigo OS is a big turn off. It comes with a lot of bloatware, doesn’t even let you uninstall them, and throws useless features like Mood Wallpaper, which again, you can’t disable. The Mood Wallpaper app automatically shows you wallpapers on the lock screen and guess what? There’s no way you can disable them.
The phone also supports split-screen feature letting you use two different apps side-by-side. Although it is claimed to ramp up your productivity, I personally don’t buy it. First of all, only handful of apps support split-screen and the feature is not polished yet. Just popping up the keyboard takes all the space and ruins the complete experience.
Just like Cool UI and Funtouch OS, the Amigo OS also offers the control centre which pops up from the bottom of display. It gets a bit awkward for someone who has never used an iPhone or a Vivo/Oppo device (with iOS “inspired” UI). We also came across a bug which doesn’t let the control centre pop up while the keyboard is in use.
Gionee A1 is more than just a selfie phone. It offers a great battery life, stunning performance, and sturdy build quality. At a price of Rs 19,999, it sits right in the vacuum, far away from the cut-throat competition of sub 10k and sub 30k segment. Another major competitor under sub 20k segment, the Vivo V5s doesn’t even stand a chance against it. The Gionee A1 beats the Vivo V5s (review) in all aspects, including selfies. Answering the question I asked earlier whether the phone is just about selfies or offers anything else than that. Well, it’s a complete package.
If you’re looking for a good phone under 20k segment, Gionee is not only good, but the only choice you got there. Especially, if you’re someone who loves to travel (like me) and looking for a phone with good camera, exceptional performance, and superb battery life, look no further.