It might not have made the sort of dramatic headlines that the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus have, but Chinese manufacturer Gionee has been chipping away steadily at the Indian market for a few years now. But the past few months have seen a gentle shift in the brand’s strategy. After attempting to go toe to toe against the other Android flagships with the likes of the Elife E6 and E7, the brand has of late switched to surfing the selfie wave a la its fellow Chinese brethren, Vivo and Oppo. And the A1, its recently revealed flagship, is its latest attempt to cash in on the “go shoot yourself” trend that is prevailing in camera photography these days.
Mind you, there is a fair bit to like about the Gionee A1. For one, like many Gionee phones, it cuts a smart figure, if cut from the same design cloth that is used for HTC devices and the OnePlus 3T. No, it is not the lightest phone at 182 grammes (it is a tad lighter than the distinctly heavy iPhone 7 Plus) or the slimmest at 8.5 mm, but it looks good with its very curve-y sides and jet black front, which is all about the 5.5-inch full HD display, below which lies a fingerprint scanner, which is also a clickable home button. Rather interestingly, there are capacitive touch buttons for back and multi-tasking right next to this, but Gionee has not kept them backlight and they are not visible at all. We were surprised to discover them.
But while the front might be dominated by the 5.5-inch 2.5 D display (Gorilla Glass 3), the real star of the phone resides just above it, next to the earpiece – the 16.0-megapixel front-facing selfie camera, along with a flash that Gionee claims have been designed to capture complexions and expressions better. There are also a stack of shooting options for selfie lovers. The selfie camera pretty much overshadows the rear camera which is a 13.0-megapixel affair and is accompanied by a dual LED flash, but knowing Gionee’s reputation for good shooters (hey, celebrated photographer Raghu Rai endorsed a Gionee once), we reckon it will not be a mug either.
The phone is a good blend of metal and steel, and the display seems bright and colorful, although with rather clear bezels. The back is Silver Grey with the camera protruding slightly and the Gionee logo below it, which we suspect many will mistake for a fingerprint scanner because of its circular shape and location. There are two shiny antenna bands on the top and lower portions of the rear. The volume rocker and display and power on/off buttons are on the right, while the dual SIM card tray (one of the two slots is a hybrid SIM slot and can also take a microSD card). The phone has a microUSB port on its base flanked by speaker grilles, and there are many who will be relieved to see a 3.5 mm audio jack on the top of the phone – Gionee is not going the “no audio jack” path yet.
The phone feels good to hold if a little slippery because of the smooth, curved sides (it has a distinctly iPhone-ish look from the sides to an extent, which is not a bad thing at all. Gionee says that the phone is made of aircraft grade material and it certainly has a solid feel to it.
In the hardware department, the phone comes with a full HD 5.5-inch display and is powered by a MediaTek Helio P10 octa-core processor, with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage, which can be expanded by 128 GB if one is willing to give up one of the SIM card slots. The choice of processor might annoy some in the geek squad given the fact that one can get Snapdragon 820 chips at relatively affordable prices, but we are not prejudging the P10 as of now. Connectivity options include 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. And yes, there is that 16.0-megapixel front facing camera and 13.0-megapixel rear camera, both with F/2.0 apertures. Making sure all this keeps ticking for a while is a 4010 mAh battery (part of the reason for the phone’s weight, we suspect), which Gionee claims comes with “ultrafast charging” allowing users to get two hours of talk time from about five minutes of charging (we don’t think Dash Charge is worried, but this is still pretty impressive).
It looks handsome enough and has decent hardware, but with its price rather surprisingly not having been disclosed at the launch, we really have no idea where the A1 is looking to slot itself. Rumor has it that the phone will be priced in the vicinity of Rs 20,000 (just a rumor, we must add!), and in that case it will find itself going up against other selfie warriors from OPPO and Vivo, and also the geek squad favorites from Moto, Lenovo, Xiaomi and of course, OnePlus.
It has the looks. And definitely seems to promise some selfie super power. But what the A1 right now needs is a price.
We are waiting, Gionee.