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Why Gionee S11 Lite is not as exciting as it looks

The phone has its drawbacks that spoil the fun.

 |  7-minute read |   17-05-2018
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Gionee, for long, has been attempting to gain a serious foothold in India. However, unlike China, where it is one of the major players in the smartphone market, and even has the strength of Apple in terms of sales, India has proven to be a tough cookie for the company to crack. 

Increased competition from the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo has pushed the company further to a corner. Yet, it looks like Gionee is not giving up just yet. After a brief hiatus of six months in which it refrained from announcing new phones, a rethink of its India strategy and restructuring of ranks, Gionee has entered the fray again with plans to scale up operations in India — and increase its presence in the world's fastest growing smartphone market. 

The company, over the next few months, plans to introduce a number of smartphones in the market, and as per certain reports, invest more than Rs 500 crore to become one of the top five smartphone brands in India. 

To this effect, Gionee recently launched two new smartphones, the F205 and S11 Lite, at an event in Delhi on April 26. Though the former is priced at Rs 8,999 and will look to target users in the sub-10k segment of the market, it's the latter at Rs 13,999 that is the more interesting of the two as it will go up against the likes of Redmi Note 5 in the crucial sub 15k budget segment of the market.

The S11 Lite is an interesting device, one that brings with it a premium design, and internals to impress. Yet, the phone has its drawbacks that do spoil the fun. 

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Design and display

With the S11 Lite, Gionee has tried to go big on design. Though the company has talked up the "selfie game" of the device, it's the S11 Lite's overall looks that stand out. To its credit, the phone is ergonomically designed and for most users will fit just fine in their hands.

Curved on the sides using 2.5D glass, the phone is primed for one-handed use. Being 7.95mm thick and weighing 135.6g in total, it's also easy to carry around. 

At the front, the phone is equipped with a 5.70-inch 18:9 Full View Display, which the company claims makes "dealing with the phone more interactive". The display also gives the device an edge-to-edge look which, combined with the high screen to bezel ratio of 82.2 per cent, enhances the multimedia experience on the phone.

However, a major drawback that makes the display frustratingly ill-suited to consume multimedia content on, is Gionee's perplexing decision to equip this phone with a 720p display. Placed in a market segment where 1080p displays are the norm, the display thus ends up being a great disadvantage to the phone. 

But, the low resolution aside, the display is plenty bright and unless put under direct sunlight, it impresses with its vibrant and punchy colour reproduction. The viewing angles on the phone are also good and if you aren't overly concerned about the on-paper specs, the display should not pose a great problem. 

At the back, the phone is designed to look absolutely premium. With a back cover that reflects light from different angles, the phone borrows from the book of the HTC U11 and Huawei P20 — and when looked at from a distance, even manages to give off the impression of a premium glass back device. However, once you hold the S11 Lite in your hands, the illusion is quickly broken as it becomes more than obvious that the phone uses plastic to cover its back.

In a segment where competition such as the Redmi Note 5, Moto G5 Plus and Asus Zenfone Max Pro 1 come with solid metal bodies, the S11 Lite's fragile plastic body could be an issue for some. 

But while this textured plastic back makes the phone seem fragile, on the flip side it makes it extremely light.

This will definitely appeal to those looking for a phone that does not feel like a brick in one's hands. Additionally, the use of plastic at the back also helps the phone manage heating issues. Unlike phones that use metal at the back, the S11 should not become uncomfortable to use even when it starts to overheat or is exposed to sunlight for a while. 

Another issue with the phone's glossy back is that it is a fingerprint magnet. Within seconds of using the phone, I could see smudges taking over the phone's back. 

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Specifications and performance

In terms of paper specs, Gionee S11 Lite is no pushover. The phone comes with 4GB RAM and is powered by 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC. It packs 64GB storage that can be expanded by using a MicroSD card. 

To be honest, the RAM and storage on the phone are quite respectable for a sub 15k phone in 2018. However, the same cannot be said about the 430 SoC powering the device. Though no slouch in its own right, this octa-core processor that features an Adreno 505 graphics processor promises only decent performance and is nothing to brag about.

In our time with the phone, the device handled basic tasks fine, but when put under stress, with too many apps running in the background, it did tend to lag a little. Though not always, switching between applications was also choppy at times.

Considering the device comes with ample RAM and a decent processor, the only possible reason behind this less than satisfactory performance is very likely Gionee's bloatware-ridden skin, Amigo 5.0, baked on top of Android 7.1 that the phone comes with, out of the box.

However, that's not to say its a complete flop. Its skin comes with some nifty features such as Auto-scene, Group-Selfie, Face Unlock, Split Screen a MIUI-like second space which the company calls "Private space 2.0". With this, users can essentially make a secondary profile, which can be used for storing contacts, messages, making calls, saving photos, files, and installing applications without any trace on the main profile. 

But the sneaky doesn't end there. At the launch event, Gionee also revealed that users can also make another private space within the original Private space, thus essentially giving a user the ability to create three separate user profiles within one phone. 

Apart from this, Amigo OS also affords users the ability to encrypt individual applications to keep the data within them secure. There is also a fingerprint scanner on the phone which performed well. 

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Camera

With the S11 Lite, Gionee has attempted to create a phone that impresses every time it clicks a picture. Has it managed to do so? Well, not entirely. This comes with a 16-megapixel selfie camera while at the back, the phone has been equipped with a dual camera set-up – 13-megapixel + 2-megapixel.

Overall, for the price point, the phone manages to impress and click some good pictures. However, one common problem is despite the decent number of megapixels on the setups, the processed photos lack in detail. As soon as the cameras are tested in low light, they start to disappoint. 

The front camera, however, performs slightly better, with the addition of the Bokeh, Panorama and face beauty features. 

Battery

In terms of the battery, the phone does impress. Equipped with a 3030mAh battery, the phone provides above-average performance. A single charge easily got me through the whole day, and then some more, while even heavy multimedia consumption did not see the phone lose all its charge during the day. 

The battery life was comparable to phones like the Redmi Note 5, which, to be honest, promise great battery life. 

This long-lasting battery performance is also down to the fact that the S11 Lite comes with a 720p display instead of 1080p one on competing phones. The phone comes highly recommended for those looking for a device that can keep going on a single charge. 

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Is it worth buying?

Not really. 

The only thing about the phone that truly justifies the price the smartphone maker is asking for is the premium design of the S11 Lite. There is no denying that within this price segment, the phone is arguably one of the better-looking devices out there. But that's just about it. 

Apart from its design, the Gionee S11 Lite falls short of the competition on most counts. But that's not entirely because it's a bad phone, but rather because the competition is just that strong in the segment. 

In isolation, it is a good enough phone that can get your job done, but its cameras and low-resolution display keep the S11 Lite from truly excelling.

Also read: Karnataka election results reflect failure of Congress and triumph of Modi magic

Writer

Sushant Talwar Sushant Talwar @sushanttalwar

Tech journalist, DailyO

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