When a Chinese company enters the other markets, it’s always that Chinese feel for the customers which keep them thinking whether to purchase this device or to still go with a company which already has the trust in the market and it’s not “Chinese”. One of the brands which are making an impact the other way, although being a Chinese one, is Gionee. The Elife E6 was quite good in the market for the performance matching the price, and now the next flagship from the company, the Gionee Elife E7 has it’s own USP which includes the Snapdragon based chipset and a Full HD display, supported by an excellent 16-megapixel camera and all this priced quite low when compared with the devices from the well set brands such as Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3 and the LG G2. Let’s see how this fares in all the aspects.
Design wise, the Elife E7 doesn’t impress much. Why? the back cover gets the beating with the cheap looking polycarbonate with the camera bulge making it look worse. Of course there’s no alternative to that camera bulge but at least the back cover should have been made with something better. The device has got sharp borders and the curves are confined to the top and bottom where it does look neat, and the button placement couldn’t have been better than this (this comes after I checked out the Gionee Elife S5.5 with the buttons on left panel). Overall, it’s all good but the camera hump and the cheap look on the back is what doesn’t impress me on the design aspect.
Interface, OS, Apps and Software
The Amigo 2.0 interface has got some improvements from the previous version, but still it’s not impressive, thanks to the fact that it removes all the feel of Android and the customization. There is no app drawer and the apps are on the home screen, thus you don’t get to use any widgets except for the default weather widget. At one point, I had around 80 apps installed and it was too hard to search for any particular app because there is no way to organize them except in the folders. The lock screen has got the options such as Fake call, camera, torch and voice recording. The FakeCall feature is something new but quite good, introduced in this new UI.
The settings area has got a lot for the users to turn things into something better and the smart gestures are quite good, where even the LG G2’s Knock On feature to “double tap and wake the screen” is available. Some of the pre-installed applications too are quite useful, and there are three apps for personalization and three for the performance –
- Color, Amigo Paper and Theme for the Personalization
- Phone Accelerate, Power Manager and Traffic Assistant for more productivity
Personalization options in Amigo UI:
The Phone accelerate feature is something which would make the phone faster by closing background functions and apps, and freeing the RAM. Power Manager is the app which one can use to save the battery by restricting the functions when the device has low battery percentage left, and the Traffic assistant feature is to turn the Data network connectivity off when the data limit is reached.
Productivity apps in Amigo UI:
The Gallery app is very much upgraded in different ways. Firstly, there is a timeline view where you could see the photos organized under the dates which makes it easier for you to browse through, when the gallery becomes larger. Secondly, there are different views such as Time, People and Story where you can name the faces to showcase the photos in a better way, and also name them as stories – Birthdays, Events etc.
Gionee has stuck to the UC Browser which isn’t the best by any means but there’s always a way to use the alternatives and thus you could download the Google Chrome or Opera Mini based on your requirement. The approach to the UI is pretty simple – to be different from the other brands, and give the users a refreshed feel, packing in the same internals which the high-end devices have got. But that doesn’t impress much because the Amigo UI restricts the users from getting into the personalization. Also, the performance gets a hit because of the Navi launcher used by the Amigo UI, and thus in my case, I use the Go Launcher Ex to make things better and run the phone faster.
Gionee Elife E7 Storage & Settings
Storage wise, the 16GB version gives the users a total of around 11GB, in which 7GB is for the user and the other part is for the system files and apps. You would be quite restricted if choosing the 16GB storage version because if you are downloading a lot of apps or high-end games, the file system would be filled in no time. To add to this, there is no MicroSD card option to expand the storage, thus if you are looking for a long-term use, go for the 32GB version.
There is a lot to play around with, in the Settings section. The smart gestures which can bring the features available on the other high-end devices, like the double tap to wake etc., and a lot more. The Suspend button comes to good use for those who have been using a similar function in the Samsung Galaxy devices, and wanted an option to quickly run to the home screen, open the menu from a tap directly on the screen.
One of the best AnTuTu benchmark score is what the Elife E7 got the early fame for, beating even the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Xiaomi Mi3 and others in the high-end league. With the other benchmarks too, i.e. Quadrant Standard and the Nenamark2 benchmark tests, the device got some excellent scores and that was what gave all the attention to this flagship from Gionee.
Gionee Elife E7 Cameras
The camera is brilliant, to put it in simple words. There was something the Nokia users boasted about – the camera and the settings available for it. Gionee has nearly done the same, with the camera providing some excellent options in the app, and the 16MP shooter does a beautiful job of capturing the photos in bright as well as low-light conditions. The front facing 8-megapixel camera too does a good job in taking selfies, as well as in video calling, but we had our focus on the rear camera – which was good in recording details in every way, and defocusing the background when capturing a particular object, trying to replicate what the DSLR cameras do.
Check out these Gionee Elife E7 camera samples where we detailed about each mode available, the settings you can use to tweak the way a photo can be captured in the device, but more interesting part would be these photos which we took with the Elife E7’s 16MP camera during a recent outing. We took natural shots without any manual setting, so you can guess how better it would be when you change the ISO, WB settings when capturing something.
The best part easily for us in this device is the camera combination – 16MP rear and 8MP front cameras which do a real good job in both the photo and video recording. Though the gallery doesn’t allow you to zoom much into the captured photo, you won’t always flaunt the photos only in the device, but would transfer them to the computer where the actual details in the picture can be seen.
- Battery – Not really a good battery capacity, the 2500 mAh one which isn’t really going well with the poorly-optimized interface. Initially, I found the device to be giving just around 11 hours of usage time with nothing really big being done, but one of the reasons why the battery was draining – Geo-tagging function in the camera was turned on, and although the Camera app wasn’t running, the GPS was trying to locate all the time, and thus the battery drain. On proper optimization, I got around 16 hours on normal usage, including an hour of gaming, around 30 minutes of web browsing using data network and about 50 minutes of full HD video played on full brightness.
- RAM & Performance – I tested the 16GB storage version, which had 2GB RAM and it was able to hold the multitasking really well, and the Phone Accelerate function killed the background apps on timely basis, thus the performance was quite good, but not the best.
- Phone Accelerate feature kills apps – The same Accelerate function was the reason why the push notifications weren’t coming on time due to improper syncing of apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook etc. We tested sending a message to the WhatsApp account in the E7 after the Phone Accelerate feature killed the app in the background, and it was only when we re-opened the app, we got the sent message.
- Call Quality – Very neat. No scratchy sound, and it was very clear on the earpiece from the other end too, and the same was with the earphones.
- Contacts App – The contacts app comes with a lot of options, including using background photo, profile picture, merging accounts, blocking the particular number etc.
- Smart Gestures – The “double tap to wake” feature which is similar to the LG’s Knock On feature, is the only smart function which worked perfectly. The others were working, but not at ease.
- Heating up – When I had placed the case on the device and played high-end game (Fifa 14) for sometime, the back area got heated up quite a lot. It wasn’t the same with the case removed. The device though isn’t able to handle gaming for a long time, as one would be easily worried due to the heat produced.
The Elife E7 is easily a strong contender in the race, in a class where the other brands have pushed the price to quite a lot, but Gionee has given them a run only with the pricing. There are some drawbacks, as listed below, but at the same time, you should not be expecting more than what the smartphone is providing for the given price. The Snapdragon 800 processor was a part of the high end devices such as the LG G2, Sony Xperia Z1 (check the LG G2 vs Xperia Z1 comparison) and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Compare the pricing of these with the E7, the latter is clearly a winner. All these four smartphones have got the customized interfaces, so it should be a matter of choice for the users to select one among them.
What I liked about Elife E7
- 16MP rear camera, options
- Display – brilliant color output
- Pre-loaded Apps for personalization & productivity
- Performance (just a change in UI needed)
- Pricing (compared to the competitors)
What I didn’t like about Elife E7
- Design (the hump on the back, plastic glossy body)
- Battery – should have been optimized for longer life
- Amigo UI (never a fan of this, removes all customization options)
- Heats up on long-usage or high-end gaming
- Internal storage of 16GB, user available only around 11GB and no option to expand the storage