Gionee is trying to set itself apart from low-cost Indian smartphone
companies, it's doing a good job. While dozens of brands with little to
no name value are busy fighting it out in the sub-Rs. 15,000 segment,
Gionee has dared to try selling a phone priced above Rs. 25,000. Our
market generally has a low opinion of Chinese products, even though it's
well known by now that nearly all Indian smartphone companies source
their devices wholesale from China. Despite this (or perhaps because of
this), Gionee seems to be trying to position itself above our local
The new Elife E7 uses surprisingly powerful components and
delivers performance scores which rival those of products priced
significantly higher. In fact, it's probably the cheapest device
available with a Snapdragon 800 SoC and full-HD screen. It's exactly the
kind of product that will give Gionee some real legitimacy and brand
power, if it works as it should. We're going to see if Gionee has cut
any corners in order to achieve this kind of low price, and whether your
buying decision should be influenced by the name on the box.
Look and feel
E7 isn't bad looking at all, even if it does remind us a little bit of
some of Nokia's more recent designs. The body is a single block of
plastic, which in our case was a very glossy black. The plastic has an
interesting granite texture, but the surface is totally flat and is
almost too smooth to get a grip on.
The front panel is predictably
bare, and thankfully free of ugly branding. The capacitive buttons
below the screen are completely invisible when not illuminated, which is
a tiny bit of a problem for usability. Above the screen, you'll see
only a small earpiece and front camera lens. The notification LED and
sensors are well hidden.
The E7's body bulges out a little at the
back, and the camera lens protrudes even more. The two sides are
completely flat, while the top and bottom are curved. The unibody
construction is excellent, and we had no problem at all with the fit and
finish of this phone. There's only one ugly part of the design: all the
mandatory regulatory information such as IMEI number is printed on a
sticker on the lower back of the phone. We didn't try peeling off the
one on our test unit, but we hope it comes off easily so that users can
really show off the E7's smooth body.
Gionee has bucked at least
one current design trend, and so the power button is in its traditional
place on the top panel rather than on the right, which seems to be
popular on large phones today. You can use the volume down button to
wake the phone from standby, which is a welcome compromise. Everything
else is fairly standard: there's a volume rocker on the right edge,
headset jack on top, USB port on the bottom, and SIM card tray on the
left. The tray sits perfectly flush with the E7's body, and you'll need a
pin to eject it.
Features and software
The Gionee Elife E7
has pretty much every major box checked when it comes to current top-end
must-have features. The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, running
at up to 2.2GHz. Our test unit came with 16GB of built-in storage space
and 2GB of RAM, but there's also another variant with 32GB of storage
and 3GB of RAM. Considering the relatively small price difference
between the two, and the fact that this phone doesn't have a microSD
slot for additional space, we really can't see any reason to choose the
16GB variant over the 32GB one.
The screen is crisp and bright,
thanks to the full-HD resolution at 5.5 inches. It is highly reflective
and gets washed out a bit in sunlight unless you really raise the
brightness level. Wireless is covered with Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi and
GPS. The battery weighs in at a hefty 2,500mAh.
The E7 is a
single-SIM phone with 3G but not LTE support. That and the lack of
expandable storage are the only things missing from the feature list,
but considering the state of LTE in India, the 32GB variant is still
highly competitive with other manufacturers' top offerings.
positive impressions of the E7's hardware are unfortunately diluted by
its lacklustre software. The E7 runs Android 4.2.2, which by anyone's
standard is behind the times. Gionee has evidently spent a lot of time
and effort in customising the interface, but absolutely none of it is an
improvement over stock Android. For starters, there are no home
screens: you are taken directly into the app grid from the lock screen.
This means that widgets are completely unavailable, except for a weather
readout that stays permanently attached to the top of the screen.
the lock screen, you can swipe left to show shortcuts to the camera,
voice recorder, torch and "FakeCall" apps, which are all pretty handy.
Tapping the FakeCall icon makes your phone ring after 15 seconds, with a
totally genuine-looking caller ID screen (which shows a name you can
set in advance). If you pick up this fake call, there's even a
prerecorded woman's voice saying "Hi, can you send me the file as soon
as possible, please".
Swiping up instead unlocks the phone, and
the icon grid just slides into view. There's a lot of wasted space, and
between the weather widget on top and dock on the bottom, there's only
space for 12 icons. The dock isn't visually distinct, so it's odd to see
those four icons stay put while the rest slide around when you scroll
between pages. You can also swipe down from any point on the icon grid
to lock the phone again.
Gionee's personal touches extend to the
quick settings panel in the notifications tray, which shows 15 icons
that you can choose and reorder. The main settings app is oddly
subdivided into two sections, Common Settings and All Settings, which
seems a bit redundant. The Common settings are duplicates of entries in
All Settings, of which most are the top anyway. There's also no way to
search for apps or settings, and no quick access Google web search.
a few apps are included, though few are genuinely useful. UC Browser is
the default web browser, replacing Android's default option. Charm Cam
offers a number of filters and effects which aren't of very high
quality, but are fun enough to use. GioneeXender lets you create Wi-Fi
mesh networks to exchange files between devices. NQ security claims to
optimise your device, scan news apps and downloads, hide files and call
records from spying eyes, and back up contacts.
Kingsoft Office is
a fairly capable app for viewing, sharing and creating documents in the
popular MS Office formats. WeChat, BBM, Facebook and Twitter are
preloaded for your various social needs, as are six rather low-quality
games. Many of the apps have poorly translated English labels and
options, especially a trio of utilities called Phone Accelerator, Power
Manager and Traffic Assistant.
Overall, the E7's menu feels cluttered, and we would have liked to have been able to get rid of some of these apps. At least there are plenty of launchers in the Google Play store to replace Gionee's awful skin with.
from the design and specifications, Gionee is also touting the E7's
16-megapixel camera. Gionee has used a sapphire lens; a feature Apple
popularised a year or two ago. In actual use, we were blown away by the
camera's quality. The photos it takes are truly outstanding, in a
variety of situations and lighting conditions. Photos are richly
detailed and accurate, with minimal noise. The camera also does an
excellent job of detecting focus, and you can take beautiful close-ups
with blurred backgrounds with no more effort than it takes to tap the
screen once. We did find in some situations that the HDR mode resulted
in overexposed images and exaggerated colours.
was much the same, with great quality and the ability to dramatically
shift focus with a tap anywhere on screen. The E7 defaults to 720p,
though 1080p is available in the settings menu. There's also an
anti-shake option, though Gionee hasn't mentioned what kind of image
stabilisation is at play. You can only zoom in and out by pinching with
two fingers on screen, so that's bound to make the phone shake.
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front camera is also pretty impressive, though you don't get the same
sort of deep focus ability, and video recording tops out at 720p. 8
megapixels is far better than most cameras offer on their front cameras,
so those who love taking selfies will be more than happy.
default camera app has a pretty basic set of features, so you might want
to try third-party alternatives which will let you get even more out of
the excellent optics. Apart from a creative options panel, there isn't
much you can do in terms of manually adjusting settings. The bundled
CharmCam app offers a few filters and special effects, but nothing
really worth getting excited over.
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seem to be much the Gionee Elife E7 cannot do. It blew through all our
benchmark tests, with performance only slightly trailing that of the
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. Both phones share roughly the same
specifications, but the Z1 Compact's lower-res screen is easier to
We managed to achieve 22.8fps in GFXbench, and 3Dmark
reported "Maxed out", the highest possible score in both, the regular
and Extreme Ice Storm scenarios. You'll be comfortable playing most of
today's most immersive graphics-heavy games, not just the simple puzzles
and runners that others with lesser phones are restricted to.
came in with an impressive 33,686 points, while Quadrant returned
SunSpider and Kraken, reported poor scores. We can't pinpoint a single
reason for this, due to the variable nature of testing conditions and
the fact that the E7's default browser is UC Browser.
we had no problem whatsoever playing HD videos. Audio quality was
decent, but the built-in speaker is not especially loud or clear. The
custom Music app offers a DTS effects panel and you can tweak parameters
such as 3D effect, Focus, Clarity and Space Reverberation individually,
or just choose from five presets. You'll need really good earphones to
really feel any difference these settings might make.
impressive aspect of the E7's performance was its battery life. We
managed to eke out just over nine hours' worth of movie playback time in
our loop test. Gionee doesn't seem to have done a good job calibrating
the battery, since it reported its remaining capacity as 1 percent for an
extraordinarily long time, which meant at least in our case that the
phone lasted much longer than it projected it would.
a lot to like about the Gionee E7. It has a fantastic camera, great
screen, top-end performance, and a battery that didn't let us down. The
price is also quite unbelievably low - so low, in fact, that we have no
problem recommending the more powerful 32GB variant over the base 16GB
Gionee is also quite aggressive about its plans for India,
and that includes a huge network of service centres, eventually. So what
it comes down to, finally, is the name. Gionee isn't anywhere near as
well established as Samsung, Sony, Nokia or LG, so spending nearly Rs.
30,000 will feel like a bit of a risk even if the value proposition is
If you're in two minds about trusting an unknown
manufacturer, there's always the Samsung Galaxy S4, which has now fallen
in price, and the Google Nexus 5, which comes with stock Android 4.4.
It's also quite likely that last year's other flagships, such as the HTC
One, will also drop to this price level soon. The S4 offers expandable
storage and the Nexus has far better software, but the Gionee Elife E7 is
still a better rounded package.
We hope that Gionee does build a
strong sales and service network in India. The E7 is fantastic value for
money now, and sets the stage for more premium offerings in the future.
Gionee Elife E7 in pictures