Gionee launched its A series in India earlier this year, and the Gionee A1 (Review) was aimed at the youth of the nation. At launch, Gionee stated that devices in this series will focus on better selfies and good battery life. We now see a new model called Gionee A1 Plus. Gionee had announced both the A1 and the A1 Plus at MWC in March earlier this year. While the A1 was quick to launch in India, the A1 Plus arrived only last month.
As its name suggests, the A1 Plus is bigger than the A1. It packs in a bigger battery and sports dual cameras on the back. The internals seem to have gotten a bump as well, but does that make it a winner in its price bracket? Keep reading to find out.
The first thing that struck us about the Gionee A1 Plus was its sheer size. This is a big phone and it feels bulky as well. The 6-inch display means that the A1 Plus is tough to hold in one hand at times. The fingerprint sensor is positioned on the front and is flanked by capacitive touch buttons. You can swap what the capacitive buttons do but they aren’t backlit which make them hard to find in the dark.
This phone tips the scale at 226 grams and is heavier than the much bigger Xiaomi Mi Max 2 (Review). Its weight makes it unsuitable for long calls unless you keep alternating hands. One of the reasons behind the weight is that Gionee has gone with a 4550mAh battery. The back panel is made of metal but the end caps feel plasticky. The rear is a little slippery as well, and given the bulk of this phone, you will need to be a little careful when handling it.
Gionee has got the power button placement spot on but the volume buttons need you to stretch your fingers a little. The dual cameras are in the centre at the back, and there's a diffused LED flash for the front camera too. At the bottom, the Gionee A1 Plus has two grilles out of which only the right one houses a speaker. However, you still get stereo output as Gionee uses the phone's earpiece as a second speaker. There is a Micro-USB port for charging and data, which is a little surprising considering that most devices in this price range now have Type-C ports.
In the box, Gionee ships a plastic screen protector and a clear case for the phone which will save you some time in looking for accessories. You also get in-ear headphones and an 18W charger in the box, along with the SIM ejector tool.
The most striking thing about the Gionee A1 Plus is its 6-inch display, which has a full-HD resolution (1080x1920 pixels). It produces vivid output which you can tweak a little to suit your preferences. While viewing angles are the good, sunlight legibility isn’t all that great. Even with the brightness cranked all the way up, the screen was reflective. The glass does pick up a few smudges here and there but isn’t a fingerprint magnet.
To drive the A1 Plus, Gionee has opted for a MediaTek Helio P25 SoC which is an octa-core processor with four cores clocked at 1.6GHz and the other four at 2.6GHz. There is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage which is expandable to 256GB. However, extra storage comes at the cost of a second SIM as the A1 Plus has a hybrid dual-SIM tray. The first slot can hold a Micro-SIM while the second one requires a Nano-SIM. There is support for 4G and VoLTE.
In terms of software, the Gionee A1 Plus runs Android 7.0 Nougat with the custom Amigo UI on top. This UI ditches the app drawer, and all icons are placed on the homescreens. While notifications are available by swiping down from the top of the screen, quick toggles are moved to an iOS-like panel for which you have to swipe up from the bottom. We found that the Settings app was reorganised, so you might need to search a little for the setting you are looking for. Weirdly it also has a tab called Feature which is a guide of sorts to features on the phone. You will also find controls for various gestures that you can enable or disable if you like.
The phone also come with a couple of preinstalled apps including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Amazon, Saavn, Xender, Truecaller and the Touchpal Keyboard. We found Touchpal Keyboard to be spammy as it would load Web-based games on the phone and then have a floating widget on screen. Peel Remote, a remote app, is a surprising addition as this phone does not have an infrared emitter. Apart from the Google Play Store, Gionee has its own store called G store.which recommends apps to download. Overall, the UI is different and might take some time getting accustomed to.
We ran our usual benchmarks on the A1 Plus. It returned 65,452 in AnTuTu, plus 799 and 3737 in the single- and multi-core tests respectively in Geekbench. Performance is adequate for day-to-day usage and the 4GB of RAM helps when switching between apps. With our usage, we found that we had about 2GB of RAM free on average after a day's worth of use.
The massive 4550mAh battery powers the phone through more than a day with medium use. We found that the battery did drain a little more rapidly than we expected when gaming. In our HD video loop test the phone lasted for 14 hours and 43 minutes. Charging with the supplied 18W charger takes a little over two hours, and the phone does get hot in the process.
Following the trend of dual rear cameras, the Gionee A1 Plus gets a 13-megapixel and a 5-megapixel camera on the rear. The app has different modes to choose from including a professional mode that gives you some control over camera settings. There are multiple filters to choose from as well.
Photos from the Gionee A1 are strictly average. Colour reproduction isn’t very accurate and the phone occasionally gets metering wrong. We also found purple fringing in few photos. Objects at a distance lose quite a lot of detail as well. Photos taken in low light were dark and lacked detail. Switching the camera to night mode helps but at the cost of added noise in the output.
The secondary camera kicks in only in portrait mode where it is used to calculate depth, after which the blur effect is added artificially. Video recording is restricted to 1080p, whereas the similarly priced Moto Z2 Play (Review) is capable of recording in 4K at 30fps.
The front camera has a 20-megapixel sensor and a diffused selfie flash. It takes good photos but they do appear flat. Surprisingly, the app does not have beautification mode, so if you were looking for it, you might be disappointed. On the other hand, you get a few filters that can be applied before taking a selfie.
The Gionee A1 Plus might not be on everyone's shopping lists because of its size. Holding it isn’t very easy and you’ll need big pockets to store it. However, it offers a big battery and decent performance for its asking price. While the UI is usable. it is quite different from the stock Android experience, so purists might not like it. Camera performance is strictly average and the secondary camera is only effective in portrait mode.
If you are specifically looking for a big-screen phone with a big battery, then the A1 Plus makes sense. However, the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 does look like a good alternative because of its significantly lower price. If more moderately sized phones will do, you could choose the Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro (Review) or the Moto Z2 Play which are priced a bit lower, or get the OnePlus 3T (Review) by spending a little more.