For the last one month, I’ve been using a smartphone from a brand that may not be so familiar to Kenyans, Gionee. Gionee, the makers of the P5W I have been using is big elsewhere but has the newbie tag locally.
Most of the time, the only way to evaluate the value one gets from a sub-Kshs 10,000 device like the P5W is by looking at what it lacks since corners are always cut to keep the price low. For the Gionee P5W, I was forced to look at what it has because a serious effort to stand out has been made.
This can be visibly seen on the display. Until recently when we had the Cubot Note S in for review, I was yet to encounter a HD display on such a budget device. The 5-inch IPS display really pops. It’s vibrant and makes text look crispy than you would expect. Like any device at its price, though, the Gionee P5W’s display succumbs to too much light outdoors.
The device’s biggest play is not on the hardware, though. It’s in the software department. Android 5.1 Lollipop, which the device runs, has been extensively customized to bring on board an iPhone look and feel through what Gionee calls the Amigo UI. Normally, this is the kind of stuff I would frown at. In the case of the Gionee P5W, I’m actually a fan of the customizations. Granted they go overboard and strain the device’s meagre memory, they also do add some value to the end user.
This can be in the wide assortment of catchy and colourful wallpapers in the bundled Mood Wallpaper app or the several themes available in the Theme Park which let one completely transform the device’s interface at the click of a button. I’m known for sticking with just one wallpaper over several years (even though I share quite a tonne in our Techweez forums) but I couldn’t resist a theme built around a catchy Kungu Fu Panda photo complete with similar accompanying icons.
While still on the looks, the iOS-inspiration can be seen not just in the icon packs and the lack of an app drawer but also in the quick settings which have been separated from the usual notification dropdown. Like in an iPhone, the quick settings can be accessed from a simple swipe from the bottom of the screen.
I found the concept of ‘Super screenshots’ fascinating and quite useful and I actually wish it was there on every other smartphone I use. For some context, it was one of the software features I highlighted when reviewing the Galaxy Note 5 – a device that goes for 8 times the price of the P5W – last year. I equally liked the ‘Fake call’ feature that allows one to simulate, as the name insinuates, a fake call. I’m imagining instances where I’m stuck in a boring conversation and I don’t have an excuse to end things. Perfect! All from the “iPhone-y” quick settings.
One of the phone’s most hyped up features, the face unlock, is nothing unique. Just your standard Android face unlock mechanism made a bit easy.
The Gionee P5W being my first encounter with the Gionee brand (other than seeing some giant billboards in Shenzhen, China) also introduced me to things we don’t get to see often or mostly take for granted. Like a wallpaper builder. Yes, there’s such a thing thanks to the Chameleon app pre-installed on the Gionee P5W.
There are some unnecessary add-ons too, like the constantly nagging G Store that seeks to compete with Google’s Play Store for a user’s attention when it comes to where they get their apps. I prefer the Play Store, period. Anything else is an exercise in futility and I believe such, while important for Gionee, don’t add much value to the user. For a budget device like the P5W where space is very important, they could be done away with.
The capacitive buttons at the lower end of the display on the front not having a backlight is another issue. They make usability at night a tad too difficult. As much as you will get used to them with time and this will stop being an issue, I would still have preferred ones with a backlight.
The device’s back cover, though a haven for fingerprints, is actually a nice touch. It slightly curves inwards to make it easier to hold since the back cover of the model I had in for review was the glossy slippery type.
For entry-level devices like the Gionee P5W, the camera is meant to be just another addition and not something you fawn over or expect much from. However, that is not really the case. True to form, the camera won’t blow you away but it won’t disappoint either as long as your expectations are realistic for the device’s profile. Good lighting is a must whether you are taking selfies or trying to capture scenery else forget that you had a camera on your device in the first place.
When you get a device like the P5W with a packaging that states that it packs a 2,000mAh battery what do you expect? In my case, it was a battery that won’t last past mid-day since I am a heavy user. Long story short, I needed to plug in the device by 2PM after having left the house early in the morning with a fully charged device after some considerable use – emails, social media and one or two calls and texts. The battery drain is not as high as I’d previously imagined and one can easily last an entire working day on a single charge.
The only problem? When I took the Cubot Note S for a spin back in January, I got the best battery life ever on a sub-Kshs 10,000 device. In fact, bar the Infinix Note series, I don’t know of any other budget smartphone that can beat the Cubot Note S as far as battery life goes. Yes, even that Snokor Z5000 that really wowed me last year with its good battery life only for me to find out later that it doesn’t age gracefully and things start falling apart soon after. I’ve not tried out Tecno’s L8 Plus so that’s that. And the Note S costs just as much as the P5W does.
Budget means that you have to cross your fingers for anything outside the usual stuff. That is the case for things like 4G network capability. The Gionee P5W is a 3G-only device.
In between trying to present a sensible low-cost Android smartphone while still not compromising much, Gionee managed to add some little novelties like ‘smart’ gestures (double tap to wake, periodic vibration to remind user of unread notifications) and app permissions, which as you would know, are a preserve of the Android 6.0 Marshmallow the device doesn’t run (and is unlikely ever to).
For voice calls, the person on the other end of the line almost always sounded weak even though I did not experience any distortion. The sound and audio is exactly what you’d expect from a device of the P5W’s stature.
Gionee P5W specifications
|Display||5-inch HD (720 x 1280 pixels) IPS|
|Processor||MediaTek MT6580 chip clocked at 1.3GHz|
|Memory||1GB RAM; 16GB internal storage (expandable via microSD)|
|Camera||5MP rear with LED flash and auto-focus; 2MP front|
|Operating System||Android 5.1 Lollipop with Amigo 3.1 UI|
|Connectivity||microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
|Other||Dual SIM, FM radio|
Kshs 9,000, the Gionee P5W’s price on e-commerce site Kilimall and in select shops, gets you a device with an array of colourful interchangeable back covers, dual-SIM slots, a good display and a device that manages to stay out of the smartphone fitness challenge (you’d understand this if you held up the Cubot Note S – it’s unnecessarily heavy/fat). In order to get the most out of it, though, you’ll be wise to not carry over your entire collection of apps amassed over the years. Which is why it is an entry-level device. The user in mind is just getting the hang of this smartphone thing and they won’t be loading so much at a go to overwhelm the device’s modest internals.