The Gionee A1 Lite lacks personality and poise, but it makes up for that with brute strength and a lot of 'whistles'.
The Gionee A1 Lite is the younger sibling to the regular A1 which launched earlier this year (check for the unboxing and first impressions article on the Pulse Tech page) — both from the stable of Chinese smartphone manufacturer, Gionee.
The headline feature is the A1 Lite’s 20MP front-facing camera but the device as a whole also packs lots of specs in its punch. This is a full review of the Gionee A1 Lite and everything you need to know about it.
Design and build quality
The design of the Gionee A1 Lite is very simple and straight forward. What you see is what you get. Our review unit came in a gold color but that only covers the back of the phone.
The front of the phone has white bezels with the back, home and multi-window buttons at the bottom, and the 20MP front-facing camera — as well as the front flash and sensors — getting their place at the top.
Its build comprises of materials like Aluminum and Glass with build quality that feels much better than what most people are accustomed to from Chinese phone makers.
The A1 Lite has a 5.3-inch 2.5D High-Definition (HD) display made with Gorilla Glass 3. The colors are vibrant and pictures are clear too. For people with aversion to bright light, the screen does tend to over-brighten in automatic settings, so you may want to just choose the brightness level that works for you.
In outside conditions, the display does okay at high brightness levels but no so well at low levels of brightness.
Most flagship smartphones of today usually pack 3,000–3,500mAh of battery power but the A1 Lite takes power a bit further with its 4,000mAh battery pack.
This means it goes a full day and half on a full charge with heavy use. It does have a tendency to heat up over extended periods of use though, almost like it is trying to get you to chill for a second.
It also has a very potent battery saving mode that shuts down all phone processes except things like calls and messages.
From someone who has reviewed a lot of smartphones, the UI of the A1 Lite isn’t one of its strongest points. For the average Nigerian smartphone user, it might not matter.
The A1 Lite runs Gionee’s Amigos 4.0 skin on top of Android 7.0 Nougat and while the fourth iteration of the Amigos OS has been greatly improved (e.g a lot of the grammatical errors from 3.0 in the regular A1 has been fixed), it just doesn’t have that premium touch.
It seems quite cluttered, bland and a bit too playful.
The A1 Lite has 3GB of RAM space to play with so it is not short on performance. Generally, apps and features work smoothly and there is barely any lag even when you play high graphics games — which tend to stretch most devices.
It does tend to slow down much more when it starts to heat up however, and it heats up a lot during heavy use.
More and more devices are coming with bigger storage space and the A1 Lite is not missing out on the action. It comes with 32GB of RAM out-of-the-box with expandable storage capacity of up to 256GB via a microUSD card you can buy separately.
This is the biggest thing the A1 Lite has going for it and I must say, it’s impressive what Gionee has been able to achieve here. Chinese-made phone are no longer what they used to be as the A1 Lite proves.
The 20MP front-facing camera absorbs light like a magnet and low-light pictures are shockingly well-lit and vibrant. One way it does this is by brightening the screen just after you tap the shutter button or hold the fingerprint scanner for two seconds.
Also, the 20MP sensor has a wide aperture and Gionee has made the software much better at stitching together captured images. There’s also a front-facing flash which is almost blindingly bright.
You can tell that Gionee put a lot of work into making this camera what it is.
The rear camera does not have as many bells and whistles but it is still a very good camera. Pictures are well-lit, sharp and if you know what you’re doing you can get some nice bokeh effect on images. You also get features like slow-motion videos, time-lapse, a GIF maker, among others.
All in all, the Gionee A1 Lite camera stands out in both in its category and at its price point.
Standard accessories that come with the Gionee A1 Lite include a USB 3.0 cable, power brick and earphones.
The power brick does not support fast charging (bummer) and the earphones will not blow your mind. They work exactly as advertised — no gimmicks, extras or add-ons.
The A1 Lite does have an IR blaster and a dedicated app that can let you turn the A1 Lite into a remote control with Bluetooth 4.2 capability, dual-sim space, gesture controls (e.g writing “C” on the screen while its off will automatically open the camera), and Fingerprint shutter which allows you to take a picture by holding the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone for about 3 seconds.
Inside the Gionee A1 Lite box you get an extra screen protector, a free case, a SIM tray opener and extra paperwork (warranty, user manual etc).
For a recommended retail price of N70,000, the Gionee A1 Lite is a great buy. It packs high-end specs in a good package and performs like a beast. The A1 Lite also has its great camera system working for it, a huge battery, enough memory to bother an entry-level iPhone 6 and unexpectedly good build quality.
Admittedly, the design is not exciting and the UI is quite pedestrian. Also, the speaker is on the back (which means you have to be prepared for a scratched screen if you ever want to use it), there is no fast charging and it heats up after every few hours of continuous use.
Long story short, what the Gionee A1 Lite lacks in character and imagination, it makes up for in brute force.