Size does matter!

  • Gionee has improved on its A1 phone with the A1 Plus, by making the rear camera a dual lens system and blowing up the screen size

In the minds of many Indian smart phone users the brand Gionee is synonymous with selfies. Indeed the Chinese company that now manufactures its handsets for the Indian market at facilities within the country, has cultivated this image by coining words like Selfiestan. 

A few weeks ago, it launched the A1Plus—an improvement on the earlier A1 in a couple of ways:

One is the screen which is  6 inches rather than 5.5 inches. The second is camera. While it beefs up its selfie-friendly front camera from 16 MP to 30 MP with flash, the A1 Plus doubles the photographic muscle on the rear, with twin cameras—13 MP plus 5 MP which combine to provide professional quality portraits including background blurring effects like Bokeh.

In most other respects the new phone  is similar to the A1—with marginal improvements. The battery is even bigger at 4550 mAh which also fully charges within 90 minutes thanks to an ultra fast charging technology. The screen is full HD, that is 1920 by 1080 pixels. This is important since at 6 inches the phone will likely be used extensively for viewing video and movies or playing games. The Maxx Audio stereo speakers are quite loud and you can watch films without using earphones (if you are in an environment where it is OK to do that)!

From what I remember of the A1, the selfie camera in the new phone, seems to be very much more versatile and possibly thanks to the 20 MP lens, any narcissistic images you click will be  far better than before. Gionee has always thrown in some very cool software tools to make you look better than God and nature made you: The Face Beauty tool for example has 4 options which make your face smoother, whiter, slimmer and enhance the eyes. Cannily selected for Indians' idea of beauty, no doubt!

The memory remains the same—4GB RAM and 64 GB storage that expands with another 256 GB max if you insert a microSD card. If you do so, you can use only one micro SIM. Without an SD card you can use one micro SIM and one Nano SIM. The phone is compatible for the latest 4G VoLTE networks. The OS is the latest Android 7.0 Nougat , but Gionee has subtly overlaid its own user interface—Amigo 4. Whether this is an aid or a hindrance is a matter of personal taste. I was impressed by Gionee's genuine efforts to Indianize the phone with pre installed apps and shortcuts to Saavn music site, UC Browser, Indian Amazon, TrueCaller etc. 

The phone comes with a finger print sensor to lock it and the scanner is conveniently situated on the front face of the phone —in fact the physical scan pad doubles as the home button. Gionee has generally put its faith on MediaTek for its primary processor and here too, it has gone for a MediaTek Helio octa core working at 2.65 GHz— good enough to drive the heavy graphics that users of this device can be expected to play. 

In keeping with the government mandate, the A1 Plus offers an SOS feature—you have to press the on-off button thrice.  Somehow, I don't think these software-driven panic buttons are what was intended when government ordered them. This is a phone that proudly proclaims: "Made in India", but Gionee has not really added a button, only programmed an existing one. If I am in panic, will I have the time or the mental composure to find and press three times the on-off button  after groping along the side wall of the phone to find it? The button on the front face that works as a finger scanner seems better positioned.

That said the Gionee A1Plus priced Rs 26,999, is a solid combo of features for those who want to use their phone to watch a lot of video and shoot a lot of photos.

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