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Smartphones

Review: smartphone with four cameras, the Gionee S10 takes well-lit photos and has excellent battery life, but is nothing special

A solid performer with a heavily skinned version of Android, this Chinese-made handset is marketed for the quality of its photo effects, but they’re a letdown - leaving you a mid-tier phone with no standout attributes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 July, 2017, 7:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 July, 2017, 7:17am

As if having a 20-megapixel front camera in its A1 Plus smartphone wasn’t far enough over the top, Gionee is doubling down on the idea (of vanity) with this its new handset, the S10, which has two high-resolution selfie cameras.

Gionee is billing this as the world’s first four-camera smartphone (there are two on the back as well). Aside from the fact that Alcatel and another Chinese manufacturer, Oukitel, beat Gionee to the punch with the launch of four-camera smartphones this spring, do we really need a phone with this many cameras?

Design and hardware

The Gionee S10 is a well-built metal unibody phone with a 20-megapixel camera on the front and a 16-megapixel shooter on the back, and both are flanked by a secondary, 8-megapixel lens that does two jobs: soak up more lighting so photos can appear brighter, and decipher the distance between subject and background in order to produce “bokeh” effect shots (both tricks were pioneered by Huawei with its P9 smartphone, a few months before the iPhone 7 Plus hit the market).

We get hands-on with new smartphones that beautify your selfies, from Chinese firm Gionee

It runs on MediaTek’s 6757 processor with 6GB of RAM, the set-up of choice for less well-heeled Chinese phone companies that can’t build their own SoC (system-on-a-chip) like Huawei or afford Qualcomm’s expensive licence fee for the Snapdragon chip.

I’ve tested several mid-tier Chinese phones with this MediaTek/6GB RAM set-up and in short, the performance is solid but not spectacular.

Software and features

The S10 runs on Gionee’s AmigoOS, a heavily skinned version of Android (7.0 here) with all the classic Chinese software quirks that drive tech-savvy power users crazy. For example, there’s no app tray, so all your apps must go on the home screen like an iPhone.

Swiping down from the home screen brings up a redundant search bar (why would you need to search if all your apps are stuck on the home screen?) instead of the notification shade, and the aggressive battery optimisation will leave your push notifications broken. In all, this is not a pleasant software experience. But the beauty of Android is that you can always install a custom launcher and make the OS feel more like stock Android.

Performance and battery life

Gionee was really keen to play up the S10’s bokeh prowess with the four cameras, but I’m disappointed with the hit-or-miss results, most of which were misses.

Supposedly, Gionee wrote and developed its own ISP (image signal processor) so the phone can produce “real” bokeh effects, in real time, but the depth-of-field blur produced is often unrealistic, blurring parts of the subject’s head.

In the photo below, notice the S10 erroneously blurred part of the flower in the foreground, when the blur should only be in the background. Bokeh selfies taken with the two front cameras also tend to come out looking very artificial.

If you ignore the gimmick bokeh mode and shoot normally, the S10’s cameras fare better, producing rich colours with good contrast.

Apart from the camera, the S10 performs fine, with excellent battery life – lasting close to two full days on a full charge.

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Conclusion

The Gionee S10 is not a bad phone. The 5.5-inch display is vibrant, and the build quality feels premium – but you can say that about every phone these days, even the budget ones. When taking into account all the options out there, it’s hard to recommend the S10 as it doesn’t excel in any single one area, not least the feature its designers are most proud of.

Specifications

Dimensions: 155mm x 76.8mm x 7.4mm

Weight:178g

Display: 5.5-inch 1080P LCD

Battery: 3,450mAh

OS version reviewed: Android 7.0

Processor: Mediatek MT6757T Helio P25

Cameras: dual 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel (rear); dual 20-megapixel and 8-megapixel (front)

Memory: 64GB, 6GB RAM

Price: HK$2,999