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

With their large pixel counts and flashes for both cameras, plus sensors and algorithms that allow you to modify your selfies and portraits before you take them, the A1 and A1 Plus are aiming for the snap-happy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 11:59am

Love them or hate them, selfies have taken over the world. A recent report by Google stated that 24 billion selfies were uploaded to its Google Photos servers in 2016 … a scary number considering that Google can’t even run legally in the world’s most populous country.

It makes sense then, that mobile handset makers are paying more attention to the front-facing camera, especially lesser known brands that need something to appeal to consumers in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung.

Dongguan-based Gionee, China’s sixth largest phone company by market share, is doing just that with its latest phones, the A1 and A1 Plus.

Unveiled on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Gionee’s new line boasts a whopping 20-megapixel selfie lens for the premium A1 Plus model and a 13-megapixel one for the standard version. Both phones come with front-facing flash for selfies in low light situations.

But what if you’re not photogenic? Gionee has that covered too. “Everyone likes to take selfies, but not everyone looks perfect,” said Gionee president William Lu at the launch event, before transitioning to the phones’ other big selling point: its beautifying software.

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Using a combination of hardware sensors and software algorithms, both cameras on the A1/A1 Plus can “beautify” a subject by slimming their face, whitening their skin and enlarging the eyes, among other slightly creepy face modifications. This feature isn’t exclusive to Gionee phones (both Samsung and LG phones offer something similar, and, of course, there is the T8 from beautifying app Meitu), but Gionee’s is the most comprehensive.

Other than the selfie camera and the large battery that’s a staple of Gionee phones (4,010mAh and 4,550 respectively for the A1 and A1 Plus), the two new phones are mostly standard (some might say boring) offerings.

It’s got the same iPhone-lookalike metal build with a serviceable processor (Mediatek Helio P25 on the A1 Plus and P10 on the A1) that we’ve grown accustomed to from Chinese brands not named Huawei or Xiaomi.

The 5.5-inch and 6-inch 1080p display panels here have good colour accuracy and viewing angles, but are not going to turn heads like a curved AMOLED panel from the likes of Vivo or Samsung. The phones run Android 7.0 on Gionee’s heavy skin, dubbed AmigoOS.

Lu said the A1/A1 Plus will be on sale worldwide (at US$349 and US$499), but it’s hard to see the devices gaining much traction in more sophisticated markets like North America or Chinese product-averse Hong Kong.

However, Gionee phones have fans in China and developing markets like India and Vietnam, so this new line should keep the company’s momentum going there.