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Phones

Gionee's Elife S7 skips chasing the slimmest crown for features (hands-on)

While the company had the slimmest phone at Mobile World Congress last year, Gionee has chosen to chase features this time around while still keeping a thin profile.

BARCELONA -- Chinese company Gionee may not be on most of our radars unlike the more established brands such as Xiaomi, Huawei or Lenovo, but the company's claim to fame last year at Mobile World Congress was its super slim 5.5mm thick Elife S5.5 .

Since then, the phone has since been beaten at the thinnest game by other Chinese manufacturers such as Oppo with its Oppo R5 (4.85mm) or Vivo, with the X5MAx (4.75mm). Now, the chase for slimness crown seems to be something of a Chinese thing (though Apple has always managed to shave away the milimeters for each new version of its devices), Gionee has decided to sensibly stick with a sensible 5.5mm frame this time around while opting to put in better components.

Price wise, Gionee's latest flagship product won't be cheap. The company plans to sell it a whopping €399 -- that converts to around $450, £290 and AU$575. It will launch in Europe first and will be sold online, and Gionee plans to sell the handset globally.

Design

Much like other super-slim phones, the Gionee Elife S7 feels barely there in the hands, and it feels pretty fragile. However, the company says it's not worried about it bending. The handset is clad in Gorilla Glass 3 on both the front and the rear, which gives it a very premium feel. The aluminum alloy frame is airplane grade and features a nice-looking "U" groove design that doesn't dig into your palms. It also gives you a grip, which helps with the slippery glass back.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

The rear of the phone is equipped with a 13-megapixel camera, and if you thought how impressive Xiaomi's Mi Note was in delivering a 13-megapixel flushed against the profile was, Gionee's Elife S7 will astound you with the same but in a thinner 5.5mm frame -- though to be fair, there was no mention of optical image stabilization, which the Mi Note has. There's also a 8-megapixel front camera.

On the front, you'll find that the Gione has left out physical keys, and relies completely on soft keys. That's always a good thing in my books, so I quite like this set up. The power and volume buttons are located at the right side, with the power button located lower for easy access with your fingers.

The phone sports a 5.2-inch Amoled display from Samsung and has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. Colors were bright and vibrant, and viewing angles were excellent when I tried out the S7.

The phone sports a full-HD AMOLED display, and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Gionee's own custom Amigo 3.0 skin. Aloysius Low/CNET

Hardware and software

Internally, the S7 comes powered by MediaTek's octa-core processor, the MT8572 which supports dual-mode LTE (i.e. FDD and TDD bands), giving it worldwide compatibility. I don't, however, expect performance to be as good as the higher-end Snapdragon processors. Here's the good news though -- the phone will support dual-SIM 4G, so you can potentially have two different networks running on LTE on the phone.

The phone runs off a non-removable 2,750mAh battery and if you run low, say 10 percent charge, the S7 will go into extreme mode which switches off everything but text and calls and last another 33 hours.

The S7 has 2GB RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, and there appears to be no microSD card slot. Besides these specs, the phone also has DTS audio and comes with a pair of premium headphones in the box. It also has an audio jack at the bottom, which is sometimes missing from super-slim devices such as the Oppo Find R5.

Because the phone doesn't take the superslim route, there's room for a 3.5mm audio jack. The phone also ships with a pair of premium headphones. Aloysius Low/CNET

Gionee's handset runs Android 5.0 Lollipop, but with its own custom skin called Amigo 3.0. The UI is pretty flat, and like most Chinese ROMs, you'll find that there's no app drawer -- all your apps are stored on the main Home screens like iOS.

Other features of the UI include a nifty Chameleon mode, which has a cool ability to pick a color from a picture that you've shot to apply it to the phone's interface. This could open up the phone to really weird shades though.

As mentioned, despite the Amigo 3.0 skin, the phone's powered by Android 5.0. Aloysius Low/CNET

Outlook

Given the price of this device, Gionee seems keen to shed the low-cost branding that most Chinese manufacturers have. I think the Elife S7 is good enough that it could likely do so, but it's still quite an expensive premium just for owning a slim phone.

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