Gionee isn't exactly a name that you'd come across in the Western market every day, but this time, the Chinese company has big global ambitions. The latest proof is its Elife E7, a 5.5-inch 1080p Android phone that boasts two titles: it's the first known phone featuring the 2.5GHz flavor of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip (MSM8974AC); plus it has the most sensitive 16-megapixel camera, courtesy of its Largan M8 lens (though the aperture is still unknown) and 1/2.3-inch sensor with large 1.34µm pixels. Compared to the competition, Gionee believes this particular OmniVision sensor has the best balance between resolution and pixel size, and the phone maker even went as far as claiming this already beats the 1.12µm, 16-megapixel counterpart on the yet-to-be-announced Galaxy S 5. Of course, we'll believe it when we get to properly test the E7's camera ourselves.
Gionee Elife E7 launch
Gionee Elife E7 hands-on
The fun doesn't stop there. The E7 also packs a three-mic system for better voice quality, as well as an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, which has the same 1.4µm sensor as the iPhone 5's main camera. As for the lovely LTPS display by JDI, you'll find a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 on top of it and its 2.33mm bezel. Amongst the other common goodies like NFC, barometer plus WiFi Display, the phone also features a power-saving "Sensor Hub" co-processor to react to voice command, screen taps and screen gestures when the phone is on standby -- which is not dissimilar to iPhone 5s and Moto X's implementation. Alas, there's no microSD expansion here, and only time will tell how well the 2,500mAh battery performs -- we were expecting somewhere closer to 3,000mAh for this flagship device.
Build quality isn't really an issue on the E7, though we'd rather not have that glossy finish, which was becoming a magnet for smudges as well as giving the device a cheap look, as the plastic's unevenness was accented. Other than that, the phone felt good in our hands courtesy of the slightly curved back, with the thickness going from 9.5mm in the middle to 6.2mm on the thinnest sides. We should point out that the straight-angle corners and the large camera bump on the back reminds us of the Lumia 1520, but we doubt there was any intention of plagiarism here.
The Android 4.2-based, non-final Amigo ROM was a bit buggy as expected, but it does come with some interesting features. The most notable ones include automatic classification of text messages (spam text is a big problem in China), contextual action bar below text messages (like adding flight confirmation to the calendar), live task cards while switching between apps (even the calculator widget is usable within a task card), fun camera features (including a full-manual mode and a makeup mode with several choices) and the overall clean visuals. Hopefully the retail units will be a lot more stable and with less Chinglish.
The E7 will first land in China on December 12th, but packing the original 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 chip. It'll have WCDMA/TD-SCDMA dual-mode radio (for China Unicom and China Mobile, respectively), with an option of either 16GB storage/2GB RAM (CN¥2,699 or about US$440) or 32GB storage/3GB RAM (CN¥3,199 or US$530). The dual-mode LTE, 2.5GHz model will arrive in Q1 next year with 32GB storage/3GB RAM for CN¥3,499 or US$570. Gionee says it will also be launching this beast of a phone in its 40 active countries, covering Latin America, Africa, EMEA and APAC, so keep an eye out over the next two months if you're interested in this "made for shooting" phone.