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Gionee S6s is the second smartphone in the premium S-series by the Chinese smartphone maker Gionee. The company recently announced the third smartphone in the S-Series, the Gionee S6 Plus. According to reports, a new device from the series, Gionee S6 Pro will soon be available in the market. The company had launched Gionee S6 earlier this year and now is improving on the predecessor.
The company is marketing the devices for the consumers who want to get better selfies and has touted the “selfie flash” in its marketing campaign. I have never used Gionee smartphones, and the Gionee S6s is the first experience with Gionee devices for me. Surprisingly, the experience has been decent except a few things that are detailed in the review.
Build and Design: 7/10
Gionee S6s has not changed much regarding the design and the build quality from the Gionee S6 earlier this year. The design, however, feels uninspiring and boring. Apart from the two choices of colours, Mocha Gold and Latte Gold, there is nothing that makes the device stand out from the crowd.
The device feels premium and sturdy in hand without any squeaking or loose parts. The front boasts a 5.5-inch 2.5D curved display with the navigation soft-buttons on the bottom and the speaker, front LED-Flash and camera sitting on the top.
The back of the device is full metal with a plastic frame on the side. There is a silver coating done on the plastic frame to give it a more premier and polished look. The fingerprint reader sits on the back below the camera and LED-flash module.
The latest Gionee logo sits below the fingerprint sensor at the back, distinguishing the phone from all the similarly designed smartphones. The device feels a little bit bulky in the hand, but this bulk and weight gives it that sturdy feeling.
There is a second speaker grill at the back of the device and sits on the lower portion of the smartphone. The company has included a ‘Gionee’ branding in addition to the existing logo at the back, right about the speaker grill.
The bottom side of the phone houses a microUSB port for charging and file transfer in addition to a microphone and the 3.5-mm headphone jack to listen to music. The left side of the device does not have any buttons with the exception of the dual-SIM tray while the right side houses the power button approximately at the centre of the body and a volume rocker on the upper side of the device.
Features: 6.5/10
The latest smartphone by the company is equipped with an octa-core MediaTek MT 6753 chipset which is based on the 28 nm process clocked at 1.3GHz. The device runs on 3GB RAM and touts 32GB internal storage. The phone further supports a microSD card using the second SIM slot to support up to 256GB of expandable storage. Mali-T720MP3 GPU is employed and you get a 5.5-inch IPS LCD capacitive curved screen at 401 PPI pixel density. The screen is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
The device sports a 13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture and phase detection autofocus camera to shoot pictures along with LED-flash with an 8MP camera module with f/2.2 aperture and LED-Flash at the front. The rear camera supports video recording at 1080p with 30fps. The fingerprint sensor is included on the back side of the device, and it acts as the shutter button while clicking photos using both the front as well as the rear camera modules.
The device is equipped with 4G-enabled Dual-SIM tray with support for both micro and nano SIM cards in addition to, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, GPS with A-GPS, FM radio and micro-USB port supporting USB 2.0 regarding connectivity options. The device does not come with a USB Type-C and is equipped with 3150mAh Li-ion battery which cannot be removed. S6s is equipped with a fingerprint, accelerometer, proximity and compass sensors.
Display: 7/10
Gionee S6s comes with a Full-HD 5.5-inch IPS LCD providing an effective resolution of 1080×1920 pixels. The screen is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 coating to prevent damage to the front screen and boasts 401 PPI pixel density for crisp contrast and colours.
The display held up indoors, providing great vibrant colour reproduction, contrast with admirable viewing angles. However, the IPS LCD panel suffers under direct sunlight when combined with highly reflective screen even with brightness cranked up to the maximum. Watching videos and playing games was a good experience indoors while outdoors it was a struggle. The screen is a fingerprint magnet during everyday use, and I had to constantly clean it up to enjoy the vibrant display offered by the device.
Software: 6.5/10
The device runs amigo 3.2.0 out of the box which is an Android fork used by the company to power its smartphones. amigo 3.2.0 is based on Android 6.0 with June 1, 2016, Android security patch level. The overall software experience was admirable even though there is no way for the users to turn to a complete stock experience because of the skinned UI. The maximum a user can do is switch to a different launcher to experience the stock UI, but that will not change settings menu. One issue that I initially faced was the alien feeling coming from stock Android, it took me 10 minutes of searching around and using the search function to find the Battery section in settings. Out-of-the box battery layout does not provide any information regarding the battery percentage and drain which is strange.
There is no app drawer in amigo OS, and the lock screen keeps on changing wallpapers automatically at a fixed interval of time. In addition to switching wallpapers, the OS provides additional information related to the wallpaper like the Bing search engine homepage, but tapping on more details takes you to the Facebook gallery curated by the company with the additional information relating to each wallpaper. You can swipe left and right on the lock screen to change the wallpapers. A context menu on the lower left side gives you an option to save, subscribe, share, delete or lock the current wallpaper.
amigo 3.2.0 ships with preloaded apps that include Google apps, built-in music and video players, gallery, a video editor in addition to favourite apps and games. The preloaded apps include SwiftKey, Facebook, Instagram, UC browser, Xender (rebranded as Gionee Xender), Facebook Messenger, Truecaller and the games include Asphalt Nitro, Bubble Bash 3, Danger Dash, Spider-Man: Ultimate Pro Demo.
The company has preloaded the device with System Manager, Child Mode, Theme Park, Mood Wallpaper, GStore and Abroad Service. Also, Gionee has added Mobile anti-theft app, File Explorer, Charmeleon, Notes, User Feedback app, Torch, Calendar and the Weather app to S6s. One thing that I noticed was that most of the Gionee preloaded apps could not be removed, which is quite a bummer for the user looking at a leaner storage space.
The notification area is accessible by swiping down from the top, but the quick toggle has been changed and now can be accessed by swiping to top from the bottom. This mimics the quick toggle area implementation in iOS and presents users with eight options and a slider to adjust the brightness. There is a ‘More’ button which launches a full-screen toggle interface with 16 toggle options to choose from.
The System Manager app included in amigo 3.2.0 gives you options to clean cache and manage battery using the power manager, manage installed apps using app manager, check traffic using Traffic monitor and a separate Eco Mode. Also, the app also gives you an option to ‘clean memory’ which works in the same was as the ‘app cleaner’ in the multitasking mode. The Theme Park has too many themes to choose from, but I did not find them to my liking while the ‘Mood Wallpaper’ app works like a wallpaper market.
GStore is a marketplace to install apps curated by the company, but I don’t understand the purpose for this app to be bundled with the device along with Google Play Store. Child mode helps restrict apps that can be launched without a passcode to prevent kids from messing around with the smartphone. Abroad Service helps users plan trips and Travel and the functionality is mirrored by the recently launched Google Trips.
Performance: 7/10
Gionee S6s was satisfactory at best during the day to day usage. The device is powered by a MediaTek processor and is sufficient for normal usage, but heavy usage does pull the device down regarding battery backup.
Extended gaming session made the device almost unbearable to hold around the upper portion at the back. There was a bit of lag while playing graphically intensive Asphalt 8 and  Modern Combat 5 and the device started heating after 4-5 minutes of gaming. Less GPU intensive games like Fruit Ninja and Temple Run 2 did not experience any lag.
Most of the heat was concentrated around the LED flash and Camera module with temperatures reaching 65-degrees Celsius while the lower half of the rear was cool with a comfortable 28-degree celsius.
The device scored 2464 in Multi-Core benchmark test with GeekBench 4 and 603 in Single-Core Score, in comparison, Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 scored 2602 and 1427 in the respective benchmarks. It scored 4108 in PCMark Work performance benchmark making it a decent device to work with but nothing out of the ordinary.
Camera: 6/10
This is where things get unbearably bad especially when Gionee is focusing its advertising campaign on its camera. Even though the company is focusing on the front camera with the flash.
The camera is bearable under proper ideal conditions with adequate light with decent macro (extreme close-up shots). The camera is downright horrible in low light conditions with the image turning to a grain and noise fest in automatic mode at night. Street shots were full of light flares filling the frame.
The addition of ‘Professional’ mode does not help as long exposures at night can’t seem to capture enough light as the camera only supports a maximum of 12 seconds exposure time. After trying my luck with ISO200 and still the image appearing dark, I had to crank up the ISO to 800 to capture decent light during a night shot. The macro shots are decent during daylight with sharp details and passable bokeh.
However, the standard shots are bad with no visible details and over exposed portions of the image with blown out details. Even steady portraits appeared smudgy at best. Talking about the feature that was focused on during promotions, the front facing LED flash is useless. Even though it may help a user get selfies but the intensity of the flash is so much that the flash casts a cool haze on the face. This weird cast blows the details and makes it seem like one is wearing makeup on the face.
Battery: 6.5/10
Gionee S6s is only passable regarding battery life with nothing extraordinary. On moderate usage, the battery lasted about 8 hours while on heavy usage the device only lasted 4.5 hours. Heavy usage for me includes surfing the internet on 4G data, listening to music for an hour, messaging, 4-5 calls, GPS navigation and 10-15 photos.
One thing to note is that there is no fast charging and the bundled charger comes with a 1A adapter which takes a painful 2 hours 45 minutes to charge from 0 to 100 percent. The USB port on the device is a MicroUSB with USB2.0 specifications which kill any hopes for future-proofing for a device releasing in 2016.
However, to compensate, Gionee has added ‘Power saving mode’ as well as ‘Extreme power saving mode’ in ‘System Manager’. The Extreme power saving mode only allows Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Clock to function, while shutting everything else down in the background.
Verdict and Price in India
Gionee S6s is available for Rs 17,299 for Latte Gold and Rs 17,749 for Mocha Gold on Amazon India while it costs Rs 17,999 on Gionee store. At this price point, you get bad camera quality, passable battery life and sub-par performance which can be beaten by devices released last year. It is better to look at other devices. For instance, the LeEco Le 2or Xiaomi Mi Max or even the ageing Lenovo Zuk Z1. You can even wait a bit to buy the recently announced Lenovo Zuk Z2 Pro. Even though we have not reviewed the device yet, it looks better than  Gionee S6s on paper at least.
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