Gionee S8 hands-on


Gionee might sound esoteric and unfamiliar to many of you, for the brand mostly sells its handsets in China and India. But if you ever held a sleek phone from a brand like AllView, BLU, Kazam, or Walton, then congratulations – you've caught a wild Gionee phone in re-branded disguise!

At this year's MWC, the Chinese smartphone maker introduced a promising new device – the Gionee S8. It's a sleek phone with some interesting design and functionality features alongside a powerful camera. Let's have a look at what Gionee has been up to this time!


Superficially, the S8 is a slim, tall, and pleasantly light aluminum rectangle that invokes comparisons with the Sony Xperia series' stern, symmetric design. But a closer look shows there's a bit more going on here. The back panel has the antenna bands form a continuous loop around its sides, which is a clever and aesthetically pleasing way of incorporating them into the design.

There's also a circular surface that's metallic and embossed with Gionee's emoji-inspired new logo. You will certainly mistake it for a fingerprint scanner, but in reality, the sensor is embedded in the Home button on the front. The scanner works quickly and reliably. On the sides, we have power and volume keys on the right (they are nice and tight), the SIM tray is on the left, and the bottom is home to the mono speaker, USB Type-C port, and earphone jack.


The S8 has 5.5-inch, 1080 x 1920 px resolution AMOLED display, but this isn't what all the fuss is about. Rather, Gionee has pulled off a semi-authentic clone of the iPhone 6s' 3D Touch shortcuts – still a rarity among Android phones. The feature discerns between three levels of pressure – Touch, Tap, and Press. A robust tap on an app lets you access its essential functionality, while force-pressing near the screen's left or right edge yields you a customizable shortcut bar.

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The latter is inspired by Samsung's 'Edge bar' functionality, and maybe it's just a matter of getting used to it, but we had trouble triggering the sidebar reliably. The force touch wallpapers that animate when you force-press them are kind of cool, but you must apply unnecessarily strong pressure, which is annoying.


Gionee's Amigo user interface is an inconsistent (at times) amalgam of stock Android Marshmallow applications and visuals in brownish hues reminiscent of Huawei's Emotion UI. While Amigo is in need of further polishing (for example, scrolling is a little awkward), it's on its way to becoming a colorful and lively interface. It's also very speedy and stripped of clutter, bar the sizable selection of Chinese apps and services that are featured prominently on our unit.

The lock screen shows lifestyle content every time you turn on the display. there's no app drawer (in line with modern Chinese phones), and uninstalling apps happens exactly like it does on iOS, which is a mildly amusing sight on an Android device.

Processor and Memory

The Gionee S8 is one fast smartphone, despite being powered by MediaTek's mid-range Helio P10 SoC. Housing an octa-core 1.9GHz CPU and the Mali-T860MP2 GPU, the chip is paired with a hefty 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. In order to pop in a microSD card, though, you'll have to part with one of the two SIM card slots.

Performance is generally great, with menus and browsing going fast. Alas, Asphalt 8 wouldn't run at all for some reason, and the 52,278 AnTuTu score we got is below average for a modern phone, which means heavier 3D games are out of the Gionee S8's reach.


The phone comes with a 16MP main camera that's kept company by an LED flash and laser auto-focus module. It's a competent unit with wide f/1.8 aperture, 6-part lens and phase-detection autofocus. The front camera is an 8MP unit. We're fond of the camera app and the photos we shot. The app is fast and straightforward, but also fitted with plenty of filters and shooting modes you need (though manual isn't an option). Photos are taken in an instant and generally look fine, although the color balance is a bit on the colder side. Selfies turned out quite fine as well.


Priced at around $395 (CNY 2,599) in China and neighboring countries, and commanding price tags north of 450 USD/EUR outside Asia, the Gionee S8 might have a hard time seducing smartphone users unless they are devoted fans of the brand. There are plenty of cheaper, better spec'd, and still pretty devices like the Xiaomi Mi 5 on the side of China and India, and phones like the Galaxy S6, Xperia Z5, and Nexus 6P globally. Overall, the S8 is a fine showcase of Gionee's talent for crafting sleek phones with a lifestyle edge, but the price is steep and the user interface is in need of polish.


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