If the likes of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro are out of your price range, there are plenty of budget options with excellent performance and a premium design.
Umidigi have stormed onto the smartphone scene in the past year or so, churning out a large number of affordable phones with impressive specifications and design.
The Umidigi S2 Lite has impressive specs for the price; you get a 5.99” display with a bezel-less design on two sides powered by an MTK6750T Octa Core 1.5GHz SoC with 4GB RAM and 32GB storage. One of the most impressive features of the phone is the 5100mAh battery, which is 25% larger than the battery found in the superb Mate 10 Pro. I will make a lot of comparisons to the Mate 10 Pro which may be unfair as it sells at a very different price point, but it is my daily phone, and the most recent phone I have reviewed, it is also quite popular, so it provides some point of reference.
The full specification of the phone includes:
- Display: 5.99 inch 1440 x 720 pixels Capacitive 5 points screen
- CPU: MTK6750T Octa Core 1.5GHz
- System: Android 7.0
- Storage: 4GB RAM + 32GB ROM
- Cameras: 16.0MP + 5.0MP dual back cameras and 5.0MP front camera
- Sensors: Gravity Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor, E-compass, Gyroscope
- Features: GPS
- Bluetooth: 4.0
- SIM Card: dual SIM dual standby, 2 x nano-SIM card and 1 TF card can be inserted at the same time
- 2G: GSM B2/B3/B5/B8
- 3G: WCDMA B1/B2/B5/B8
- 4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B7/B8/B20
Immediately there are few noticeable caveats with this phone. It is running Android 7.0 which is getting a bit old now, Umidigi say the Oreo rollout will begin in May, but this is a relatively new company releasing a large number of phones, so how true this is, remains to be seen.
For some reason most of these low-cost phones also omit NFC, I never used to care about it, but since enabling Android Pay I rarely carry my card with me now, so it has become very important.
They have left out the 3.5mm jack, I suspect this is just following the trend here, as the phone is quite thick due to the battery, so no real reason to leave it off. Bluetooth is only version 4.0, but it should be fine for most users as this still includes the low energy feature. The packaging does include a 3.5mm adaptor though.
Design & Build
For such a cheap phone Umidigi do an excellent job of making this look and feel premium. The packaging is just as nice as any other premium brand I have used. It appears that the phone is always shipped with a 2-pin plug so UK buyers will need their own USB plug.
The phone also comes with a thin transparent plastic case for added protection.
The phone itself is attractive and feels well made, the overall design and layout is very similar to the Mate 10 Pro that I previously reviewed, though I guess most phones have this design. However, this phone has a metal body, and when you combine it with the large battery, it is quite weighty.
Placement of the fingerprint sensor is just below the twin camera set-up which is the most logical placement on the back.
The dimensions are 15.80 x 7.48 x 0.88 cm making it slightly taller and broader than the Mate 10 Pro, with the top and bottom bezels being noticeably larger. It is also quite thick due to the battery size. Overall it is well proportioned though, I can just about use it with one hand, and I have small hands for my size.
I will say that the product photos with the screen face on making the phone look much nicer than it is, the shots sometimes make it look like the screen curves around the edges. This is not the case and there is a slim bezel down the side edges.
You obviously have to make some sacrifices to achieve this price point, and the display resolution is one of them, at just 1440 x 720 pixels. During regular use I didn’t find it particularly bad, it isn’t as vibrant as an OLED screen putting it side by side with my Mate 10 Pro it can look a little washed out and off colour.
In particular when side by side whites on the Umidigi look a bit grey, and the overall brightness can’t go as high. The auto-brightness doesn’t seem to be as responsive, or accurate.
In general, though I found the screen to be decent enough, it is only when side by side with much more expensive phones can you tell the difference.
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the camera. I should warn that I am a particularly lousy photographer so always use things in auto mode. Going around Blackpool taking photos of the graffiti and tourist sites produced pleasant images that I would say performs very well for your average user.
The noticeable differences between this and the Huawei were how quick the camera app took to load and the delay for the image being captured. It is orders of magnitude better than the Blackberry Keyone, and the overall speed of the camera is good, just not the best. This will be more than adequate for your average user.
The camera app itself is reasonably basic; there is no pro mode land the 5 defaults are a photo, video, panorama, beauty and bokeh. You can tweak some of the image properties and exposure within the settings, but this is a bit cumbersome.
The battery is the stand out feature of this phone, at 5100mAh it is much larger than any premium phone from the big brands. This does add noticeable weight and thickness to the phone, but I found it quite manageable.
The middle range processor and low resolution will no doubt help the battery life quite a lot.
There are battery management features similar to the Mate 10 Pro. When it detects an app running in the background it will warn you and you can then select what to do with it. Unlike the Mate 10 Pro, you can dismiss these notifications once you are done with them and go back to change the settings later on.
Battery drain does feel quicker than the Mate 10 Pro which goes to show it isn’t necessarily all about the size of the battery, but the quality, the SoC efficiency and software efficiency. I don’t need a phone to literally last 2 days; it just needs to get to the end of the day with plenty of juice left after heavy use that I am not stressing about it. This phone does that comfortably, with my battery never dropping below 50% by the end of the day.
Sadly, there is no quick charging feature on this phone, which is to be expected at this price. So you kind of need it to last all day.
Software & Performance
While this is no high-end phone, I found the performance more than adequate for my use. Everything felt snappy with no observable laggyness. In particular social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram had no issues. In comparison I had significant problems with the Blackberry, social media was unbearable at times.
There doesn’t appear to be much if any additional software installed, and the overall OS doesn’t seem to be modified much. The menu keys are different than I am used to, but using a mix of phones, I forget what I normal and what is not. It will autohide by default, and you swipe up to display the menu, the icons are different too. Recent apps are on the left rather than the right, and the back button on the right, which was a little confusing.
The most significant disappointment is the lack of Android 8.0 Oreo, this is quite a new phone, and Oreo has been out for a while, so I don’t see why it is not installed out of the box. The rollout is due in May, but I would take that with a pinch of salt, even the big companies can be slow with their rollouts.
I was pleasantly surprised with this phone; the build quality was much better than expected and I found the camera did an excellent job for the price/specification.
Battery life is exceptional, and you get plenty of RAM and storage as well as the option to upgrade via MicroSD.
Android 7.0 is probably the biggest caveat, and for not much more than this, other options use Android One such as the Xiaomi Mi A1. I am hopeful Umidigi will honour their commitment to update the phone in May, so there is only a 2-month wait.
Looking back at my review it would have perhaps made more sense to make comparisons to the recently reviewed Alcatel A7 which has the same SoC, but a better screen, NFC, BT4.2 but less RAM and a less attractive build. I found the camera on that didn’t perform quite as well and it had some very annoying additional software that would nag you with notifications. It was also £30 more expensive (based on UK stock), and because of that, I would say this is a much better buy.
In general, I would be more than happy to sue this phone as my daily burner; in fact, if I hadn’t just got the Mate 10 Pro, I would take this over my old Blackberry Keyone.
You can buy the Umidigi S2 Lite for £135 on Amazon or it is available on GearBest for £119.62
Umidigi S2 Lite
Product Name: Umidigi S2 Lite