While we can pick apart little things from the Ulefone Gemini, what we can’t do is take away the fact that it is an unbelievable bargain. You will be hard pushed to find a phablet with the finesse and features of the Gemini for just over £100 especially in the UK market. The phone is very polished and sleek in its use and will be shamefully overlooked when it comes to the styling of the device. For those looking for a value smartphone, with a good camera and a comfortable multimedia screen, minus the high end processing power, the Ulefone Gemini would be a good handset for you.
Price When Reviewed
The Chinese market for smartphones or phablets is known for its sheer value for money. Ulefone’s release of the Gemini is yet another clear example of this. In 2016, 90% of China’s phones originate from domestic manufacturers, which just shows the dominance these Chinese brands have within the huge domestic market.
We were very impressed by the Ulefone BeTouch, a value smartphone with performance which really excelled for its price range. The Ulefone Gemini is no different. With updated OS and the innovative dual camera all for just over £100, it is quite the steal.
Ulefone Gemini review: Price and availability
As domestic smartphone prices keep hiking and foreign manufacturers begin to improve on hardware as well as stick to low prices, the grey market is becoming more and more popular for consumers while looking for a phone. As the Ulefone Gemini is not currently available with UK phone suppliers, you will be able to find it here from GearBest.
It has dual SIM functionality (see our dual-sim buying advice) with 4G and is sold unlocked in Black, Grey and Golden.
In the box comes a micro USB charger (unfortunately not fast-charging), a clear plastic case, tempered glass screen protector and a mounted sticky-back stand. Just remember to bear in mind you might incur 20% import duty, plus an administration fee, as it is shipped from China, so incorporate that into your budget when purchasing.Even with the import duty it remains quite the bargain priced at approximately £130.
For more about phones on a budget or information about buying from China see our articles Best cheap phones 2017 and the pros and cons of buying cheap phones from China.
Ulefone Gemini review: Design and build
The Ulefone Gemini has sleek and rounded edges that compliment the large 5.5in (1920 x 1080) screen which is great for viewing media. However we feel as it is a fraction too big, as you are unable to operate it smoothly in one hand and people with small hands will really struggle! The Gemini is a little weighty as well although fully expected due to the screen size but it is quite thin for such a large screen (9.1mm).
The overall build quality of the Gemini is very good. Even just holding it in your hand you feel how sturdy the handset is. The phone has a metal front with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 accompanied by a matte metallic back. This surface gives off a less premium feel to the front, and also smudges easily with fingerprints which can be a pain to remove.
Even though the phone is quite large and bulky for a smartphone, the phone still looks and feels premium in your hand, which is fantastic considering the price tag. The buttons located on the phone are of good quality and coordinate as they should apart from the ‘capture’ button which when holding landscape orientation could do with being moved a inch to the left towards your left index finger. This button is a shortcut to the camera app.
The other buttons located on the left side of the phone are the volume and lock key. While well positioned, because of the handsets size, reaching buttons with one hand will be a stretch for most. It is a push-down home screen button with a nice solid feel to it.
The phone is equipped with a fingerprint scanner, and out of the phones we have tested within the price range (many of which don’t even have a scanner), the Gemini’s is the most responsive. We even compare it to those of a higher price range.
Ulefone Gemini review: Hardware, features and specs
The 5.5in 1080p Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) screen is bright and crisp, impressive for the size and its price. Colours are vibrant and viewing angles are good. The glass screen is protected by a smooth plastic border.
Unfortunately the Gemini is lacking in processing power with only a MediaTek MT6737T Quad Core 1.5GHz and 3GB RAM. This is still more RAM than the Nokia 3 (a similar priced phone within the UK market) which has the same MediaTek chip but with only 2GB RAM. We benchmarked the device and in AnTuTu it recorded 41014. In Geekbench 4 it recorded a single-core score of 663 and a multi-core score of 1835. These are low scores but fully expected due to its small processor.
While the processing power is considerably lower than most smartphones or phablets on the market, for its very modest price it excels. Even though it did crash while we were in the Google Play Store for the first time. We did also notice the chip overheating within 10 minutes of playing a game with 3D textures and mapping. The chip is located behind the 5mp lens. These performance demanding games and applications will still run, however expect brief periods of screen lag and a warm device/hand.
The Gemini has 32GB storage with support for SD cards up to 256GB which allows plenty of space for all the media your heart desires.
Another important aspect that makes the phone stand out is the inclusion of its dual cameras. This is essentially merging two separate cameras to deliver ‘more freedom in artistic photography’. One of the two cameras is 13Mp which is used to capture the image and the other being a 5Mp sub camera to achieve small depth of focus, particularly useful if you are a fan of the popular ‘Bokeh’ camera technique. However we think Ulefone could have moved the flash underneath the 5Mp lens, so that the cameras could have been closer together, as they look a bit awkward apart.
Overall we were disappointed by the camera quality on the Ulefone Gemini. With a 13Mp and 5Mp, autofocus and all the hype about dual-camera technology I was expecting something revolutionary, unfortunately it did not live up to the expectations.
The auto focus was everything but ‘auto’, we wore ourselves out tapping the screen trying to get the perfect focus, varying in picture quality. Sometimes we were impressed by the images, other times not so much. The ‘Bokeh’ effect which the Ulefone Gemini claims to have perfected with its dual lens, essentially looks like a snapchat filter, and a bad one at that. Edges remain far too blurred, and focussed areas are way too broad.
Trying to perfect settings in the camera application is frustrating. Perhaps down to software as well as quality. We are not sure the extra camera is worth adding to the device as it adds more weight and looks out of place with two separate lenses, not to mention doing very little to improve the image quality.
For its price and amongst its competitors within the range, like the Nokia 3, the camera is very respectable, we just felt the dual camera was lacklustre.
The Ulefone Gemini has a Sony 3250mAh Li-Polymer Battery, which, even though it lacks power, will work efficiently with the MediaTek to bring you up to 320 hours of standby time. This is often the benefit from using a smaller processor and provides the Gemini with the large battery life consumers are beginning to value more and more. One thing that is important to note about the battery is that it takes a long time to charge. Definitely an overnight job.
When we tested it, we played a variety of games, recorded a number of videos and took many pictures. We also left the device locked on around 50% battery, and the next day we still had around 45-48% battery left, so background activity was minimal. Impressive. However, useful to note is that the more you use this device, especially power hungry apps and media, it will heat up and therefore drain the battery faster. When used for basic purposes such as web browsing and messaging it holds up just fine.
The speakers are located at the bottom of the device, and as much as we love front facing speaker set ups on our phones, unfortunately this seems to be the norm nowadays. Quality is clear and crisp until the volume peaks, and then you will hear very slight distortion.
Ulefone Gemini review: Software
The Ulefone Gemini runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow although Ulefone state it should be compatible with Android 7.0 Nougat within a few months of its release date. A date has yet to be confirmed. The interface is easy to navigate and has a number of themes and customisable features. These themes change the style of the app buttons as well as the background.
The phone has ‘smart accessibility’ features including Smart Wake which means you can draw a gesture while the phone is locked and it will open on a corresponding page. Smart answer call, which answers your call when you bring it to your ear. It also features non-touch operation which allows you to flip between the menu without touching the screen. All of which are cool features, if not a little gimmicky.
It differs from stock Android because it lacks an application tray. You can add pages to the home screen for your apps as easily as you can add themes, which is great, however we feel as if it could all get a bit crowded once you have downloaded all your favourite apps. It does however navigate well, feeling fluid and smooth when switching between pages and multi tasking.
Ulefone Gemini: Specs
- Android Marshmallow 6.0
- 5.5in 1920×1080 touchscreen, 401ppi
- 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6737T
- ARM Cortex-A53, 1500 MHz Quad Core
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB storage
- 13MP main camera, 5MP sub-camera
- 5MP front camera interpolated to 8MP
- 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4G/5G
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 4G FDD-LTE:800/1800/2100/2600/900(B1/3/7/8/20)
- Dual SIM
- 3250mAh non-removable battery