Uhans, which an amalgamation of “U” and “hans,” meaning “you(r) hands”) is a relative newcomer to the smartphone arena. The business was established in 2013 and has a stated objective of bringing a “wow experience to users around the world with our high tech products.” The company consider their employees to be young, enthusiastic and active minded.
This leads me to the U100, an entry level Uhans Android smartphone with a number of interesting features. By “entry level,” let me explain that the device currently sells for under $100. Going back a few years an Android device at this end of the spectrum was usually a difficult device to review especially if the reviewer was used to a flagship or high-end device. The budget handsets featured sluggish overly complicated user interfaces on very low-resolution displays, weak hardware and an outdated version of Android. Fortunately, since the introduction of the original Motorola Moto G, the market for budget Android devices has moved on and this is for the benefit of customers everywhere.
Today’s entry level devices are still considerably less powerful than their high end cousins, but many still offer a decent user experience despite the diluted hardware. Uhans have made a number of compromises in the specification, but as far as entry level devices go, the handset is respectable. Read on to see if the handset is worth the asking price.
The U100’s core specification marks it very much as an entry level device and Uhans have used a familiar chipset, which we have seen used in a number of other devices. The ‘phone also comes with a HD screen, 16 GB of local storage plus a MicroSD card: it has more than the basics covered. Let’s take a look: It’s powered by a MediaTek MT6735P System-on-Chip, 64-bit, 1.0 GHz, quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor built on a 28nm processor size, backed up by 2 GB of RAM and the ARM Mali-T720 GPU clocked at 400 MHz. It has 16 GB of internal storage, with a separate MicroSD card slot supporting up to a 32 GB card and tested as such. It comes equipped with a 4.7-inch, 720 x 1280 resolution IPS LCD display made by LG. It also comes with a rear mounted 8MP Sony camera and a front facing 2MP camera. Keeping it going is a 2,200 mAh replaceable battery, which sits under a genuine cowhide leather door. It has Dual MicroSIM support, one offering 2G, 3G and 4G LTE and the other offering 2G. The U100 is limited to LTE bands 1, 3, 7 and 20, which covers the UK and Europe but not so much the United States. 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. 142mm by 71.9mm by 9.8mm thick, and it weighs approximately 159 g.
In The Box
The Uhans comes with the bare essentials in the box: there’s a straightforward charger (5.0v, 1.0A) and a separate MicroUSB lead, a basic instruction booklet and that’s it. The device is wearing a screen protector as standard.
Uhans have given the U100 a 4.7-inch, 720p display panel, which in terms of sharpness is perfectly adequate. The screen is built for Uhans by LG but unfortunately, it is not perfect. There are a couple of weaknesses with the screen: one is more serious than the other.
The first weakness is that color reproduction as standard is somewhat washed out. Fortunately, the software includes MiraVision, which is a common addition to other Chinese devices from the likes of Cubot. This allows the colors to be enhanced. Blacks are still more like a dark grey, but things are better with the dynamic contrast turned on and the picture mode set to “Vivid” away from standard. I did not notice any difference in battery life with the MiraVision options turned on, but they are off by default.
The second weakness of the screen is that there’s a definite lack of sensitivity, especially around the top of the display. However, in my testing, I noticed that the screen is noticeably less sensitive when cold compared with when warm. I found that when cold, the device does not always register a downwards swipe from the top of the screen to the lower. This is frustrating and trying different sides of the screen does not help matters. However, keeping the device in my pocket during the day made this a non-issue, but it would remind me the following morning when I reached for the U100 after it had been by my bedside.
Hardware, Design and Build
The Uhans U100 is built from a mix of aircraft grade aluminum, plastic and cowhide. The design is eye-catching and interesting if a little garish to some eyes. It’s certainly distinctive and this is not a bad thing! Uhans say that they deliberately designed the device to polarise opinion: people tend to either like or hate it. I quickly grew to appreciate the leather back as it makes the device grippy and easy to handle, although I do not like the large silver camera surround.
Uhans state that their design team took cues from cars in putting together the device. The other automobile-inspired features over and above the big badge on the back around the camera include the silver detailing on the front of the device at the very top for the earpiece and towards the bottom, for the single front facing speaker (the grill on the right is a dummy). From the front, the handset looks interesting but the rear is dominated by the silver camera surround and of course the leather. Uhans will be offering the device in other colors apart from black and silver.
In terms of ports, everything is at the top of the device. There’s a 3.5mm headphone port on the left-hand side and the MicroUSB port on the right-hand side. The volume keys are on the left-hand edge and the lock button is on the right. The bottom of the device is featureless apart from the microphone pinhole and the hole to pop a nail into in order to remove the back. The aluminium frame along the sides of the device is a nice touch and makes the handset feel reassuringly solid and expensive. As with other brushed aluminium handsets, these sides are something of a fingerprint magnet.
The U100 belongs to a breed of smartphone that is disappearing from shelves over the world: the device features a removable battery, in this case of a modest-sounding 2,200 mAh. The battery has to be removed in order to install the SIM cards and MicroSD card into the three slots. That’s right; the U100 has a separate MicroSD card slot from the two SIM slots – this is great news for those of us who want to travel with two SIM cards and a memory card.
Overall, the Uhans is a solidly built smartphone with one glaring omission from the engineers: the volume keys rattle when the device is tapped or gently shaken. Of course, gently shaking a smartphone is not something that many people do, unless they’re providing feedback for Google Maps or wanting to pay for their coffee in a well-established coffee house.
Performance, Memory, Multitasking, Benchmarks
Uhans have used a commonly seen MediaTek chipset in the U100: the MediaTek MT6735P. The MT6735 is available in a number of different flavors and for this particular device, it’s the quad core, 1.0 GHz “P” variant, which gives it the lower clocked GPU in the shape of the 400 MHz Mali-T720, which has two GPU cores. This does not sound like the most encouraging of starts, but Uhans runs a near-stock version of Android with a lightweight launcher over the top. The device also benefits from 2 GB of system RAM, 16 GB of internal storage and that chipset is driving a 720p resolution display.
In everyday use, switching between the user interface and applications, the U100 is more capable than the specification might suggest. The device is smooth and responsive; it’s no flagship and doesn’t perform as such. Delays and lags are few and far between and most are attributed with the screen not responding to a touch input. When switching to an application that hasn’t been used for some time, you can spend a moment waiting for the application to reload its data. Heavyweight applications such as the Google Chrome browser do not so much slow the device down either, although large and complicated web pages can take a few seconds to render.
Things are barely any different with half a dozen connected applications running, other than if you take the device offline for a time, when you reconnect to a data service, things dramatically slow down as applications reconnect and synchronize their data. The same is true when downloading a large file, which points towards sluggish memory access as being the performance bottleneck. I encountered some issues when playing back videos, too, which included stuttering and jank, which is something I have not experienced with an Android device for some time. I noticed this behaviour regardless if I was streaming the video, pulling it from internal memory or the MicroSD card, in a variety of formats. Oddly enough, the YouTube application appeared to be immune from this stuttering.
As for benchmarks, these are becoming less and less relevant as devices’ overall performance improves. The key things to take away from this is that the benchmark scores are not brilliant but the device performs better in the hand. Fortunately, when playing games, the applications automatically scale back the detail of the game in question such that titles are not unplayable and the biggest issue comes from waiting for the device to load the next level. The U100 isn’t a gamers’ device by any stretch but can be pushed into service for some casual gaming, although it is particularly hard on the battery.
One of the weaknesses of budget devices is that their initial performance seems fine, but after a period of time with more and more connected applications installed, things slow down. I installed and set up a number of connected applications, mostly social media and shopping websites, and apart from putting the device back online after being in airplane mode overnight, or when coming out of an area with no coverage, things were absolutely fine. Having 2 GB of RAM certainly helps here although with 16 GB of local storage, as the more free storage, the smoother the device tends to run.
Uhans have given the U100 a front facing speaker, which is under the left-hand grill of the front mounted silver flash towards the bottom of the handset. The speaker points in the right direction and this certainly helps sound quality, and it sounds respectable too. There’s a definite lack of bass, as one might expect from a small speaker, but there’s plenty of midrange and treble. For watching YouTube clips, movies and playing games the U100’s speaker works absolutely fine, but unfortunately, the quality limits are found when listening to music or on a call. Overall, the U100’s speaker sounded better than I expected.
Cellular Data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
The U100 supports the typical quad band 2G networks, three 3G bands and a selection of UK and European LTE bands. The device coped worked with the two UK carriers I tried but was not as quick to promote the data connection from 3G to 4G LTE where available compared with some other devices. I found the U100 was sensitive enough to 3G networks but somewhat less sensitive to 4G networks than the best devices I have used, but not enough for the handset to feel compromised in use. I found no signal drop when holding or handling the device.
I had no issues connecting with a number of Wi-Fi hotspots, both public and personal, but the hotspots I was connecting to were only providing an Internet connection considerably slower than the Wi-Fi network link speed. The U100 gets a basic Wi-Fi set up supporting up to 802.11n speeds.
Onboard GPS and Bluetooth both also worked as expected and the handset was able to get a lock using location services quickly and easily. The device connected to my other Bluetooth devices without an issue.
The Uhans is something of a mixed bag when it comes to telephony as callers can sound muffled or muted, and I would for them. Initially, I thought that the issue could be associated with a poor quality earpiece and microphone, but having used the Uhans for a few VoIP calls, this does not appear to be the case: the sound is a little quiet, but the device has a good quality earpiece. Instead, the issue appears to be a networking issue. Sound quality also noticeably deteriorates along with the signal and unfortunately, much of my testing was conducted in places of middling (at least) coverage. I tried two UK carriers, O2 and Three, and unfortunately, experienced the same indifferent sound quality with both during my testing. Uhans have given the device a single microphone and there is no noise cancelling technology built into the device. Things may improve once carriers roll out VoLTE services, or with a software update for the U100, but for now the device is compromised in this respect.
Uhans have used a Sony 8MP rear camera assembly that acts as though it’s a 13MP camera through software interpolation. There’s a 2MP front-facing camera, which is reputed to perform closer to a 5MP camera again thanks to software interpolation. These cameras are best described as adequate and uninspiring: in good light, the cameras can take respectable pictures but as is common with the majority of smartphone cameras, it’s obvious that you are using a camera on a phone.
The camera software, however, has a number features and extras. The U100 camera application comes with auto scene selection (turned off by default), beauty modes, smile detection, voice capture, built-in filters, HDR and of course, a flash. There’s plenty to fiddle with including individual image properties to adjust the sharpness, hue, saturation, brightness and contrast for that perfect shot. One favorite feature is the ability to take forty pictures in quick succession.
The U100 comes with a 2,200 mAh replaceable battery, which in the context of modern smartphones is not so much. However, many smartphones use a larger, higher resolution display compared with the U100. They also tend to have more powerful System-on-Chips: here the Uhans benefits from a relatively low powered MediaTek chipset: how well does this battery stack up? The tentative answer to this is that you’ll see a day from the battery but not much more, however in my testing the Uhans encountered a power management bug that caused the device to stay awake and the processor to remain clocked at the 1.0 GHz point. Despite this glitch, I still saw a day to a charge, which consisted of between two to four hours of screen on time, some voice calling and application use, mostly over the 3G and 4G LTE networks. Using Wi-Fi extended the battery as is common with other smartphones.
Uhans have included an Intelligent Standby mode, which although undocumented, appears to work in a similar fashion to Android 6.0 Marshmallow’s doze feature. When the device is idle and not moved, the device disconnects and powers down various features. There’s also the Android Lollipop “Battery saver” mode, which underclocks the processor, reduces screen brightness and disables background data.
Unfortunately, the U100 does not appear to have any sort of fast charging technology built in and even worse, it comes with a 5.0V, 1A charger and it did not want to draw more than this despite the charger used. Recharging from nearly empty to full took close to four hours.
Software and Features
Uhans have used their own launcher over a near-stock Android 5.1 Lollipop experience. The Launcher3 is common to other devices, such as the Oukitel K10000, and lacks an application drawer. Although this experience is not too bad in itself, if you really miss an application drawer the device runs the Google Now or Nova launchers beautifully. Uhans have used their own icon designs for Launcher3 and many of these are transparent, which means they can be difficult to spot on a brightly colored background. Also, if you are coming from a different device, some of the icons look quite different. All the same, the interface is snappy, responsive and not difficult to use. It’s possible to create folders, too, which helps keep the home screens organized if you need to.
One of the additional features built into the device is Smart motion, whereby the customer can perform various actions on the device without touching it. These include Action unlock, which means waving your palm over the top of the device in order to unlock it. There’s Smart answer – lifting the ‘phone to your ear will answer a call – and Smart switch, which activates the speakerphone when pulling the handset away from your ear. Most of these features are genuinely useful additions to Android and are very welcome, although I was unsuccessful in getting Action unlock to work despite waving my palm over the top of the device.
Many of the Uhans’ Gesture controls only work in their modified versions of applications, such as Uhans music where waving your hand over the top of the ‘phone can skip tracks forward and backward. Although these sound like nice ideas, I found execution to be less than perfect. The U100 comes with a number of wake up gestures, such as a double-tap to wake the device, a swipe down to launch the ‘phone application, or drawing a single character on the screen to launch an application. These work well with the caveat that they take a couple of seconds to recognize the character being drawn and then to launch the application. If you have lots of apps on your device and you are using the stock Launcher3 interface, these could save you a lot of time hunting through your apps to launch the ones you need, but in all likelihood, users are probably going to drag these images to the front homescreen rather than keeping them buried elsewhere in the interface.
Respectable performance, usable interface
UK and European LTE band support
Touchscreen not always responsive
Indifferent voice quality using the cellular radio
Lack of North American band support
The Uhans U100 is an interesting looking, generally very well built handset that offers customers plenty for their money – dual SIM, a MicroSD card, 720p HD IPS display, 64-bit quad-core processor and 4G LTE for at least Europe and the United Kingdom. Call quality is not a strength, so if you make and receive many calls the U100 may not be the device for you. However, in most other respects, the U100 is a respectable choice with more than enough power to cope with multiple social networks, email, web browsing and instant messenger clients. With the low cost and dual SIM functionality, this could also be a good choice for the frequent flier wanting a less expensive device to take on vacation or business trips.