Review: UHANS A101

December 29, 2016 - Written By Justin Diaz

The smartphone market is a saturated industry especially in the U.S., so it can be challenging to keep track of all the brands that produce handsets. It’s even more challenging when those brands are not typically selling their devices in the U.S. in the first place. This is more or less the case with UHANS, a Chinese company who, despite having a decent spread of affordable and competitive devices aimed mostly at what seems like the entry level segment, won’t be known in the U.S. to even those looking squarely at entry level phones as their devices won’t be found in carrier stores or sold in any major retailers. You can find their products online but unless you specifically know to look for them, or you somehow stumble across one of their offerings, they would be easy to miss. One of their more recent devices, the A101, is a device we have been using for the past week, and although it isn’t going to be striking enough to catch the eyes of those seeking the best of the best, it’s a device that, for what it offers and what it costs, could be exceptionally suitable for anyone who simply has need of a device that will offer basic smartphone features. Let’s take a look at what the UHANS A101 has to offer and see how it fairs in the midst of other phones in this price range.

Specs

The UHANS A101 comes equipped with a 5-inch HD IPS display which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and has a resolution of 1280 x 720 with 294 PPI, and it’s powered by a Quad-Core processor coming from MediaTek, specifically the MTK6737 clocked at 1.3GHz. That CPU is paired with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of onboard storage, although the storage is expandable up to 64GB via a microSD card if you happen to need more room than 8GB. In the camera department things are fairly basic with a rear-facing sensor at 5-megapixels (interpolated to 8-megapixels) with autofocus and LED flash, and a front-facing sensor at 2-megapixels (interpolated to 5-megapixels) for selfies and video chat. You’ll find that the A101 has Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, GLONASS, and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n for connectivity, and it supports 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE networks, although because this is a Chinese phone you won’t find connectivity to 4G LTE networks in the US as the frequencies do not match up which we’ll get into a bit later. The A101 is running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, and it support dual micro SIM cards so you can carry around two services if you need to, and it has a 2450mAh battery that is also removable.

In The Box

Coming inside the package you’ll find mostly what comes with other smartphones, but surprisingly UHANS tucks away a couple of extras with this device, like a clear silicone case, screen protector and a cleaning cloth, something which you won’t find on plenty of devices that cost hundreds of dollars. This makes it all the more surprising as the UHANS A101 runs just over $100 at regular retail. Alongside those two items, the box also contains the phone itself, as well as the USB charging cable and the power adapter to plug it in. Having said that, the phone which I have personally been using didn’t have the power adapter inside, which didn’t necessarily affect the experience at all as I had another power to connect the cable to, but it’s still worth mentioning. Lastly you’ll also find the manual for the phone, and that’s basically it.

Hardware & Build Quality

The A101 is referred to by UHANS as a tribute to NOKIA in that they take inspiration for the build quality of the device from the way NOKIA does things, and while the phone may not look like any of the NOKIA smartphones which have been released over the years, it certainly is clear that the phone was designed with NOKIA’s philosophy in mind, which is to say that UHANS built the phone to last and withstand the situations and events of everyday life. You likely won’t be able to drop this phone off of the second story of a building and expect it to function just as it did beforehand, but should you drop it any given day from a normal height you probably won’t have to worry about it too much as you typically would with devices that are more high-end. The A101 is plastic all the way around all the frame does have a metal-looking finish to make it appear more premium and stylish, and although it isn’t the same as an actual metal frame, the use of plastic materials is to be expected with a device in the $100 range. That said, the removable back battery cover does have a slightly rubberized coating that is rather pleasing to the touch and makes for a nice grip when the phone is held in the hand.

On The right hand side of the phone you’ll find the power button as well as the volume rocker, and if you flip things over to the left there are no buttons at all. There is one single speaker on the bottom along with the charging port, and up top there’s the 3.5mm audio port. Lastly there’s the front-facing camera at the top of the display along with the earpiece and ambient light sensor, and on the back the camera and LED flash sit in the middle. The A101 has a weighty feel to it, meaning that it doesn’t feel cheap and I wasn’t worried what would happen to it if it accidentally fell out of my hands. This never happened, of course, but it was nice to have that peace of mind that should I drop it it would probably come out just fine. Overall, you can tell the UHANS A101 isn’t an expensive device when you hold it, and it certainly isn’t flashy when it comes to the design, but that isn’t to say that it’s a bad feeling device in the hand or lacks style for its price range.

Display

Since this is an IPS panel we weren’t expecting the deepest blacks and the most vivid color contrasts as can typically be found on Super AMOLED displays, but IPS panels can be easier to see in direct sunlight and they tend to be a little more friendly to the battery life. The A101 is using an HD display, so the resolution is not bad considering the screen size is 5-inches, and although it won’t be winning any awards for the best display of any phone, it’s more than capable of providing consumers with a decent user experience and a pleasant visual appearance during use.

The screen has decent viewing angles, and colors, although not as sharp as what you’ll find on a device that costs a little bit more, were quite bright and seemed to be mostly accurate. With that being said, there were times where I found the display to look more dull than I was expecting especially considering this wasn’t the case throughout most of my time using it. The nice thing here is that UHANS has added a little bit of configuration to the display settings that allows you to adjust the visuals a little bit. Under the MiraVision sub menu within the display settings, you can change the picture mode over to vivid from the default configuration which is set to “standard,” and this makes the color a little more bright and allows them to pop off the screen a bit more. In addition to standard and vivid configurations, there is also a third option called user mode, which essentially allows you to adjust the various values of the display like saturation, contrast, picture brightness, sharpness, and more to your liking on a case by case basis. The only downside is that this is tucked away in a place where many average smartphone users won’t venture to look, but the fact that it’s there is a nice touch, although users should expect these configuration to drain the battery more. When it comes down to it, you get what you pay for, and for a phone that costs about $100, you’re getting an entry-level display. This isn’t all bad, but if you’re someone who is likely to spend a fair amount of time on the phone interacting with and staring at the screen for extended periods of time, then you might find the screen a little bit lacking as I did personally. Overall, though, UHANS has employed a decent display for the cost.

Performance

At this price range, you shouldn’t expect an insanely powerful phone that can multitask and play games with the best of them, but you might actually be surprised at the efficiency and overall performance of the A101 as I was. The device is using MediaTek’s 64-bit MTK6737 quad-core CPU inside which is extremely power efficient and, although it only has 1GB of RAM at its disposal, I found most tasks to be just fine and encountered almost no lag issues whatsoever. As someone who frequently checks their social feeds throughout the day and is usually opening and running 5-10 apps at once, all the while switching between them and occasionally opening a game here and there throughout the day, the A101 didn’t seem to have much of a hangup in most places. The main issue I ran into with performance was with more demanding games that had high-end graphics. Although the games were playable, there was a noticeable dump in performance and graphics quality in comparison to other devices in this price range or other devices that use the same processor. There were also times where the phone would lag just a tad when interacting with the notification shade and when trying to enter settings. This wasn’t every single time, but it was often enough that it made the user experience less enjoyable as it wasn’t as smooth as I’m used to. In the end, most tasks on this phone went by without much of an issue, but those with an eagle eye for snags and hangups will notice the the few areas where the A101 is lacking in the performance department.

Speaker & Audio
For an entry-level device I wasn’t expecting much from the audio experience with the UHANS A101, and things were pretty much as I suspected. With a single speaker to power the sound, on the bottom no less, things just weren’t very loud here. The easy way around this is just to plug in a pair of headphones or connect a Bluetooth pair, but not everyone will have that opportunity. The other downside in addition to the lack of audio quality is the fact that the speaker sits on the bottom of the phone and is easily blocked by the palm of your hand. This makes it much too easy to cut off the audio to a degree where the sound for anything is almost completely muffled which requires you to hold the device a little awkwardly to make it possible to cup you palm. This helps a little bit with the audio level so it becomes a little bit louder, but it’s still not very sharp which made it less enjoyable for playing games where the audio plays an integral role in the experience, or for watching video or listening to music. The bottom line is if you’re going to be using this phone and you tend to use apps where audio will be a dominant part of the experience, then make sure you have a pair of headphones handy.

Wireless Connectivity

As this is a Chinese device which isn’t really meant for the U.S market, as was stated earlier you shouldn’t expect to get lightning fast speeds when connected to a cell network. While this is an unlocked phone and you can put in SIM cards from GSM carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless, among others, the frequencies for the supported networks unfortunately don’t match up when it comes to 4G LTE, so you’ll be limited to 2G EDGE network speeds and 3G. If you’re around Wi-Fi a lot and have the opportunity to stay connected to it much of the day like I do, this isn’t a huge problem, but for those who tend to be connected to the internet on their phone through their cellular network most of the time, 2G EDGE speeds 3G may be a hard thing to swallow. I unfortunately wasn’t able to test out the call quality or quality of the connection to the cellular network as the phone doesn’t support Project Fi, but the supported network connectivity options can be found below:

2G EDGE: GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900

3G: WCDMA 900, 2100

4G: FDD-LTE Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20

Benchmarks

For a device of this cost and with the specs that are on offer here, the benchmark scores came out as expected and weren’t exactly anything to write home about. On paper, the UHANS A101 seems like an extremely low-powered device, and while that may be mostly true in terms of the specs, thankfully the actual user experience in day to day use isn’t always the same as what the benchmarks would have you believe. However, the benchmarks are there to provide a reference of what users can expect from the device in terms of everyday performance. We ran the A101 through GFXBench, 3D-Mark for graphics, and Geekbench 4. You can find the results for those tests in the screenshots below.

Battery Life
While the battery capacity is only 2450mAh here, the use of a smaller 5-inch display at only HD resolution in addition to the power efficient MediaTek MTK6737 CPU means that the device can last you through the day without any issues. I got about 4 hours of screen on time with the device which closely matches up with the battery test that we ran, which is more than what we got with the OUKITEL K7000 that is using the same MediaTek processor. Although it should be noted as well that the A101 does have a battery capacity that is 450mAh more than that of the K7000 which will certainly account partially for the longer battery life. When it comes to normal use, battery life was at about 27%-29% by the end of the work day and at about 11% by the time I was ready for bed and would typically be plugging the device in to charge for the night. This isn’t too bad and is about average for considering I was pulling it off the charger at about 8 am in the morning.

Software

Compared to some other Chinese smartphones, the UHANS A101 felt surprisingly stock in the software department, there were some additional features which you wouldn’t find on other stock Android devices, but you won’t find a drastic visual change when it comes to user interface. This is a good thing for anyone who wants something simple especially if they’re already used to Android in a more stock setting, but it may not be up to snuff for those who prefer to have the extras and various software tweaks that you’ll find with some OEMs who like to put a more personal touch on their software skins.

The nice thing is that it has an app drawer for all of your apps. Although the apps do end up on your home screen by default once installed, this is a setting you can disable, and you can still find them in the app drawer regardless. As someone who has been using Android devices for a long time and is used to the nature of having an app drawer on hand for every phone that I’ve owned, it was refreshing to see this from UHANS as most other Chinese OEMs simply exclude the app drawer entirely and dump your apps onto the homescreen for good. Of course you can get around this with a third-party home launcher, but you don’t have to with the A101 which is the point here. While you won’t find too many addition in the software department from UHANS, there were some features which aren’t standard, such as the Supershot feature which is like an enhanced screenshot capability. You still take screenshots the same way you do on most Android devices which is by holding down the volume down button and power button simultaneously, but once done, you don’t just get a simple screenshot as you have options for a “funny” screenshot, which lets you do things like lasso the screenshot you take to cut out a specific area of the image, or draw on the screenshot with the graffiti option. UHANS also has a few smart settings available like double tapping to light up the display, as well as various gesture settings for waking the display by drawing letters on the screen or moving the device up, down, left, and right to control things like music or unlock the screen. There’s also a turbo download option which utilizes both the cell networks and Wi-Fi to download files as opposed to just one or the other which will come in handy for users who download a lot of stuff.

Camera
Without mincing words, the camera experience on the A101 is poor unless you have the absolute most optimal lighting conditions you could ever hope for. This paired with the fact that the default setting for the camera shutter has a slight delay, which means you could easily mess up the shot if you move too much, makes for a less than desirable experience when taking pictures. Since this is a 5-megapixel sensor the quality of the images is just not that good, although the A101 did have its moments and was able to take the occasional surprising shot where the image came out better than I was expecting due to the nature of previous pictures. If you’re worried about the shutter delay, than just like with the OUKITEL K7000 you can turn off the shutter delay within the camera settings, and here you can also adjust a few other things as well, such as the exposure, ISO, white balance and more. You also have a few different camera modes including panorama, Face Beauty mode, and of course video capture. To cut to the chase, you won’t be buying this phone for the camera quality. It’s there, so if you need a camera and this is what you have on you, it will suffice, but it shouldn’t be something that you rely on for images where you want to have the best possible quality.

The Good
Nice build quality
Decent battery life
Extremely affordable
Supports 3G through networks like T-Mobile
Decent screen
Mostly stock Android software experience complete with app drawer and other stock UI elements

The Bad
Camera
Speaker
Performance

Wrap Up

The UHANS A101 is a device that is both decent in some areas and less than desirable in others. It comes in at a super affordable price and for that, you actually get some decent features and specs for the cost. This doesn’t take away from the fact that the phone under performs.

Should you buy the UHANS A101?

If you’re in the market for an affordable phone and you are less concerned with the features and having the best phone on the market, then the A101 may suit you just fine. If you’re wanting a little more out of your device that you’ll be expecting to use day in and day out, event if it means that you will have to pay a little bit more for it, then you may way to look elsewhere. Having said that, the A101 is a decent offering for the entry-level market and especially so when you consider the cost, which is right around $100 at full retail.

Buy The UHANS A101