The Chinese smartphone market is huge, that country accounted for 40% of overall smartphone shipments in 2014, smartphone manufacturers and smartphones are dime a dozen in China. That being said, you've probably heard of many China-based companies, like Huawei, Lenovo, Asus, Acer, ZTE, Xiaomi, Meizu… but there are many of them you probably haven't heard of just yet, or at least haven't heard much of. Ulefone is definitely such a company. This Chinese smartphone OEM already has quite a few of solid products under their belt, including a significant amount of smartphones and a few tablet offerings. This company is relatively unknown outside of China, as I already said, but they intrigued us and we wanted to test out one of their devices. The Ulefone Be One is not company's most powerful handset, but is a relatively solid mid-range offering, at least on paper. As a disclaimer, I never handled a phone made by this company and I used this device for about 6-7 days before I felt comfortable enough to share my opinion with you. Anyhow, let's dig in, shall we.
- 5.5-inch 720p (1280 x 720) OGS display (made by LG)
- MediaTek MT6592M octa-core processor clocked at 1.4GHz
- Mali 450-MP4 GPU running at 600MHz
- 1GB of RAM
- 16GB of internal storage (expandable up to 32GB)
- Dual-SIM, dual standby (Micro SIM + standard SIM)
- 2,350mAh battery
- Android 4.4.2
- 13-megapixel rear-facing camera (by Sony), f/2.2 aperture + LED flash
- 8-megapixel front-facing camera (S5K5E2, Samsung)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 157 x 77.8 x 8.8mm
- 170 grams
- Available in Dark Blue and White color options.
Hardware and Build
Let's kick things off with this device's design, as you can see in the listed specs above, this is a rather big handset. The Ulefone Be One measures 157 x 77.8 x 8.8mm and it weighs 170 grams, so it's not particularly light either. Truth be told, this thing sports a 5.5-inch panel, so it can't be small, but it also has somewhat large bezels on the top and bottom (including capacitive buttons) which make it even taller than it probably should be. Those of you who don't mind the size of this device, however, might find things to like when it comes to its design. If you like rather industrial-looking handsets, this might be just the thing for you. The device is really boxy, it has rough edges and sports speaker grills on top and bottom of it, which, might I add, look really nice.
This handset is made out of plastic, but this plastic feels sturdy in the hand, nothing creeks and that's a good thing. You will definitely notice the size while holding it, but you get used to it I guess, it also depends on how large your hands are. My hands, for example, are somewhat above average and I got used to the size of this thing rather quickly, but if you have smaller hands you might want to look at a smaller device or prepare yourself for a two-handed use at all times. LED notifications light is also a part of the package here, surprisingly, it is located in the top left part of the device, next to the speaker grill. The back of this thing is removable, and so is the battery. There are 3 capacitive buttons on the bottom: menu, home and back. The buttons are just fine as long as you don't miss them, they're also easy to find once you get used to it, though I don't care much for capacitive buttons to be honest.
As far as the display goes, we're talking about a 5.5-inch 720p OGS panel here, manufactured by LG. Let me just say that this is one of the best parts of this device, hands down. At first I was a bit skeptical when it comes to this display because of the screen size, of course, but I was blown away soon after I powered on the device and tested the display real quick. A week later, and I'm still on that very same level of excitement actually. This 720p OGS panel is really, really bright, I cannot state this enough. I was using this display at 10-20% brightness, depending on where I was at the time (indoor or outdoor), and it never felt too dim, it was actually quite bright in most situations. Truth be told, it's winter where I live and the sun wasn't exactly around for long, but it did grace me with its presence long enough to see how the display performs under such conditions as well, and it's not the best, but not the worst either, quite average as far as outdoor performance goes.
The colors on this panel are very vibrant and I actually had a feeling I'm looking at an AMOLED panel at times, and viewing angles are also great, really great in fact. I know this sounds odd for a device at this price range, but the display really impressed me, especially if we consider the price point. LG G3 is my daily driver when I'm not reviewing devices, and I even compared this to the quadHD panel on the G3, truth be told I wouldn't mind carrying around a G3 with this 720p panel, mainly because of its brightness (I'm not one of those guys who sees pixels everywhere). You all know by now that the G3's display is super high-res, gorgeous and everything, but it can be really dim and make you tune up the brightness and we all know where that leads to with such high-res displays. One more thing to note is that I always tune display's brightness manually, I never had much luck with auto brightness, never seemed a good fit. All in all, the display is hands down the thing I like most about this device.
Performance is probably the most important aspect of every device, well, it is to me at least. I just can't use a smartphone if it lags all the time or I have any similar issues while using it on a daily basis. That being said, I was really surprised with Ulefone Be One as far as performance goes. The light software definitely helps on this front, but the MediaTek MT6592M octa-core chip managed to keep the phone running smooth as long as you didn't put too much weight on it. What do I mean by this? Well, keep in mind that this phone has "only" 1GB of RAM, so as long as you don't keep too many apps active in the background eating up RAM, you'll be just fine. Well, you'll be fine even if you do, but then the system will start shutting them down, of course.
I also ran some games on this thing, started off with something light and not graphically demanding, Looney Tunes Dash, a game I've been kinda addicted to lately. The phone handled this as I thought it would, with ease, because as I said, this is really not a graphically intensive game, there were basically no stutters during the gameplay, none whatsoever. I thought I should put something a bit heavier on the phone, and decided to download the Asphalt 8: Airborn on it. Downloaded about a gig and a half of that racing madness and fired it up, the game ran great, I was actually somewhat surprised. I tuned the details up to high in the options, and gave it another shot, the game ran great again, there was a slight stutter or two during the race, but nothing you'll normally notice or be bothered with to be quite honest.
All in all, the performance was better than I expected, I believe that sums up the performance par best really. The phone didn't stutter in the week of testing, though of course, if you push it too far with the amount of background apps, you'll feel the weight on it. Android 4.4 KitKat is great for mid-range smartphone performance and this phone proves it. If you're interested in benchmarks, take a look down below, not that they matter as much nor you should take them to heart, but the phone did just fine in that aspect as well.
Battery life is definitely one of the biggest problems in today's smartphones, at least in my opinion. Handsets have been becoming more powerful as years passed by thanks to huge technological advances and what not, but the same thing cannot be said about batteries though, unfortunately. There are all sorts of ideas and research material out there and perhaps we'll get awesome batteries in the future, perhaps alternate power sources or something, but today's battery solutions for smartphones are just not good. Smartphones have evolved in the recent years and the only solution to keep feeding them with power is by putting bigger batteries inside them, which is of course a poor idea. Not only does that make smartphones heavier, but it also means they have to be thicker and bigger. I'm getting off topic a bit, we're here to talk about Ulefone Be One's battery in particular.
As the spec sheet says, this thing ships with a 2,350mAh unit on the inside which is removable. You may notice that this is not that big of a battery, especially if you consider the screen size, luckily this is 'only' a 720p display. Battery life on this device isn't the best, that much is for sure, but you should be able to get a full days use out of this 2,350mAh unit though, at least most of you should be able to do so (if you're a heavy user, you'll have issues doing that though). Every scenario is different when it comes to battery usage, but I was able to get approximately 3 hours of screen-on time with my regular usage. As a disclaimer, I have sync enabled on 2 Gmail accounts, use a few social networking apps and a bunch of additional services are active in the background of my devices. I'm a light gamer though, and do tend to fire up some card games and games like the aforementioned Looney Tunes Dash game from time to time. All in all, the battery is alright, nothing special though, I've seen worse, but better as well.
I really didn't know what to expect as far as software goes, but I was pleasantly surprised here, I have to admit. Ulefone did include a ton of gestures in here along with a few additional apps, like Flashlight, File Manager and ToDo list, for example. I didn't mind either of these apps on this phone, not even the ton of available gestures. Speaking of gestures, you get two separate gesture-related sub-menus under settings, "Gesture sensing" and "Screen gesture". The first menu offers some Samsung-like features I'd say, you can move between your photos within the gallery app, or switch between different songs while listening to music. You can turn on / off each of these options separately in this sub-menu, and also disable it altogether.
The latter menu was somewhat more interesting to me personally. This menu offers "Double tap" features which allow you to wake up the screen by double taping it if it's, off, "Swipe up" wakes up the screen and unlocks it, etc. There are some other predetermined gestures there: Launch Camera, Launch Flaghlight and Control Music. You can enable / disable each of them separately if you'd like, and you can also add 7 more actions to various predetermined gestures (letters, arrows, etc). Sounds good? Well, yeah, but it doesn't work all that well in practice. It is far less sensitive compared to knock-on and similar gestures on other devices, you won't be able to make it work every time, that's for sure. I managed to get a hold of it, find the right spot to tap on and under certain intensity and speed, it works relatively alright, but still, it needs a lot of work. These gestures must be far more sensitive and I hope Ulefone will fix this via software update.
Other than what I listed, and some additional options in the menu, like scheduling powering on & off your device and LED light notification settings, this is a stock Android 4.4.2, which is great. The OS is very, very responsive, and as long as you don't put too much weight on its limited hardware, especially RAM, you'll be just fine using it. I have to say I had a pleasant time using this OS, it's almost stock after all, with a few useful additions actually, I was expecting things to be much worse.
Sound And Call Quality
A phone isn't that useful if you can't take a call properly, now is it. Well, luckily, this handset has a solid earpiece built-in, it seems. I've received a number of calls during my testing of this thing and was able to hear people who talked to me without any issues, they sounded normal and quite loud and crisp actually. When I asked for a feedback, they said that I sound just fine as well, there were no issues as far as that is concerned. I did have some issues with the proximity sensor on this thing though when receiving calls, the screen was turning on as soon as I moved the phone even a little while holding it on my ear during the call, which was really annoying. I don't know if this is the issue with this unit only, or perhaps others have the same issues, but it seems the proximity sensor is a bit too sensitive, it's quite possible my unit is the only one with such issues.
As far as the sound quality goes, the speaker is located on the back of this thing and it's not that loud unfortunately. The sound quality is rather average, though okay, especially considering the price of the device, but it's not nowhere near as loud as I'd like it to be. I'd prefer a front-facing speakers, of course (not, those two grills on the front are not speakers), but you can't ask for much at this price point, really can't. The sound was average, but alright. I didn't have any complaints regarding that while watching YouTube videos or listening to music, except for the fact the speaker is back-facing, of course. I didn't have any sound issues during my testing though, everything went as smooth as it could and I actually enjoyed using this thing for music / video purposes. I can't really complain on the sound quality considering the price, I was expecting it to be much worse to be quite honest.
I was actually surprised to see the 13-megapixel camera sensor built into this device. This is actually Sony's sensor, even though I was unable to find out the exact sensor model. Anyhow, megapixels really don't mean much if the software and all sorts of optimization isn't involved, and this camera proves it. The camera isn't horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not good either, it's actually what you'd expect from a device in this price range, well, a bit better actually. Images can be really good if the proper lighting is involved, of course, it is a 13MP sensor after all, but as soon as the perfect conditions aren't involved, pictures become kinda… well, not good, they're still passable though. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, for this amount of money you really can't expect more, and the rear-facing 13-megapixel snapper is alright, just don't expect it to do wonders, especially if the lighting isn't all that good.
This thing can provide you with passable images if used in night conditions, but only if the object you're taking a shot of is properly lit by a street light or something, as you'd find out after you take a look at the images below. If you're looking to snap a picture of something not properly lit (during the night), you're out of luck, the picture will be almost completely dark. The LED flash on the back of this thing really won't do you any good, it can lit up objects that are close by, but as long as you step just a little bit further in order to get the full image, the result turns out dark, grainy and not good. One more thing to note is the pink tint that is present here, I've had the same problems with my old Samsung devices actually. As long as you're not taking a shot of something white, you're good, but as soon as you do that you'll see a rather noticeable pink tint in the middle of your shot, which is just awful. It is possible that my device has this problem while others don't, but it's something to keep in mind.
Samsung's 8-megapixel front-facing sensor is present here as well, and… well, it's a front-facing snapper. You can't really expect much in this department, though the 8-megapixel count surely can come in handy if you're prone to taking a lot of selfies. You can get some nice pictures under proper lighting, but as soon as the light is distorted, you'll see some graininess and the image won't be as good as you'd hope. It is definitely alright considering this is the front-facing camera of a budget device we're talking about here. I can talk for days about the camera, but you'll be better off judging the image quality by yourself, there are a bunch of camera samples down below, so take a look and see for yourself.
Main Camera Samples:
Front-Facing Camera Samples:
What else is there to say here? Well, let's sum this up, shall we. The Ulefone Be One is a solid device, it really is. I was actually surprised how good it is while I was using it. My expectations weren't all that high, what can you expect from a $130 device, right? Well, I'm glad I was wrong. This device offers solid build, very good performance and is not that bad looking either if you don't mind a somewhat bigger bezels and a big device overall. I'd prefer for it to have smaller bezels, that the screen-off gestures worked better (were more sensitive) and for the camera to perform better, but you can't ask for the device to be perfect for this amount of money. This is an ideal device for non-heavy users, those who want a solid-performing device which will work fine and be able to handle normal usage, you have to be able to put up with its size though, because this is everything but a small device.
You can purchase this device from our trusted reseller from 1949deal.com, available in Dark Blue and White on their site for the low price of only $134.99 , if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and we will do our best to answer all of them.