Smartphones are becoming cheaper and cheaper these days, and there are a number of options coming out of China these days that are under $100 USD. The Oukitel U7 Plus is one of those. Given the low price of the Oukitel U7 Plus, the specs are also pretty low-end, but are they too low-end to run Android 6.0 Marshmallow? That's what we'll be checking out in this review.
Starting off with the display, we're looking at a 5.5-inch 1280x720 resolution IPS display, this gives you a pixel density of 267 pixels per inch. There is a MediaTek MT6737 processor inside powering this smartphone. That's a quad-core 1.3GHz SoC. And it is paired with the Mali-T720 GPU clocked at 600Mhz. There's 2GB of RAM inside for good measure, along with 16GB of storage which is supplemented with a micro SD card slot. There is a 2500mAh battery that is powering the Oukitel U7 Plus, and it is all powered by Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
When it comes to the camera, we are looking at an 8-megapixel sensor which is interpolated to 13-megapixel. It will shoot video at 2-megapixels and 30 frames-per-second. The front-facing sensor is a 2-megapixel sensor with an interpolated resolution of 5-megapixels.
In the Box
Included in the box here, there's not much, as you'd expect, given the price of this smartphone. You get the Oukitel U7 Plus, some paper work along with a USB Type-A to micro USB cable and a wall adapter and that's about it. There's nothing fancy about the packaging either, with this smartphone.
The hardware on the Oukitel U7 Plus looks boring and cheap. It's kind of a shame to have to say that but it does. The boring part is easy to overlook, considering there are so many smartphones out right now, it's tough to make something that looks widely different from everyone else. But the U7 Plus does definitely feel cheap in your hand. It's quite thick, and it actually feels a lot like the LG G5, with its painted aluminum. However, with the removable back here, we're fairly certain that this is just plastic and not aluminum. Speaking of the removable back, behind there you will find two SIM card slots, and a micro SD card slot. There is also the ability to remove that 2500mAh battery that is included.
Oukitel has opted to put the speaker on the bottom of the U7 Plus. It's likely better than having it on the back, but front-facing speakers are still the best. Speaking of the front, there's three capacitive buttons on the front. We're looking at a menu button, home and a back button. Interesting that more and more manufacturers are opting to use a menu button rather than a recents button on their smartphones. Considering Google got rid of the menu button how many years ago? There's also the earpiece above the display, front-facing camera and an array of sensors included.
The power button is found on the right side of the device, which appears to just be a tad too high for most users. As you need to shimmy your hand up the device to actually use it. The same goes for the volume rocker which is on the left side. The micro USB port you'll find is at the bottom of the device, and they did keep the 3.5mm headphone jack, with it being at the top. The back features that 8-megapixel sensor in the top left-hand corner with the flash below it. The fingerprint sensor is in the middle, but towards the top of the device. Otherwise, the backside looks fairly minimal, with only regulatory information and the Oukitel logo at the bottom of the device.
With providing a removable back and a removable battery, Oukitel doesn't have a whole lot of options available for what they can do to make the device feel more premium. But the U7 Plus almost feels like an older Galaxy smartphone, when Samsung was big on using plastic on their devices.
The panel here on the Oukitel U7 Plus is not the sharpest display you'd see on a smartphone, that's a given. Considering it is a 720p panel, at 5.5-inches. However, it does perform pretty well. Throughout the time that I used the phone, I did not see any individual pixels, like you would with pentile displays. And the quality of colors on the screen were pretty good, about what you would expect to see from any other smartphone with an IPS display, to be quite honest. Now Oukitel doesn't offer up any way to adjust the temperature of the display here, but it does look to be a tad bit cool on the U7 Plus. Which may not be a big deal for some users, while others will want it a bit warmer.
Now the digitizer here can be a bit of an issue. It's not entirely bad, but there are times where I've touched the screen and it did nothing. Meaning it didn't register that I had touched the display. That's not really a good thing, considering that is the main way that you interact with the device. Now it's not always bad, but it does have its issues. This is to be expected on a smartphone in this price range, sadly.
Inside the U7 Plus, there is the MediaTek MT6737 processor, which is a quad-core 1.3GHz SoC. Not the most powerful processor out there, by a long shot. But it is powerful enough to get things done. Obviously, we did notice a bit of a slow down, compared to other smartphones, like the Xperia XZ which we just recently reviewed, that has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 inside. But it's not a reason not to pick up the Oukitel U7 Plus. Since the company opted to use stock Android here, the performance is pretty top notch, even though the specs are rather low-end. There is also the Mali-T720 GPU inside which also performs quite well, giving us some pretty great gameplay. Obviously, it's not as good as some other GPU's out there that are inside high-end flagship smartphones, but it's still pretty incredible.
Most people would probably see the fact that this device has just 2GB of RAM and immediately write it off. Don't. As you may or may not know, Google has been working to optimize Android in the past few years to work well with as little as 512MB of RAM. And again, with Oukitel keeping to very little changes to the OS, Android 6.0 Marshmallow runs quite well with just 2GB of RAM here. We were able to have a slew of apps open, without them needing to reload after we open them through the recents menu. That's pretty great, actually, and it means that you can buy a cheaper smartphone and not sacrifice the amount of RAM you have.
There's 16GB of storage included here, and there is a microSD card slot that is compatible with Adoptable storage. Now out of the box, you get around 10-11GB of storage. After we installed all of our apps, we used just 8.65GB of 16GB. So even with what appears to be a small amount of storage, there's still plenty here. With many smartphones coming with just 8GB of storage or less, it's refreshing to see Oukitel throw in 16GB of storage.
The speaker is located on the bottom of the phone, and it actually performs quite well. Of course, there's no type of HiFi audio here from the speaker, but for your typical watching YouTube videos, listening to some music, it will work just fine. Even when you are holding the phone in your hand, it doesn't really get muffled, which is pretty interesting. The audio doesn't sound tinny, and does get pretty loud as well.
When it comes to the 3.5mm headphone jack, you pretty much get the same experience, although a big part of that experience is coming from the headphones that you have plugged into the smartphone. So if you have a cheap pair of headphones, you won't have an enjoyable experience.
Phone Calls & Network
We used the Oukitel U7 Plus on the T-Mobile US network during the review period. It worked about as expected. Keep in mind that the Oukitel U7 Plus is not intended for US networks nor is it being sold here, so it does not support LTE on any of the networks here, and for the most part you'll be stuck with 2G connectivity. Which is pretty slow in this day and age. But speeds were relatively similar to other smartphones we've reviewed lately, that were stuck with just 2G in the US. As far as calls go, those went without a hitch as well. Those we spoke with said that we sounded pretty good. Keep in mind there's no HD Voice support from T-Mobile nor AT&T, since this isn't one of their smartphones. On that note, there is also no VoIP or WiFi Calling included in the software either, which isn't a surprise really.
Below are the bands that the Oukitel U7 Plus works on:
GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900
W-CDMA 900, 1900, 2100
LTE 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2600
Honestly, given the price of this smartphone, it's pretty surprising to see that it sports a fingerprint sensor. This shows just how mainstream fingerprint sensors are nowadays. However, it may have been better for Oukitel to have left it off of this smartphone. Unfortunately, the fingerprint sensor is pretty bad. Part of this is the fact that the sensor is pretty deep in the back of the device, making it a bit awkward to use it when you pick it up. The other part is the fact that this fingerprint sensor doesn't always work. In fact, it doesn't recognize my fingerprint more times than it does. A bit unfortunate, and hopefully that changes with some updates to the Oukitel U7 Plus, but for now, it's pretty bad, and almost unusable.
For benchmarks, we ran GeekBench 4, AnTuTu and 3D Mark. All of which test the performance of the Oukitel U7 Plus to see just how good, or bad the device really is. The scores weren't really surprising, given the hardware that is included in the U7 Plus. On Geekbench 4 it scored 567 in the single-core test and 1499 in the multi-core test. Unsurprisingly, that puts it well below many flagship smartphones. On AnTuTu, It was well below any other smartphone in the top 35, with a score of 28,629. Finally, with 3D Mark, we're looking at a score of 103. So obviously this isn't the best smartphone for gameplay, but it is usable. You can check out the full results below.
Ordinarily a 2500mAh battery would look pretty subpar in a smartphone these days, especially with a 5.5-inch display. But Oukitel has did throw on a 720p panel here, and a pretty low-end processor that doesn't use a lot of power. Combined, these make for some pretty impressive battery life numbers. Standby on the Oukitel U7 Plus was phenomenal. It was able to stand overnight (around 8 to 10 hours) and not lose a single percentage point. Even with the screen on, the device would last quite a while. And the display and SoC definitely play a big role in that.
As we've mentioned already, we're looking at Android 6.0 Marshmallow here on the Oukitel U7 Plus. Additionally, it does not show which security patch it is running. So it's tough to judge how often software updates will be available. But we can say that we did receive an update while we were reviewing this device. So the company is at least pushing out updates, even small bug fixing updates. That is always a good thing to see. Especially where most manufacturers may never update their smartphones, especially in this price range.
Like with most other Oukitel smartphones we've reviewed recently, this smartphone is running on stock Android, mostly. With just a few changes included. One of those changes - as usual - is the launcher. Now we do have a app drawer here, so all your apps are not forced to live on the home screens. But there is an icon pack that is included here and makes most icons rounded. And those that are not pre-installed, will see a frame around it, which can look a bit odd. Now the app drawer is pretty plain, it's a vertical scrolling app drawer, there's no search bar or anything special like that included. Not a deal breaker really, but we would have definitely preferred the Google Now Launcher. It's not surprising it wasn't included though, since this smartphone is being sold in China and Google is indeed blocked there.
One of the other features included here is the Float Gesture, which is a pretty interesting feature. There's a small button that lives on the display here, and when you tap on it, you get to see a number of other settings. Making it easy to do things. Included here is the ability to tap on a setting to lock the screen, enter game mode, read mode, float music, clean task, Float video and gesture recognize. You also have the ability to add more gestures to your float gesture here. Which is a pretty cool option to have. Ultimately, you can turn it off. Speaking of gestures, Oukitel has plenty more included in this smartphone. Under "Gesture Unlock" there are a number of them that are available for the lock screen. For instance you can double-click to wake the device, slide up to unlock, slide down for the camera, write a "C" for the phone, "E" for the browser and many others. All of these gestures can be turned on/off on a granular level. So you aren't forced to have them all on, or all off.
As mentioned earlier on, Oukitel has capacitive buttons here, and we're looking at a menu button, home button and back button. It's a bit strange that in 2016 new smartphones are still not launching with a recents button, and even stranger is the fact that you need to long-press the home button to get into recents or multi-tasking. But that's how it works, nonetheless. This does take a bit of getting used too, but it's not too bad to be honest. The software overall, is actually quite good. Even on a lower-end processor and just 2GB of RAM, Marshmallow runs quite well. We would have loved to see a few more features baked in on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but it's still a great smartphone to pick up, software-wise.
So, Oukitel's camera here is a 8-megapixel shooter, which interpolates the resolution to 13-megapixel. Something you don't see on most smartphones these days and that's because it's not needed and actually has a bad effect on pictures a lot of the time. Which you'll be able to notice in the gallery below. Now you do have the option to set the size to 8-megapixels rather than 13, which we did with a few pictures here and they turned out a bit better. Overall, the picture quality from the Oukitel U7 Plus was not all that great. It wasn't a potato camera, thankfully, but it definitely could have been better. There's plenty of noise in a good number of these pictures, and color reproduction was off in a few images. What's even worse is that the auto-focus was really, really slow. In some of these, it looks like the objects were moving when they weren't, because the auto-focus was so slow.
Now the camera app here is pretty minimal, it's basically the same camera app you'll find on a lot of these lower-end Chinese smartphones that run stock Android. You're pretty limited on modes though, there's an auto mode, panorama and then beauty for the front-facing camera. And that's it. There's not even a manual mode, which we would have definitely preferred to see here, but it's not a big deal that it is missing. Of course, those that are photographers are going to prefer it to be on smartphone cameras these days, as it allows them to control the shot a bit more. It does feature HDR, but as you'd expect, it does slow down the camera quite a bit, and unless you have very steady hands, you'll notice a hint of blurriness in these pictures.
Overall, the camera was decent, we weren't that impressed by it. But then again, we didn't expect it to really impress us, given the fact that it is a 8-megapixel sensor on the backside, and most smartphones these days are sporting 12-megapixel sensors or larger, and also feature laser auto-focus, something else Oukitel doesn't have here. The camera will work just fine for those times when you need to post a picture on Instagram or Facebook, but don't expect this to replace your point and shoot camera, let alone your DSLR.
So the Oukitel U7 Plus isn't the best smartphone we've reviewed in recent memory. But all through this review I've had to keep reminding myself of the price point that Oukitel is hitting here with this smartphone. And given the sub-$100 USD price point, it's actually really good. Coming off of reviewing the Sony Xperia XZ, I was pretty disappointed, but the Xperia XZ is also about 7-times the price, so it's expected that there will be a huge difference between the two. Having said that, it's actually a pretty good smartphone for the price.
Should you Buy the Oukitel U7 Plus?
That's a tough question. The Oukitel U7 Plus is not an amazing smartphone. It's one of those smartphones that will get stuff done for you, and that's likely about it. If you are in need of a smartphone that provides you with the ability to check your email, Twitter, Facebook, etc and make calls, then the Oukitel U7 Plus is a great smartphone to pick up. Just don't expect to see it getting updates often, and don't expect it to blow you away.