Review: OUKITEL U20 Plus Android Smartphone

January 27, 2017 - Written By Justin Diaz

OUKITEL isn’t a very well-known brand here in the US and that’s due to the fact that you can’t really buy their phones here. You can order them online and have them imported, but they won’t be designed for the US as OUKITEL is a Chinese brand that is only targeting the Chinese market. That being said, they actually have quite a few smartphone models available and have been making phones for at least a few years. One of their more recent options, the U20 Plus, is the latest device from them that we’ve been able to check out first hand. It’s a decent looking device, but of course looks aren’t everything and it’s just as important how the phone works. Let’s see if the U20 Plus is worth it.

Specs

The U20 Plus is not going to be a high-end device aimed at those looking for the most premium quality offerings. It does have a decent set of specs though that generally make it a good value for the money. It’s sporting a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, so you’re actually getting Full HD resolution here which is more than what you’ll usually end up getting with a lot of these Chinese smartphones that come in at this particular price range.

Beyond the display, the U20 Plus is carrying a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera sensor, using a Sony IMX135 sensor, with autofocus and LED Flash, and it’s also sporting a dual camera sensor setup where the second rear camera sensor works to record image data and put focus on the subject while objects in the background are blurred.Over on the front it has a 5-megapixel camera for selfies and video chat. It’s carrying a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor which can be used for unlocking the device, and it’s got a microUSB port for charging and data transfer as well as a 3.5mm audio port on top for plugging in headphones. On the inside it’s carrying a 3,300mAh battery, and it’s powered by a MediaTek MT6737T quad-core processor which is paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage space. It also supports expandable storage up to 128GB and it comes running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which seems to be pretty standard these days with a lot of the entry-level smartphones that are coming out of China.

In The Box

When it comes to what’s in the box with this device, you’ll have the phone first and foremost, which sits right on top and is the first thing you see when opening up the box. The phone also comes with a protective silicone case that is already on the device, as well as a pre-installed screen protector. Aside from that you’ll have the wall adapter and USB cable, although the wall adapter won’t work for US outlets so you’ll need to use a different adapter to charge the device. You’ll also find the manual and quick start guide as well as the SIM ejector tool here, and that’s about it.

Hardware Design & Build

As stated above the OUKITEL U20 Plus very much looks the part of a decent as well as stylish device. Looking the part of a well-built phone, though, is very different from actually being a well-built phone. The good news here is that the U20 Plus does look and feel well-built, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel premium. Part of its stylish design can be attributed to the design of the iPhone 7 Plus, which is quite obviously where a lot of the design inspiration comes from here, and there’s nothing wrong with that, although it is a tad bit misleading as the iPhone 7 Plus uses metal for the body material, while the U20 Plus uses plastic. Upon holding it for the first time it was immediately clear that it was plastic, and this didn’t exactly feel cheap but the use of metal would certainly have been nicer. Having said that, the plastic does it have it’s benefits. It isn’t particularly cold to the touch like most metal smartphones would be most of the time, and it was easy to grip without feeling to slippery in the hand. Plastic is also less expensive to use for the manufacturer, which ultimately means less paid for the consumer, and that’s what we have here as the OUKITEL U20 Plus only costs about $120.

When it comes to the overall build, OUKITEL places what look like dual stereo speakers on the bottom of the device, but in reality there is only one speaker here and the other set of holes is simply to make the design match. Instead of using on-screen buttons, OUKITEL has used capacitive touch keys here that sit in the bottom bezel of the display. The nice thing is that these have a constant appearance instead of being light up capacitive keys. This makes it much easier to interact with them as many of the other Chinese devices we’ve reviewed recently in this price range opt for the light up keys, which wouldn’t be a problem if they actually lit up most of the time. Another different design choice was putting the volume buttons and the power button all on the same side. They reside on the left side of the device which isn’t a major issue design-wise, but it did make things a little less convenient as I am personally used to having the buttons on the right side. At the very least the volume buttons. On the right you’ll find the SIM tray and the rest of that side is free and clear of any buttons. As mentioned above the charging port is on the bottom of the device to the right of the speaker, while up top there’s a 3.5mm audio port. When it comes down to it, the U20 Plus feels nice and solid and the fact that it’s plastic means you won’t be dealing with extremely noticeable scratches and scuffs that tend to show up with a metal phone if it happens to get dropped or dinged.

Display

The U20 Plus sports a Full HD display so it already has a leg up on plenty of phones in this price range, and it’s 5.5-inches so it was big enough to enjoy things like videos and gaming. I would frequently find myself watching videos on YouTube using this device instead of my Pixel simply because the screen was just a tad bigger. As for overall clarity, even though it is Full HD instead of just HD the display is still not as sharp as it could be. The blacks also aren’t as deep as an AMOLED display which becomes a little more apparent as you’re constantly seeing the black when you pull down the notification shade. The good news is that there was no issue with the digitizer. I had absolutely no issues with the U20 Plus recognizing my touches and the response time when interacting with the display was just about as good as you could hope for in an entry level device. The display was also plenty bright even at lower brightness settings. When it comes down to it, there really weren’t any complaints here. For what you’re paying this was just all around decent screen.

Performance

Like any smartphone with a budget-minded price tag and a set of low-grade specifications, the U20 Plus doesn’t blow you out of the water in terms of performance, but it didn’t hang or stutter really at during our time of use with it. It worked just fine for most situations and seemed to stay fluid even with multiple apps running in the background. That being said said, performance did lag a bit when attempting to play certain games, so if you’re someone who is looking for a device that can handle the most demanding mobile games with intense visuals, the U20 Plus may not cut it for you. For casual games and some titles which have been really well optimized it does just fine so it isn’t completely hampered, but in games such as Hearthstone where there is a lot of special effects, you can tell there is a little bit of stutter and lag as the phone tries to animate certain situations within the game.

Fingerprint Sensor

There’s not a lot that can really be said at the fingerprint sensor when it can only be used for unlocking the device, and there really isn’t a lot that needs to be said. While the fingerprint sensor did work OK in most situations, it was less accurate than we would have liked and didn’t respond as well as some of the other devices we’ve reviewed recently. It was just a tad bit slower at unlocking, but this wasn’t the most annoying part of using it. The sensor itself was a little small and smaller than most fingerprint sensors on smartphones, which made it more challenging to hit it in the right spot, and likely attributed to most of the reason why it didn’t work as well. Beyond this, the fingerprint sensor does work and that’s the most important factor.

Wireless Connectivity

The OUKITEL U20 Plus does support GSM networks such as T-Mobile and AT&T for 2G EDGE and 3G network connectivity speeds, but I was unfortunately not able to test the call quality as my personal device uses Project Fi and the SIM card was not supported. That being said, if you have a GSM network like T-Mobile or AT&T in the US, you should be able to use the device just fine, although you’ll need to live without support for 4G LTE as the LTE bands that the U20 Plus supports are not the same LTE bands used by US carriers. As for which network frequencies the device supports, you can find those below.
2G EDGE: 850/900/1800/2100
3G: 900/2100
4G LTE: Bands 1/3/7/8/20

Sound Quality

With a single speaker and a $120 price tag, we weren’t expecting the audio quality to blow us out of the water. We did however, expect it to be a little better than what it was. Songs didn’t sound as clear or sharp as they could have and often times I found myself having to turn the audio up way more than I normally would have to account for the lack of clarity. The downside to this was that it usually just ended up causing the audio to sound a little more distorted. Overall the audio wasn’t great and it’s clear that this was one area where OUKITEL paid a little bit less attention. At this price range, though, compromises do have to be made and this was unfortunately one of those areas. This won’t be an issue for someone who doesn’t really listen to music much on their device, or for someone who always uses headphones, but if you listen to music often and more times than not just through the phone speakers, the U20 Plus is going to leave a little bit to be desired.

Benchmarks

Like most of the budget-friendly Chinese devices we’ve reviewed over the past couple of months, the OUKITEL U20 Plus doesn’t exactly soar in the benchmarks, and there’s no reason to suggest that it would given its price range and use of hardware. It does OK for its category though and it did quite a bit better than the BLUBOO Edge which we just reviewed last week, which actually looks a lot nicer but performs worse, at least on paper and judging by the scores. It also did better than the K7000 which is another device from OUKITEL which comes in at around the same price. If you’re interested, you can see the results of the benchmarks in the screenshots below.

Battery Life

With a 3,300mAh battery on board the OUKITEL U20 Plus is no slouch in terms of power for keeping the device on, and after using it for nearly a week and running a battery test to mimic what the screen on time was like, I found that the battery would last around 4 hours and 10 minutes for screen on time, which was the result during the battery test. In real-world usage what we actually got was about 3 hours and 45 minutes which is certainly close to the results of the test, but was likely just a little bit less due to the nature of how the device was used. As for normal everyday use I was able to take the U20 Plus though an entire day and then some and standby time on the device seemed to be good for about 2 to 3 days before needing to be plugged back. It’s also worth noting that this was not an entire 2 to 3 days of standby time as there was a little bit of use mixed in with some streaming music from Play Music as well as a little bit of gaming. Overall there is nothing bad about the battery but it didn’t last as long as we’d hoped.

Software

Software wise the U20 Plus felt fairly standard and common as it looks and functions very similarly to other Chinese smartphones. It carries a similar design on the homescreen as there is no app drawer present and all your apps are dumped onto various home screen pages as you install more apps. There are some slight differences, though. Pulling down the notification shade reveals a black color scheme instead of the usual dark gray color that you see on most stock android devices. Now, this isn’t exactly stock Android, but usually with these types of devices things like the notification shade and the settings menu tend to look the same. Where the U20 Plus does set itself apart just a little bit is with it’s Super Screenshot feature, which you can easily access from the quick settings tiles in the notification shade. As soon as you bring this up a little wheel with various different screenshot options comes up letting you access options like scroll capture and the ability to record the screen. You also have a funny screenshot option that works exactly like the funny option on the BLUBOO Edge we reviewed recently.

You also have the ability to take screenshots like any other Android device which is to hold down the power key and the volume down key simultaneously. In addition to the SuperScreenshot you also have some “Smart Accessibility” features like flipping the device to silence incoming calls, as well as an option to take a screenshot by touching the screen with three fingers and swiping downward. For the most part, the software experience doesn’t really offer anything unique to this particular brand of device. There’s not a whole lot of special extras, but that isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, however it might provide a little bit more of a boring user experience for some.

Camera

When it comes to the camera on the U20 Plus this is one area where OUKITEL boasts a little bit of superiority. Coming with a dual lens makeup the phone is designed to give the user a camera experience that can provide better picture. OUKITEL refers to the setup as offering an SLR experience with better lighting in images and an overall better clarity because of the dual lens. While the dual lens may help let in a little more light for the images when the lighting situation is ideal, the picture quality appears to drop drastically in lower-light situations. While most smartphone cameras aren’t going to be able to produce an excellent image in darker scenarios, there are a handful of higher-end devices where low-light images actually exceeded our expectations. The OUKITEL U20 Plus is not one of those smartphone cameras. Pictures in low-light spots tend to produce images that don’t have nearly enough detail and although this can kind of be counteracted a little bit by adjusting the ISO and exposure settings, the camera software doesn’t make these options easy to get to.

Granted, getting to all the camera settings is only a tap away, but then you have a long list of options to scroll through and aren’t able to easily access adjustment to things like the ISO or exposure on the fly, which would be much more useful if it readily available from the main camera screen. Low-light images aside, when the lighting is decent, the U20 Plus actually puts out a pretty decent picture which was fairly impressive for a phone that costs just $120. Colors produced in images seemed to be vivid and colors weren’t too washed out, and there was a surprisingly high amount of detail more often than not. OUKITEL’s camera software also offers up plenty of customization for your pictures, giving the user a few different modes which include the normal photo mode, beauty, panorama, video, and SLR.

You also have an HDR setting which can be turned on in the standard photo mode and there are effects options which can be accessed by tapping on the button that sits just above the shutter. When tapped, there is a button for “effect” which brings up multiple filter types that can be applied to your images, like sepia or mono. There are also effects for blackboard, whiteboard, negative, posterize, and aqua, all which add a little bit of uniqueness to your images. In the normal camera settings, you can also enable toggles for anti-shake and EIS, which definitely help to offset a little bit of the handshake and blurriness that can occur in images due to the phone’s unfortunately slower shutter speed. Overall, the camera on the OUKITEL U20 Plus was not an exceptional groundbreaking camera, but for $120 it was more than sufficient and noticeably better than other devices in this range.

The Good

Big display with Full HD resolution
Decent battery life
Pretty good camera, especially for the price range
Extras in the box like a free silicone case and a pre-installed screen protector
Comfortable to hold in the hand

The Bad

Similar software to other Chinese Android phones, which means no app drawer with the stock launcher
Fingerprint sensor was not as accurate as it should be
Fingerprint sensor was small, making it harder to place your finger in the right spot, which could have added to the inaccuracy
Capacitive navigation button instead of on screen navigation buttons

Wrap Up

When most people generally consider buying a new smartphone or for that matter their first smartphone, quality and price are definitely a couple of factors to consider and almost always are the factors that are taken into account. Considering these things, the OUKITEL U20 Plus is not the most high-end phone but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a quality phone. For close to the hundred dollar mark, the U20 Plus delivers a decent enough experience that would be a great device for anyone who is looking to get into their first smartphone or for someone who is even looking for a new main device.

Should you buy the OUKITEL U20 Plus?

That really all depends on what you look for in a device. If you want high performance specs with a very sleek design and the best of the best when it comes to software features, camera, screen and more, then the U20 Plus is not for you. If however you don’t want to spend a lot of money, don’t really care to have the most powerful hardware, and yet still want an ok experience, then definitely give the U20 Plus some thought, especially since it’s on a flash sale right for just $99 so it’s even less expensive than it is normally.

Buy The OUKITEL U20 Plus