Oukitel brings two things customers love in the U16 Max, a large battery and a large screen.
A 6-inch smartphone for under $150? How is that possible. We're not sure, but Oukitel has made it possible. The Oukitel U16 Max was announced last month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and it definitely turned quite a few heads. Largely because it has that impressive 4,000mAh battery inside, which should keep the U16 Max going for quite some time. It's still a rather mid-range smartphone with a large screen, which may seem a bit odd, but it's definitely interesting. We've taken the Oukitel U16 Max and put it through its paces to see how well, or not so well, it actually works in day-to-day usage. So let's get started with this review.
The Oukitel U16 Max smartphone isn't the most high-end device out there, but the company has given the device some rather respectable specs. There's a 6-inch 1280x720 resolution display, powered by the MediaTek MT6753 octa-core processor and that is paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. There is also a micro SD card slot included for those that need a bit more storage on their smartphone.
As far as optics go, there is a 13-megapixel sensor on the back of the U16 Max which sports an aperture of f/2.2. It can record video at up to 30 frames-per-second. On the front, there is a 5-megapixel camera that has an aperture of f/2.0, making for a pretty good selfie camera, all things considered. There's also a 4000mAh battery in the U16 Max along with Android 7.0 Nougat. When it comes to sensors, we have a proximity, light, accelerometer and a fingerprint sensor. There is no NFC included on the U16 Max, but we do have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
In the Box
Oukitel has included a clear, TPU case inside the box with the U16 Max. Definitely nice to see a case come bundled with a smartphone, not a common sight these days. Also included in the box is the wall charger and a USB-A to micro USB cable. Since this does not sport a USB-C connector, it'll work with most people's existing cables that they have laying around the house. And that's about it for the box. Nothing too fancy here, but of course that is also what help keep the price down.
The hardware, at least the build quality, on the U16 Max actually surprised me. Given the fact that the Oukitel U16 Max is priced so low, I did not expect it to be made with aluminum, but that's exactly what Oukitel has done here. The U16 Max has an aluminum unibody build, with the front of course being glass. Now, unlike most other metal smartphones, this one isn't that slippery in the hand, surprisingly. The back does have a slight curve to it, it's so slight that you won't even really notice it's there unless you look at the phone from the top of it. There's a slight chamfer on the edges as well, which helps you to hold the phone, because remember this is a 6-inch phone, so it's not small whatsoever.
Oukitel did a good job here of hiding the antenna lines as well. They are actually shown in white, like the front of the device, so they blend in. They are also only in the frame, at the top and bottom. So there are very few antenna lines here. But that doesn't mean that the signal strength is bad on the U16 Max. It's actually still quite good. The camera does protrude a bit here, not a whole lot, but we would have definitely liked for Oukitel to make the device just a tad thicker so the camera would be flush with the back, that would also allow them to add an even larger battery inside.
As we mentioned in the specs section, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack included here on the Oukitel U16 Max, it's located at the top of the phone while the micro USB port and speaker is located at the bottom. We'll talk more on the speaker a bit later. On the right side of the phone, there is the volume rocker and power button while the left side houses the SIM card tray. Now on the front of the U16 Max, there are three capacitive buttons below the display. There's recents, home and back, and in that order. It's unfortunate that the back button is on the right side, seeing as just about everyone else (besides Samsung) puts it on the left. Making it a bit of a learning curve for new users. But, that doesn't take long to get used too.
The bezels around the display are actually pretty minimal, not something you'd expect from a smartphone in this price range actually. The top and bottom bezels are a bit thicker, but that's going to be hard to get rid of. Seeing as you have capacitive buttons at the bottom and then their earpiece at the top along with other sensors and that front-facing camera. But the side bezels are very narrow, which helps to make a phone with a 6-inch display seem just a tad smaller than you'd expect.
Speaking of the display, it is a 1280x720 resolution display, which ordinarily we wouldn't complain about on a smaller phone, seeing as the PPI would still be quite high. But on a 6-inch panel, that is a very low pixel density. Now, the age-old question of "can you see individual pixels" is a flat "no". Of course, we would love to have a higher pixel density here, even just a 1080p display, similar to what's on the Huawei Mate 9, but this isn't the end of the world.
With the Oukitel U16 Max, you unfortunately are not able to adjust the color temperature (at least out of the box) of the display. So you're stuck with what Oukitel has done with the display. It seems to be a bit on the cool side, but my guess here is that most people wouldn't even notice it. You can, however, adjust the display size. Making everything smaller or larger. The advantage here is that you'll be able to fit more content onto the screen, after all that is the major reason behind getting a phone with a larger screen.
The display here isn't perfect, but it is definitely usable. It's also good to see that there isn't any lightbleed coming from the top, bottom or sides of the display. That's another issue we've seen with quite a few smartphones in this price range, unfortunately. The display, despite a low resolution, shouldn't be a deal breaker for most people.
Inside the Oukitel U16 Max, we have the MediaTek MT6753 octa-core processor. This consists of eight Cortex-A53 cores that are clocked at 1.5GHz. And that is paired with the Mali-T720 GPU. So it's not the most high-end or fast processor, but by using slightly slower cores, the device is a bit more energy efficient, helping to make that 4000mAh battery stretch just a bit further. That is also paired with 3GB of RAM, which while many smartphones are coming with as much as 6GB of RAM these days, it's still plenty for most smartphones.
Now, when it comes to performance, the Oukitel U16 Max is no beast, and nor should you expect it to be. But it does perform quite well. During our time using the smartphone, we did not notice any slowdowns or stutters whatsoever. Performance was nice and smooth, whether we were using Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube or another resource heavy app like that. Additionally, when it came to the RAM, we never really had any issues with running out of memory and needing to clear our recent apps. Not a surprise, but definitely good to see.
Seeing a fingerprint sensor coming on more and more of these inexpensive smartphones is definitely nice to see. However, one of the downsides is that these fingerprint sensors are not always as accurate as they should be. Oukitel has incorporated a pretty good fingerprint sensor here, one that works quickly and is mostly accurate. There were a few times when the sensor did not recognize my finger, but for the most part it was accurate. Which is important. The other aspect that's important is the placement. Unfortunately, the sensor is pretty high up on the back of the phone, making it a bit tough to reach. It's just below the camera, and typically, that would be the perfect spot for it, but because this is a large phone already, it means that you need to readjust your hand to unlock the phone or use the fingerprint sensor at all.
Now since the Oukitel U16 Max does run on Android 7.0 Nougat, this means that the Fingerprint API is available. Allowing users to authenticate themselves using the fingerprint sensor, in supported apps and services. Making the sensor a bit more useful than just for unlocking and locking your smartphone. Of course, since there is no NFC, there's really no use for Android Pay, but there are plenty of other apps that work with the fingerprint sensor.
Oukitel has one speaker at the bottom of the U16 Max. That's a pretty common placement for smartphones these days, but that doesn't mean it is a good one. When playing games, the sound will often times get muffled by your hand. Now as far as the quality from this speaker, it's not that bad. It's not tinny like some other smartphones, but it's not high-quality sound - unsurprisingly. Some of the lows are not that bassy at all, but the mids and highs do sound pretty average. Basically, the sound is adequate, but if you're an audiophile, you won't like the sound coming out of this speaker.
Phone Calls & Network
Typically, smartphones that are made and sold in China do not work well in the US, as far as mobile networks go. And that's the way the Oukitel U16 Max goes as well. As you'll see from the bands listed below, it's only compatible with 2G networks in the US, which means no HSPA+ or LTE. Not a surprise really, but if you are in Europe or Asia, the bands should work just fine.
GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900
WCDMA 1900, 2100
LTE 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2600
During our time with the Oukitel U16 Max, the smartphone performed pretty well with making calls, and using the internet. Those that we called said that we sounded normal, now there's no HD Voice included here, so no high-quality voice coming in on these calls. There's also no support for VoLTE. When it came to internet speeds, we experienced about the same speeds as you'd see on other devices, which means that the modem included in the MediaTek MT6753 is doing its job.
As far as benchmarks go, the Oukitel U16 Max had GeekBench 4, AnTuTu and 3D Mark ran on it. Now these benchmarks are compared (as always) to the high-end smartphones on the market. Obviously this isn't a high-end smartphone so it's pretty far down in the rankings, but overall it performed quite well. In GeekBench 4, it scored a 607 on the single-core test and a 2466 in the multi-core test. Over on AnTuTu, it picked up a score of 35,413. And finally on 3D Mark, it picked up a 202. Surprisingly enough, that's a fairly high score, showing just how good that Mali-T720 GPU really is. You can see the full results in the gallery below, for each benchmark.
In the Oukitel U16 Max, we have a pretty massive battery by most smartphone standards, which is rated at a 4000mAh capacity. That's pretty big, and should give you plenty of juice to get through the day and then some. Through our testing, we were able to get through a full day, and then part of the next day. Of course, this all depends on your usage and such, which ours consisted of a lot of video. If you are simply browsing Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms you'll likely see it last almost two full days. We did run PCMark on this device to see how it would do in terms of battery life, and it gave us a score of 6 hours and 59 minutes, on the Work 2.0 test. Now, in real world usage, we were able to get around 4 hours of on-screen time, without using the battery saver. This is partly due to the standby intelligent power saving mode that it has, and gives you even better standby time.
With a 4,000mAh battery inside, that means that's going to take quite a while to charge, and that is definitely the case here. It takes about 3 hours to fully charge (of course, this might be different with the included charger, but we were unable to use it as it is a EU charger and we are in the US). There's no form of quick charge or fast charging available either. That's unfortunate, but at least the battery does last you all day long, so you can simply charge at night.
Oukitel has shipped the U16 Max with Android 7.0 Nougat pre-installed, along with the January 5th, 2017 security update. It's not quite the latest and greatest version of Android from Google, but it is pretty close. Definitely impressive to see that on a smartphone coming in at this price point. Typically these devices come with a fairly old version of Android and an older security patch. It's running Nougat, and it's mostly a stock version of Nougat at that. Which is going to make those purists happy.
As far as the interface goes, there is essentially no changes here, compared to what you would get on an AOSP device. Which is pretty nice, to be honest. However, Oukitel did add in a few extra features here. One of these is the One Hand FloatView. If you swipe in from the lower right-hand corner, you will see a menu pop up that sort of looks like a pie. The first set of options gives you a few choices. You can tap on "Recents" to see your recent apps, which actually opens up about ten of them. There's FloatView which gives you a few features like Screenshot, Screenrecord, Scanner, lock screen and a shortcut to settings. Then there's the Toolbox which opens up a few quick settings that you'd find in the notifications. This is pretty neat, and very useful on a large 6-inch smartphone. Making it easier to use the phone with just one hand.
Now that's not all that Oukitel has here for one-handed features. If you swipe right from the bottom left portion of the screen (this only works on the home screen) you can make the screen smaller, and in the right hand side. Making it easier to access everything on your phone with just one hand. This isn't particularly a new mode, but definitely a useful one.
There's a few pretty useful features here on the Oukitel U16 Max, but Oukitel didn't go overboard by changing up the UI just to be different, like some other manufacturers tend to do. Which is pretty good, especially for those looking for stock Android, but want a large screen and a small price tag.
As we have noted already, there's a 13-megapixel shooter on the backside of this smartphone, and it has an aperture of f/2.2. That's actually not all that bad of a sensor, when you think about it. Now keeping with the stock Android approach here, there's not much going for Oukitel in the camera app. That's both good and bad. It means that the user isn't bombarded with a ton of features that they'll likely never use. But it also means that there are isn't a lot of modes, like manual. Here, we have just auto, face beauty and panorama and that's it. That is fine for most people, but adding in a manual mode would please the professional photographers out there.
However, the pictures from the Oukitel U16 Max likely wouldn't please professional photographers. Unfortunately, the pictures coming out of the U16 Max really aren't that great. There is a ton of noise in a good number of these pictures, including one that I took outside at dusk. Now obviously there isn't a whole lot of light for the camera to take advantage of there, but there is a lot more noise than you would expect there to be. It does get a bit better with more light, and ideal situations, but it's still far from a "great camera." That is really the only downside to the Oukitel U16 Max, but it is a big one. Considering most people rely on their smartphones to be able to snap shots at any time, instead of carrying around a dedicated camera. Typically, I would say that this is still a good camera for pictures that are being uploaded to Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites, but sadly, I don't think that is the case here. Even with adding filters, the noise is still quite visible, unless you're in daylight or excellent lighting.
Android 7.0 Nougat
Micro USB instead of USB-C for charging
The Oukitel U16 Max isn't a smartphone that is targeted at everyone. It's one that is meant for those that want a large smartphone, without paying a large price for that smartphone. And the U16 Max delivers quite well there. Sure it has its downfalls, and just about every smartphone does these days, but there is still a lot to like about the U16 Max. While a 6-inch display market is still pretty niche, there are people out there that would love to get a smartphone with a display that is this large, and the U16 Max is going to be perfect for them.
Should you Buy the Oukitel U16 Max?
Yes, if you want a large screen, and if you don't use your smartphone's camera often. Seeing as the camera is the biggest issue that the U16 Max has, if you aren't a big camera user, then it won't be an issue. The Oukitel U16 Max is pretty impressive on all other fronts. It's a smartphone with a big display - great for consuming media - and a large battery.