Oukitel isn’t a smartphone company that many in the U.S. will know as they aren’t a brand that’s sold in the U.S., but it’s still possible to get a hold of their smartphones and they offer a wide range of different devices with varying specs and features, and we’ve been able to spend some time with with one of their more recent devices, the U13. On the outside the device has a fairly stylish design and you wouldn’t know that it’s not a premium device with a premium price tag. On the inside though the specifications tell a different story, and you begin to understand why the device has a lower cost. Having said that, being a device with a lower cost doesn’t mean it isn’t a device that’s worth the price tag, so let’s take a look at what the Oukitel U13 has to offer.
As stated the U13 isn’t a premium device but it has still has some ok specifications. It uses a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display which seems to have become more and more common these days. It’s also working with a 13-megapixel camera on the back which comes equipped with Dual LED flash and autofocus, as well as an 8-megapixel camera on the front for selfies and video, along with a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device. On the inside the U13 is powered by a MediaTek 6753 processor and it comes with 3GB of RAM, which is also a common piece of hardware in a lot of these Chinese-branded Android devices as we’ve seen this particular chipset in a few of them recently. For storage the device has 64GB internally although it’s also possible to expand on that via a microSD card if you need more space, however 64GB is plenty for most users and is likely to be more than enough to get most people started. There’s a 3,000mAh battery inside to keep the device going, and it supports your typical connectivity options like Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, GPS, and GLONASS, and it comes running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
In The Box
Like more than a few of these entry-level Android smartphones that come out of China the Oukitel U13 comes with more than most devices these days as far as the contents of the box goes. Where many devices comes with just the wall adapter and the charger in addition to the phone itself, the Oukitel U13 comes with those things as well as clear silicone case which, although not a whole lot extra, it’s still a little something and it can help keep the device protected from scratches, scuffs and other dings should you happen to drop it.
Hardware & Design
The Oukitel U13 actually looks fairly similar to a OnePlus 3 with just a few key differences, the first being that the fingerprint sensor is on the back of the device instead of on the front embedded in a physical home button. The second differences is that the LED flash module is located to the right of the back camera sensor instead of below it because of the placement of the fingerprint sensor. Of course, the U13 doesn’t have the notification slider, and both the power button and the volume buttons are on the left side while the SIM tray is on the right.
Minus the placement of the power button and the lack of the slider button, as well as the lack of a physical home button, much of the rest of the U13 looks like a OnePlus 3 so those who are familiar with that phone’s design should see the immediate similarities, like the antenna lines, the metal body and even the chamfered edges. On the bottom of the device you’ll find the charging port which is micro-USB and up top you’ll find the 3.5mm audio port along with an IR sensor. Moving away from the design of the device the U13 actually feels like a solidly built phone so it doesn’t just look nice. You can feel that it was made with a fairly decent quality when you hold it in your hand. This is probably in part due to the use of metal as the body material that helps it not feel cheap, but overall it doesn’t feel like a phone that costs less than $200.
The U13 is working with a Full HD display and it comes in at 5.5-inches, so there really isn’t a whole lot to complain about when it comes to the specs for the display, and the clarity isn’t bad either so in general it was a mostly nice experience in working with the phone and interacting with the screen. The digitizer didn’t seem to have any issues with recognizing my touch responses and the display was easy to see in direct light outside making it easy to use when out on walks or just when standing outside. The color temperature is a bit on the warm side but this is likely not going to be something that many users are going to notice, so this wasn’t too much of an issue either. For those that would take notice of such a thing though, there isn’t any way to adjust the color temperature of the device so you’re pretty much stuck with what you get out of the box. This might be a bit of an annoyance for some, but when it comes down to it the display was one of the factors of the phone where we didn’t have any problems. It worked well and that was the most important part, that it did it’s job and we were able to see it clearly.
You might not expect much from an entry-level smartphone that isn’t packing the best of the best hardware, but even entry-level phones have come a long way these days. For the most part, the performance on the Oukitel U13 was pretty decent. It handled games ok and just when using the device for most other tasks like browsing the web or browsing social media, the phone seemed to operate pretty smoothly. Having said that there were some definite issues that I picked up on and it’s likely that other consumers would pick up on them as well. The phone would consistently have lag issues when hitting the power button to wake the screen so I could unlock it. Not a whole lot of lag, but just a second or two which is just enough to make someone think that the phone may not be operating correctly. Once the display was awake it was pretty quick to unlock the phone, but I had fully expected the lag issues to continue with the response times after the fact, so it was a nice surprise that they didn’t.
The unfortunate thing is that this wasn’t the only performance issue I had with the device. More than once throughout my time with the phone I had run the battery down a fair amount and the device would kick into the power saving mode that was built in. This was turned on by default which I was unaware of at first, so when it first popped on I thought nothing of it. This wouldn’t be an issue except that a couple of those times when it turned on I wasn’t able to exit out of it. This was a problem because there is a button to exit out of this mode and it wasn’t working correctly, it would simply attempt to work and then go right back to the same screen. I eventually had to reboot the device to get to it to work and even then because the power saving mode had to be turned off manually through the reboot, some of the things that should have turned back on by themselves, like Wi-Fi, had to be turned back on manually as well, and while this wasn’t a difficult thing to do, it was annoying and not something that I would want to personally encounter on a regular basis. The performance wasn’t terrible with the device overall, but these little issue would definitely start to pick away at even the average user as they’re little annoyances that could build up over time.
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the fingerprint sensor after noticing some of these performance issues which happened early on, but I was pleasantly surprised with the fact that it actually worked pretty well. It wasn’t the fastest fingerprint sensor we have ever worked with on a device but it wasn’t the slowest, and it didn’t really give me issues with recognizing my fingerprint so the accuracy was pretty good, and this was honestly more important to me than how fast it was operating. In general users shouldn’t be disappointed with how it worked especially if this would be their first experience with having a fingerprint sensor on the phone.
As with most of the smartphones in this tier the sound quality was ok but not great. If you tend to leave the audio volume a little bit lower when you listen to music or watch videos then you may not ever notice but once you turn the volume up a little bit then you can start to hear the audio become a little tinny and blown out. If you typically hook up a Bluetooth speaker or plug in a set of headphones then this may not be an issue but for someone who often relies on the speaker audio from the device and likes to turn the volume up quite a bit, it made the experiences with the audio less enjoyable which was unfortunate. That being said the sound quality was still not bad enough to the point where it made me want to avoid using the device audio altogether.
Phone Calls & Network
Since this is an unlocked GSM device it will work in the U.S. on networks like T-Mobile and AT&T, but since it’s a Chinese unlocked GSM device the supported networks unfortunately give it some limitations. Because of the mismatched frequencies the phone won’t work on LTE networks in the U.S., but it does still support 2G and 3G networks, so it will work in general. Because I use Project Fi as a service the phone wouldn’t recognize my SIM card so I couldn’t actually test the call quality of the device, but you can see the supported network frequencies below.
Like every other device we review we ran the Oukitel U13 through a few different benchmarks to see how it would score and for the most part it performed as you would probably expect for a device with its low-end hardware. That being said benchmarks are still not entirely representative of how the device will perform in a day-to-day situation. For the benchmarks we ran the phone through 3DMark, Geekbench 4, and AnTuTu, and you can check out the results below if you’re interested to see how it came out.
Battery life was one of the areas where the U13 seems to shine as it certainly lasted a decent amount of time throughout the day. I was able to consistently get about 5 hours or so of screen-on time with it for continuous use, and someone who may not use the device as heavily might be able to get more out of it as when running it through a battery test it came out with around 6 hours of screen-on time. As for regular everyday battery life I could easily take it through a day on a single charge without any issues and this is an important factor especially now, at a time when most people’s smartphones are their main form of communication, their main entertainment device, and even their main computer for the majority of the time. With all of that battery life on the phone needs to be able to get users through the day without having to plug in, and thankfully the U13 has no problems with being able to do that.
The software is a bit of a mixed bag here as it mostly looks like stock Android, but you can tell that it’s not if you dig deep enough as there are a few things which stock Android Marshmallow devices don’t have, like gestures for taking screenshots or opening the camera. There are also gestures for silencing phone calls and answering incoming phone calls, and even a number of gesture unlock tools which allow you to draw certain letters on the screen to unlock the device from a sleep state and open up various applications, such as drawing an o to start YouTube, drawing a z to start the clock app, and drawing a c to star the phone. Of course these gesture unlocks are also configurable meaning you can change the app or function that they launch upon drawing them giving you some level of personalization.
Other than that the software is pretty much what you would expect from another device running on Marshmallow software. It has an app drawer like most other Android devices which isn’t usually the case with Chinese Android devices, and even the settings menu and notification shade look the same and use the same color scheme. There was one other detail which the U13 had that you won’t really find on other stock Android device and that’s a small button in the bottom left corner of the UI that allows you to get rid of the navigation buttons, giving you more of a full screen experience. This appears as a little downward-facing arrow and tapping on this hides the navigation buttons, and to bring them back you simply need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen UI. As stated for the most part this is mostly like any other stock Android device, so you won’t see a ton of extra features here but there are a few additions like the gestures which make it stand out somewhat, and the gestures are certainly a nice touch.
The U13 comes with a 13-megapixel back camera so you’re going to be able to get some ok pictures but because of the sensor quality it’s really going to heavily rely on having the best possible lighting. The photos seem to come out somewhat grainy if there isn’t enough light and even sometimes where the lighting wasn’t really that bad the clarity of the images wasn’t as good as I would have expected them to be. If you take a lot of pictures with your smartphone and rely on it more than a traditional camera then you might find this to be a little bit lacking but not enough to where you would simply not use it.
The user interface is fairly basic and there aren’t a lot of extra features here either, but you do get some stuff like a panorama mode, and various color effects that you can add to your images like a negative effect, a sepia effect, a mono effect, and others. You also have an HDR button and you can open up the settings and alter a couple of elements like the exposure and the white balance, but you won’t have access to any pro-level features here like you would with something that has a pro or manual mode where you can adjust all the little details. Overall the camera experience was pretty bland and while not awful, the camera is not a feature that you should look to the U13 for as a deciding factor to buy the device. If the camera isn’t going to be the main thing you look for then it’s not bad, but there are smartphones with better cameras out there.
Decent battery life
Decent fingerprint sensor
Good build quality
Lag issues with waking the display
Problems with getting the phone to exit out of power saving mode - had to reboot the device to disable it.
Looking like the OnePlus 3 and having a decent feeling build, I might have expected a little more out of the Oukitel U13 than I probably knew I was going to get, but despite this the phone is still an overall decent device. It may not have any top of the line hardware but it has decent enough specs for the cost and for the average user the device shouldn’t be disappointing.
Should you buy the Oukitel U13?
This depends on what it is you’re looking for in a smartphone. If you want an excellent camera, then you may want to look elsewhere as there are other device which will provide a better experience in the camera department. If you simply want a device that will perform well for the most part and has a nice design to it, than the U13 isn’t a bad choice. Plus, considering that it comes in a fair amount under $200 you’re getting a pretty decent value.