You get some cool camera effects with dual cameras for next to nothing.
OUKITEL is one of the many brands in China that are cranking out smartphones on what seems like a constant basis, and while that might seem great from a consumer standpoint as it gives even more choice when it comes to having options when picking a smartphone, it can just as easily provide too much choice and overload the consumer to where they’re not picking anything because they simply don’t know what to get. All that aside, one of OUKITEL’s latest, the U22, has been going through the motions with us for the past week, giving us time to check it out and see what it has to offer compared to other phones on the market. OUKITEL’s phones are always available at an affordable price, so those looking to pick up a new smartphone on a budget generally have a good option here with the U22 as it does come at an extremely affordable price. Let’s take a closer look at it and see how it stacks up.
In a bit of a weird move, the OUKITEL has designed the U22 to have only 3G support, which is strange because this is 2017 and just about every single phone has 4G support these days. That aside, the U22 feels pretty up to date in most other aspects. The U22 comes with a 5.5-inch HD display made of an IPS panel, and it’s powered by a MediaTek processor, specifically the 6580A Quad-Core processor clocked at 1.3GHz, which is paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM. It’s also supporting expandable storage up to 32GB via microSD card, which is actually pretty useful because 16GB disappears pretty quickly.
Keeping the device powered on is a 2,700mAh battery, and for the cameras, the U22 comes with a dual-camera setup on both the front and the back. For the rear-facing cameras, OUKITEL has used an 8-megapixel camera and an additional 2-megapixel sensor with LED flash, and on the front, OUKITEL is using a 5-megapixel sensor with an additional 2-megapixel sensor with LED flash. The phone supports Bluetooth 4.0 and has a micro USB charging port, as well as a 3.5mm audio port for plugging in standard headphones. The phone also comes with a fingerprint sensor on the back for unlocking the device, and it’s running on Android 7.0 Nougat.
In The Box
There’s not much in the box here with the OUKITEL U22 which is sort of a departure for the company, but you do get a couple of extras. Besides the phone, wall adapter, and a micro USB charging cable, you get a clear silicone case and a screen protector with the device, both of which should already be applied to the phone before you even open the box. Other than that, there’s nothing else inside the packaging.
Hardware & Design
Design-wise, the OUKITEL U22 kind of looks like the OnePlus 5. It has a fairly sizable display and the rear camera setup even mimics the design OnePlus used. The phone also features a metal frame, but it utilizes a plastic back for the material instead. For all intents and purposes the design of the U22 is nice for a budget phone that costs under $100, but it certainly doesn’t compare to the design of devices that are triple the cost or more. That said, if you’re spending less than $100 on a smartphone you would probably expect there to be more of a compromise but there really isn’t. On the front of the device you have that big 5.5-inch display and in the top bezel you have two front-facing cameras, as well as the sensors and earpiece, while in the bottom bezel you have a set of capacitive navigation keys which is odd considering most phones are using on-screen nav keys now. Still, it’s not too surprising. A fair number of smartphones still employ capacitive nav keys, even if it does take away from the usable screen real estate. On the top of the frame you have a 3.5mm audio port for plugging in headphones and this is great for anyone who is used to using a wired headset instead of a wireless pair.
On the bottom part of the frame, you have a micro USB charging port and a single speaker, though it does look like there is a dual-speaker setup even though that isn’t the case. The left side of the frame is completely bare with no slot for the SIM card and this is because the back cover is removable and this is how you get to the battery, which is also removable, as well as the SIM card and expandable storage slot, leaving OUKITEL free to keep the left side of the phone frame uncluttered. That being said, you’ll find both the volume up and down buttons and the power button present on the right side of the phone frame. Flipping the phone over reveals the fingerprint sensor and the rear dual camera setup. Overall the phone looks nice but it’s not anything special. It’s a suitable design for a budget phone and there’s nothing wrong with the fact that it doesn’t look as premium as something that costs hundreds of dollars more.
As far as displays go, the display on the U22 is ok. It’s bright enough when you need it to be and the clarity of the visuals from the sharpness of the app icons to the accuracy of the colors is pretty decent for a phone that costs under $100, and what more could you really ask for if you’re spending so little to grab a smartphone that comes with a 5.5-inch screen, something that would usually set you back hundreds of dollars.
In reality, most screens on smartphones tend to look ok these days as the quality of the panels being used in displays has gotten a lot better than it used to be, and that certainly helps the situation here as even though the U22 only costs about $80, and the panel is only a fraction of that, it’s still decent enough to be used as a daily driver for most. Screen responsiveness was pretty good and the digitizer didn’t seem to have any problems. I was able to use it throughout the past week without running into any issues with the display not recognizing my presses. The display also had decent viewing angles and didn’t appear to have any dead pixels anywhere along the edges or around the rest of the screen. Colors aren’t exactly as bright and vivid as they are on some other displays, but for the most part the display is an area of the U22 that really isn’t too bad at all.
This can feel like one of the trickiest areas because no two people are likely to use their phone in the same way. During our testing, the U22 didn’t seem to have any major problems with performance. It ran well during some game time, using the new Naruto x Boruto action RPG as the game of choice for testing out the phone’s capability to handle some pretty nice graphics and special effects and it’s capability to handle a more demanding game in terms of frames per second and overall smoothness. Here there was a little bit of stuttering from time to time as the phone did struggle a little bit to keep up while this game was played, and this isn’t the most graphically demanding game out there, so chances are you won’t have the easiest time playing high-end games which require the top-tier specs for optimal performance.
It did play Naruto x Boruto easily enough though, so it’ll handle some games that would generally require better hardware and it shouldn’t have any issues playing more casual games either. When it comes to other aspects of performance like multitasking and such, the U22 performed ok here too, but again, there was some noticed lag and the occasional hangup when too many apps were running in the background so you’d want to pay attention to those things if using this phone as your daily device.
You most likely won’t have any problems getting about a day or so of battery life out of the U22, but if you’re a heavy user, you may end up having to charge the device at some point throughout the day, and that’s just the way it is when you have a phone that comes with a smaller battery capacity like this one. The U22 uses a 2,700mAh battery inside and while that isn’t the absolute smallest you can drain that pretty fast if you’re playing a fair amount of games, streaming music and video, and using other more basic functions like email or web browsing. If you’re trying to use battery saver features you can easily take this through the day but you will have to charge this phone every night. During our testing, we were able to get about four or so hours of screen on time with it, and while I personally never ran out of battery during the day, as mentioned above I did end up having to plug it in at the end of the day. For me this wasn’t an issue as most days I’m not out and about away from the home where I don’t have access to a charger, but for those that go out at night frequently, this might be more of an issue. The battery here wasn’t excellent but it was pretty much on par with other devices, so there were no real complaints here.
Just like with every device we review, we tested the U22 in benchmarks to see how it would score in simulated real-world usage. For this, we ran the phone through three different benchmarks, which included AnTuTu, Geekbench 4, and 3DMark for the graphics portion of the testing. I wasn’t expecting the phone to come out with any fantastic scores given its cost and the tier of product, as well as the hardware available to use at this price point, and while the scores for the benchmarks were fairly low even then, they weren’t too bad as you can get a decent phone for pretty cheap these days. If you’re interested in seeing the results from those benchmarks you can view the screenshots from each one in the gallery just below.
Phones Calls & Network
This isn’t a device meant for the U.S., so it’s not going to be a phone that works in the U.S., and that means it won’t be a viable option for U.S. consumers to use as a day to day device. It can, however, be used as a device to take internationally if you happen to be in the need for such a phone. Since it doesn’t support U.S. networks I wasn’t able to test the call quality, but the list of supported network frequencies is below if you’re curious to know what those are.
The fingerprint sensor can be hit-or-miss from phone to phone but not necessarily by a wide margin. The sensor on the OUKITEL U22 isn’t the most accurate or fastest fingerprint sensor on the market but it does work and it didn’t really seem to give me any issues when trying to use it. That said, it also wasn’t very quick at unlocking the device, at least when compared to some of the other phones we’ve been able to review. Perhaps the most important thing though is that works, and it does work so if you use the fingerprint sensor to unlock your devices then you shouldn’t be disappointed with the sensor on the U22.
The U22 only has one speaker so audio quality could immediately be improved by having dual speakers with stereo sound, beyond that the quality of the sound coming out of the speaker could have been better as well. At lower volumes the audio was ok but then it wasn’t very loud, and when you turn it up to be louder, the audio quality ends up eventually dropping a bit as it begins to get a little bit less clear. The speaker does get loud, so that’s not an issue and if you simply want the sound coming from the phone for your music, videos, and/or games to be loud then this won’t be a problem for the U22, but once loud the speaker begins to sound a little more like it’s blown out and certain things, like the lyrics in songs, become harder to make out. Overall the sound is mostly average because it’s not terrible but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd in the sea of other smartphones that are out there.
A lot of the phones coming from China are white-box phones as they’re coming from brands which aren’t too well-known, and the U22 definitely is one of these devices and it shows, if you know what to look for. If you were relatively unfamiliar with OUKITEL then it’s easy to miss, but most of the phones from this brand tend to look and feel the same on the software side, and they’re usually pretty low-cost and have similar hardware designs. With the software on the U22 things are mostly stock Android and this device is running on Android 7.0 Nougat so you are getting some newer features such as Google Assistant and the improved Doze Mode, but there are things which are not like stock Android, like some of the icons, which are easy to pick out if you’ve used most other Nougat devices which run more closely to what Google intended for this version of the software.
Beyond the style of the software on the U22, there are a few extra additives which you won’t find in some other devices, especially most devices that have stock software. If you navigate over to the settings menu you can find a few different gesture type functions like screen lock gestures, which allow you to unlock the device and launch right into a specific app or shortcut just by drawing a correlating letter on the lock screen before waking it. There are also motion gestures, which are things like flipping the phone over to answer a phone call. While not all people will use these gestures, or find them really all that useful, the one thing which I did enjoy quite a bit was the one-handed mode which essentially takes the screen and shrinks it down to a smaller section of the display so it’s easier to scroll and type with just one hand. This won’t always be needed but it’s pretty useful if carrying a grocery bag or a basket while shopping with your other hand. Mind you, this is much more useful for people who don’t have extremely large hands, so if your hands are bigger then this probably isn’t a feature you’ll need.
While mostly barebones, the camera software does have a few things up its sleeves. The camera itself features Electronic Image Stabilization which is nice as you might not expect it in a phone at this price range. The camera also offers up a handful of modes to use for images, from your standard photo mode to panorama, beauty, and even a mono mode and bokeh mode. Those last two modes aren’t something you would normally find in an $80 smartphone, but this isn’t just any $80 smartphone, as it comes with a dual camera setup on both the front and back of the device. It’s those dual rear cameras that are used for the bokeh and mono effects on the images before you take them, and these are nice features to have even if the camera quality isn’t the best when it comes to the sensors, and that is the case here as the sensors are of lower quality so the images don’t come out with the most detail. In addition to these modes, you’ll have an HDR button available in the standard photo mode, and that’s about it when it comes to special features.
When it comes to the image quality itself, the camera could be a lot better as images aren’t so good in low-light, and this is in spite of the software feature that is supposed to assist with low-light situations by enhancing the image a little bit. Even in the best light, the camera isn’t great, but then again, this is a pretty inexpensive device and when you consider that the cameras actually do quite well for the price point. Overall the camera is just average, but you do get some cool camera effects for next to nothing and there’s something to be said for that, not to mention the dual front-facing cameras which isn’t generally something you see in a budget phone with a cost this low.
Pretty decent screen size for the price
Fingerprint sensor was accurate
Dual front and rear cameras with some cool effects
3.5mm audio port
Android Nougat-based software
Performance was decent
Camera quality was not that great
Battery life was average
Speaker quality was just ok
No 4G LTE support
No support for use in the U.S.
No USB Type-C port
Whether you’re looking for a device with a bigger screen or a device that won’t break the bank, OUKITEL generally has something to offer to most consumers. That said, the U22 isn’t a device that will suit everyone’s needs and the biggest reason for that is that it doesn’t support LTE, and it won’t work in the U.S., meaning it will only be a viable option for consumers who don’t mind slower data and live in an area that supports the same network frequencies.
Should you buy the OUKITEL U22?
If you live in a region where it will work, even without the LTE data and even with the phone’s shortcomings, it would be hard not to recommend the U22 as it does come in at a really affordable price, and that’s a great factor to consider if you’re looking to get a phone that has a handful of nice features without spending a lot of money, and you can’t completely ignore the dual front and rear cameras which, while not offering the best image quality, can still be quite nice thanks to their various extra features.