The OUKITEL K12 is a heavy, high-capacity monster that doesn't underperform where it matters
At first glance, the OUKITEL K12 is nothing special. It's bulky. The design, in pictures, looks somewhat behind the times. It doesn't really seem to push the boundaries across any specifications or in its software.
On closer inspection, that initial take fades relatively quickly and continues to, the more the device is used. That's going to ring particularly true for those who really need a phone that lasts for days on a single charge without sacrificing too much.
Underneath the rough facade and fairly standard stylings, at least for OUKITEL, the K12 is a showcase of expertise in designing devices with sizeable batteries, rugged design, and optimized software at a relatively low cost. That expertise is something the company has grown for itself at a steady clip over years of trial and error.
That's coupled with better-than-expected cameras, a great display panel, solid productivity and work features, and a reasonable cost of between $239.99 and $321.59. The K12 stands as yet another device that shows why smaller, relatively unknown Chinese OEMs like OUKITEL really shouldn't be ignored.
This is relatively bulky but stylish despite its enormous powerhouse
The common theme that could easily be seen throughout my review of this OUKITEL handset, and with good reason, is battery life. This isn't the first battery I've tested before that comes in at right around 10,000mAh but it certainly is the fastest charging and the longest lasting.
It also doesn't take up as much space, at least in terms of how it feels in real-world use, as might be expected from images or descriptions of its dimensions. Everything about this device feels premium, despite the heavy use of rubbery materials for added drop protection. So that's going to be a good place to start.
To begin with, at right around a half-inch thick, this is not a thin device. But I was surprised, upon picking it up, at how much smaller it felt than expected. That's likely due to the rubber and metal edgework being chamfered at both the screen and back panel side, dropping the in-hand feel by about a third of the thickness.
The OUKITEL K12 is a bit on the heavy side, making it a challenge to hold up for any length of time but it certainly doesn't feel as bulky as even rugged devices that are decidedly smaller.
Adding to the premium feel of the handset is the crocodile leather-style texturing on the back panel, accented by a dual-toned metal logo with chamfered edges.
The camera surround is chamfered too with stylized vertical grooves, texturing, and chamfering around the edges and around the fingerprint scanner. None of that really feels sharp though, they just stand out enough to let you know those components are there. For the fingerprint scanner, the chamfering actually guides the fingertip, making it easier to use the reader.
Similar stylings are followed through on the volume rocker buttons and the power button, neither of which is textured but those are easy enough to tell apart. The entire device just has a very smooth look and feel compared to other OUKITELS with similar visual design language.
Better still, that styling makes the device feel and look very durable. The keys press through smoothly, with a more subtle click than is often seen with smartphones and the USB-C port fits snugly with minimal gap between the body of the device and the charging cable. There's no wiggle to that to be felt.
The SIM drawer is metal-backed, which is another nice touch since it makes it easier to remove or insert a nano-SIM or microSD card without the risk of accidentally dropping those — while matching up well with the overall rugged appeal of the device.
Other small details I noticed over the course of my use only added to the appeal in terms of design. That includes things such as the metal ring around the camera's LED flash, the subtle color difference in the metal used for the Torx-style fasteners around the metal edge accents, or the black-colored metal earpiece speaker grill. There was obviously a lot of thought put into those types of details with this handset.
This smartphone also comes with a case, complete with cutouts for the camera arrangement and the logo as well as the USB-C port and speaker and mic grills along the bottom edge. There's no headphone jack but we'll get to that in a moment.
The case is interesting in that it really feels unnecessary but adds to this aesthetically, despite the added millimeter or so of bulk. That's because it's almost completely transparent and redirects light around the edges, adding a glowing look to the frame of the device when held at certain angles in the light.
More than anything, the case feels like an added touch for those who simply want a bit more protection and doesn't take away from the device at all.
The big complaint with all of that protection, especially given its styling, is that there isn't any water or dust resistance rating listed with this device at all. So it's probably a good idea to keep it out of environments where it's going to get drenched — although it did survive my image-taking process, complete with minor splashes, and then I realized it wasn't rated — or have a lot of dust blown through it.
…for literal days of use and reverse charging too
Obviously, the bulk of what's inside of the above-mentioned body is almost certainly battery — rated at 10,000mAh.
Now, when I set about testing that, one of the first things I tried was to simply leave it on standby to get a general idea of how long it might last if I just didn't need to use it that often. There are software features that, along with the ruggedization, give off the sense that isn't what this smartphone is really intended for. But I wanted to check that out anyway.
That proved a futile effort since, over the course of two hours, the battery gauge didn't drop a single percent. Trying to drain this device quickly, put bluntly, was a seriously daunting experience.
In fact, that might betray a very easy-to-miss annoying feature of any gadget with such a large power supply. At 10,000mAh, each 10-percent segment of the battery gauge is roughly a third of the typical smartphone battery. So one percent is actually a significant amount of battery and it becomes difficult, relatively speaking, to figure out exactly how long a percent should or will last.
After an additional 7-hours and 26-minutes — over 9-hours in total — spent watching YouTube videos and browsing the web at the same time, with the screen at full brightness and volume at around 70-percent, the battery finally hit 63-percent charged. To reiterate, that's nearly nine-and-a-half hours to take out a little over a third of the battery capacity.
Continuing my test, and taking up way more of my day than I had hoped to use, I made a 50-minute long speakerphone call that only managed to drain a single percent and played the most intensive games I could find online for another two hours. That was followed by around 7.35-hours of sleep time — for a grand total of 23-hours and 6-minutes.
The speakerphone functioned very well for both the OUKITEL K12 and the device at the other end of the call, for the record.
I actually began turning on the flashlight at regular intervals at that point and, after a further hour and about a day of use with 13-hours and 45-minutes of screen-on time, the OUKITEL K12 finally hit 32-percent. The test didn't end until around 28-hours and 18-minutes after it started.
Ordinarily, this is the point in the review where I'd need to start deriding the charging time. A 10,000mAh battery typically means that it's going to be at least 4-hours to charge and usually a whole lot more. Even battery banks tend to take that long or longer.
This smartphone is breaking that mold and is breaking it in a way that is, in a word, staggeringly good. That's because the device-usage to charge ratio seems to be roughly 2:28. For the entire 28-hours and 18-minutes that I was able to have this device on — much of that at full-screen brightness and multitasking — it only took 2-hours and 15-minutes to charge.
Put in perspective, that's around the same average charge time seen with quite a large number of devices that have much smaller batteries and comparatively paltry screen-on times.
Better still, reverse charging is included here, as with almost all OUKITEL big battery devices. It's not fast, but it works at a reasonable clip similar to a standard non-fast-charge charger. Thanks to OUKITEL's decision to include an OTG USB-C to USB cable adapter with its K12, all of that battery certainly isn't going to go to waste.
If reverse charging isn't used, this battery should last the average user several days beyond the two my own test with heavy usage showed.
So how does that affect performance and how's the software?
Yet another caveat that would normally occupy any smartphone that exhibits such a high level of optimization, is generally that devices like this tend to take a hit on the performance side. That rings true of devices that have minimal software like the OUKITEL K12 too but can't actually be applied to the OUKITEL K12.
Performance simply doesn't bottom out because the battery is getting low and doesn't seem to lag, to begin with, to keep battery life high. Regardless of whether I was playing a game like Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp or Into The Dead, or anything in between, the K12 just kept right on performing without hesitation.
That's not to say everything was perfect on that front. This is a mid-range device and not a flagship. But for most users, the difference is going to be minimal, mostly visible in terms of loading times and exactly how many heavy-intensity apps can be running simultaneously without any issues.
This smartphone ships with a MediaTek-built octa-core MTK6765 SoC with 6GB RAM, placing it squarely in the middle of the overall Android range and well above budget devices.
There's also a cooling factor to that. Apparently thanks to the heavy rubber coating around all of the components, this device does approach the borderline of what would be uncomfortable to hold in terms of temperature. That's not necessarily to say it gets 'hot', per se, and it isn't going to burn any hands regardless of how long its held at the hottest I saw it reach. It runs cooler than a significant number of other devices in its price bracket.
But it does get noticeably warmer than would be the case with the typical flagship, especially while plugged in and in use — plugged in without use doesn't cause a noticeable increase in temperature.
Software experiences are, in almost every case, subjective. OUKITEL's implementation of Android 9 Pie is mostly stock with a few extra apps that are made for maximizing productivity. It is extremely easy to just dive in and start using.
There are a total of four apps that stand out as not being stock, setting aside the usual Google apps, calculator, and multimedia apps. The first actually is itself a Google app, namely Google Files, and feels entirely unnecessary since there's so much space. With a minimal number of apps were installed, to begin with, this device has plenty of the initial 64GB storage capacity free.
A "Pedometer" and "System Manager" app are included as well, doing precisely what their names imply. The first will track steps while the latter offers deeper tools than Android 9 Pie does for managing battery life, app autobooting, app locking, and auto cleaning. It can also "freeze" apps, effectively stopping them from doing anything at all while keeping them installed.
Finally, OUKITEL's own ToolBag is installed out-of-the-box, just as with every other OUKITEL I've tested. That's a tool that uses sensors and the cameras to enable digital equivalents of a Compass, SoundMeter, Pic Hanging tool, Gradienter, HeightMeasure, HeartRate, Magnifier (like a magnifying glass), Protractor, and Plumb Bob.
Better still, it works with 4G LTE in the U.S — at least on the MVNO I used for testing, Straight Talk through AT&T — and only requires a very simple APN adjustment in the deeper settings to get mobile data flowing. A quick web search can walk just about anybody through that process though it's not guaranteed to work on every carrier or MVNO.
That's also setting aside the bonus that full support for NFC, Bluetooth, accurate location tracking (as needed and where turned on), and Wi-Fi are here too, all of which worked spectacularly throughout my test.
So this is a gadget that's as ready to work as it looks.
The nearly bezel-free display isn't too bad either but this phone is not without its caveats
Throughout my use of the OUKITEL K12, the display never once showed any sign of lagging behind touch inputs either and that remained the case even after keeping the display running over more than five or six hours at a stretch.
Adding to that buttery smooth experience, the OUKITEL K12 isn't exactly weak on the specs front. It's 2340 x 1080 fullHD+ display resolution, nestled neatly within fairly symmetrical if not quite flagship-sized bezels, displays colors as accurately as just about any other mid-range smartphone.
The primary complaint I was able to find is that the company saw fit to include a glass screen protector. That's almost certainly unnecessary but is offputting precisely because it is supposed to be unnecessary. Moreover, the one that shipped with my test unit wouldn't stick along the bottom edge, even after repositioning it several times and despite apparently being properly aligned each time.
Pixelization never became a problem throughout my test of this device but that top-notch attention to detail, as is, unfortunately, the case with just about every smartphone regardless of price, doesn't extend to every characteristic.
In this case, the biggest let-down for me is going to be the quality of sound from the built-in speakers. That's not terrible by any means, but it doesn't necessarily offer the best experience ever either. Instead, it's about average for the budget-end of the mid-range price range. The reason that's disappointing is that there's so much about this device that, while not perfect, is beyond just acceptable. That leads to a higher expectation that simply wasn't met.
Lows tend to be drowned out across the board with these speakers anytime there's any mids or highs playing at the same time. Now, there's no tinniness to those tonal ranges and they do sound about as "full" as any other smartphone but they're not as powerful as might be hoped from a handset with this much bulk — and presumably, extra room to enhance the sound.
Making matters worse, there's no headphone jack to speak of. Audio out over the USB-C port is possible thanks to an included adapter cable but, although that's typically better audio, it's not quite as convenient. On a positive note, that's much more convenient than it would be on another device where the battery doesn't even last a full day, let alone multiple days. It's still going to be a point of contention.
Thankfully, audio over Bluetooth is about as good as any other mid-range device I've ever tested and call clarity is more than serviceable. The speakers are loud, too. So they'll work if there's nothing else in a pinch and nobody's going to miss a call, message, or alarm with this OUKITEL.
A better camera than many in the bracket
OUKITEL has equipped its K12 with a dual-rear snapper rated at 16-megapixels and 2-megapixels, coupled with an 8-megapixel camera at the front. That hardware and its associated software are hardly flawless but the numbers here don't tell the entire story, either. Suffice it to say that at the cost of this phone and with consideration for what my expectations were going into the camera portion of this review, I was thoroughly impressed.
At the outset, it was immediately apparent this camera was better than others I've seen in mid-range or budget handsets simply because the software was so smooth to operate.
That's a mostly stock variant of Android AOSP camera software with some minor tweaks and not much by way of special features beyond the usual fare, which could account for the experience. In just a few words, the camera is straightforward and easy to use. There's a familiarity here only stock-like camera software can deliver and no major latency that I noticed at all from the general use and interactions down to focusing time and shutter speed.
Color accuracy with OUKITEL's K12 leans toward the natural side and away from the heavy saturation or over-vibrant solutions found in other smartphones. In particular, it avoids the overexposure that results from those attributes most often seen in budget-to-mid-range handsets.
That's not to say that there isn't a bit of overexposure and subsequent washout when shadows are heavy and the shot is focused within the shadowy area but that's to be expected and occurs with most cameras on the market.
Detail capture is high too, even in the dungeon-style lighting of the indoor space it was tested in. Very few artifacts presented themselves in those situations as long as the lighting was kept even in the background. That's as opposed to some pixelation I saw in the background blur captured in close-up shots under bright sunlight — as represented in our sample gallery via Flickr.
Under circumstances where the focus was centered on well-lit or extreme backlit subjects, such as capturing a sunset, details also tended to get lost in shaded areas of the foreground or background, wherever the lighting was drastically different.
The software ensures that photo-taking is an extremely low-effort endeavor too, which only made the experience that much better. I never once had to fiddle with exposure settings or digital light adjustments, let alone the included "pro" mode, although my shots likely would have turned out much better if I had.
Overall, this camera proved itself to be more than capable of keeping up with the majority of devices in its respective price bracket and possibly even a few that cost significantly more money to buy.
This is a worthy contender in an already overcrowded market
Whether or not the OUKITEL K12 is going to be worth the money is, as with all smartphones, a highly subjective matter. But from the perspective of a buyer looking for a gadget with a massive battery life that doesn't sacrifice charging time or performance and offers some drop protection, there can be little to no question about it.
The optimizations here mean that just over a 2-hour charge can net consumers more than 12-times that in terms of screen time at maximum brightness and without battery-saving features. The OUKITEL K12 simply lasts days on end with very little investment on the user's part. Simultaneously, it has an above-par screen with 4G compatibility — even in the U.S. — opening the door for endless entertainment and productivity as needed.
The camera here goes beyond the realm of what's just 'serviceable' too, with only a few minor flaws that aren't going to be uncommon in just about any Android 9 smartphone that's currently available with very few exceptions.
The primary caveats are, of course, its size and its weight. This isn't the device to buy if it's going to be held at arm's length for extended periods of time and it is significantly thicker than some other gadgets. If those things aren't an issue and the stylings suit you, this is one that's easy to recommend.