Elephone S3 review : all around good looking mid-range phone with great screen
Thanks to the folks at Elephone we had the privilege to play with their latest smartphone, the bezel-less Elephone S3.
This article was meant to be published on our sister site GadgetsDB.com, but we're postponing it's launch for a while, as we want to polish it's design and feature list a bit better.
As you know there is a plethora of Chinese manufacturers competing for the mid-range smartphones market, and this competition has lead to some very interesting devices and kept prices at bay.
The Chinese market is huge and the appetite for smartphones has grown significantly - everyone and their grandma has or wants one.
Chinese manufacturers are now starting to get sales from outside China as well, some of them focusing on other Asian markets (like India) while others attempting to conquer Europe and the US market.
And it goes pretty well for them - Huawei reported an 60% increase in Q1 2016 compared to the same quarter in 2015 and they intend to get even more impressive results by aggresively promoting their P9 smartphone in Europe.
Elephone did dome steps into this direction as well, they now have service centers in Germany, Spain and Russia and several countries are coming by the end of the year.
Elephone has a range of affordable smartphones that target a wide audience, from P8000 for the users that need more battery, the P9000 for more sophisticated clientele that needs more power and a bigger screen and they are about to launch the mid-range S3.
Elephone S3 full specs
- SoC: MediaTek MT6753
- CPU: octa-core, ARM Cortex-A53 64-bit (1.3GHz)
- GPU: ARM Mali-T720 GPU
- RAM: 3GB DDR3
- ROM: 16GB eMMC
- Screen Size: 5.2inch bezel-less, 1080x1920
- Front camera: Sony IMX135, 13MP F/NO 2.2
- Selfie camera: OV5670, 5MP, F/NO 2.4
- Wi-fi: 802.11 b/g/n
- Battery: 2100mah, Li-POL, non-removable
- Other:dual SIM (Nano SIM + Micro SIM) via SIM/SD combo,BT4.0
- OS: Android 6.0
At around $150 Elephone S3 is certainly attractive: metal body with an 5.2-inch bezel-less screen, powered by an octa-core MT6753 processor with 3GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The device has a Sony IMX135 13 MP camera and a 5 MP selfie camera and has a fingerprint sensor and should support fast-charging.
Elephone S3 comes in the same simple and stylish white box as P9000 - there's only the Elephone logo and the "S3" name on top and the only other text we see is the "Extraordinary Fusion of tech and art" motto on one of the sides.
There are some specs on the bottom of the device, that contains the two IMEI numbers (it's a Dual-Sim phone, I mentioned that, right?) and the version is manually checked (I got the black version, but there are also Silver, Gold and Rose Gold versions for this phone.).
There I noticed that the device comes with Android 5.1 and not 6.0 as I read on marketing materials (but Elephone will provide an OTA update later so Android 6.0 will come to Elephone S3 soon).
What's inside the box?
Nicely wrapped we have the S3 smartphone, an interesting data cable which you can also use to measure things (100 cm long), AC power charger and a tiny pin you can use to access the SD card/Sim slot.
The tiny user manual comes in several languages (English, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian) which does give further clues about the expansion plans Elephone has.
The device itself is a pleasure to look at - the metal and plastic are combined beautifully into a minimalistic design that reminded me of other phones that are nowhere near this price range.
There are only two buttons (power and volume up/down) and two ports (headphone jack on top and micro-USB for charging and data transfer on bottom).
The metal back is slightly rounded and the camera and fingerprints sensor add a nice symmetry - everythinng about this design looks polished.
The device seems a bit heavier than the Elephone P900, most likely due to the metal cover, and has a good grip.
And then you turn it on and notice what they meant by bezel-less screen design : the screen is amazing! The screen on the left and right sides is basically edge to edge and it looks exactly as you'd expect: awesome. It's an entirely different experience, I found it to be very pleasing when reading emails or browsing around pictures.
There are no capacitive buttons! Slide up to show the on-screen menu for the standard "Back"/"Home"/"Menu" buttons and hide it when you no longer need it - it's that easy. One nice thing about the menu bar is that in some areas (like while showing a picture in full screen) the buttons are dimmed to just a single point, so they don't take much of the screen real estate - sweet!
Elephone S3 benchmarks
The S3 got pretty much what I expected:
- AnTuTu 6.1.4 - ~35000 points
- Quadrant standard ~14000 points
- PCMark ~3900 points
- Ice Storm Unlimited 5058 points
- Ice Storm Extreme 3132 points
- Ice Storm 5807 points
Elephone S3 image samples
Here are a few images taken with Elephone S3's main camera.
Elephone S3 battery life
Ok, I have to admit, I was worried that the 2100 mAh battery won't last a full day, but I got more than 2 days each time I recharged it, with wifi always on and cellular data connection active, moderate call time and usual web browsing.
So, yes, the battery could have been better, but I can work with the 2100 mAh one after all.
When the battery goes below 15% the phone asks you for confirmation before entering some sort of power saving mode which cuts down all unnecessary functions to give you even more talk time.
During the 10 days of tests I had to travel out of town and I forgot to turn off wi-fi and cellular data connection - I have to avoid this in the future, the battery draines with 30% every two hours of so. But I noticed it in time, turned off wi-fi and data and got over 24 hours with the remaining 70%, in which time I enabled and disabled cellular data to get access to the internet.
Charging it: it takes 4-5 hours to charge it from an USB connection on my computer and less than 1 hour using fast charging (with the supplied power adapter).
Elephone S3 review conclusions
Elephone S3 is not a "flagship" device nor it claims to be. But it does stand very well on it's price range : good quality finishings, superb screen, non-bloated software. It just works.
After testing both Elephone S3 and Elephone P9000 (thanks again, Elephone!) I decided to keep the S3 as my main phone, replacing a much more renowed brand phone I've had for 1.5 years.
Elephone P9000 is a great device, better in most aspects, but it comes with a 5.5'' screen, and while I have big hands and I can use it with one hand, carrying it around was not a smooth experience for me.
S3 was much easier to use through the day, and it even got more attention from friends and family, everyone liked the screen!
I also like the fact that with only two understandable exceptions, everything is symmetrical on the device, even the small logo on the back - yes, I have OCD, or CDO - like OCD, but with the letters in the right order :-)
Again, this is my personal experience, your mileage might vary.
Is this phone right for you?
I have friends that only buy/use Apple or Samsung - and that's OK But if you don't need a phone that carries a specific brand, and you like your phones simple, reasonably priced and good looking, with a moderate size and you can live with 2/3 days battery life - yes, this phone might be for you, too.
I am going to use Elephone S3 as my main phone for a while, AMA!