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Smile! It’s the Gionee S8, and that’s the expression that’ll make you want it

Gionee says its new smartphone is a smilephone, and that's why you'll buy it

The Gionee S8 gorgeous metal phone with distinct visual flair and a 3D Touch screen, but nearly ruins by borrowing too heavily from Apple for the UI

This time last year, Chinese company Gionee turned up at Mobile World Congress with the super slim Elife S7, and in 2016, it’s back not only with the sequel, but also a completely new brand identity. Gionee says it has worked out what makes us buy certain types of smartphones (by which it means Apple phones), and it’s because they make us smile. Armed with this information, it has come up with a new logo and the Gionee S8 — which it often referred to as the ‘smilephone.’ Yep, really.

Did the Gionee S8 make us smile? Yes, it absolutely did, but not always for the best reasons.

That’s great, but then it becomes the only question that’s important: Did the Gionee S8 make us smile? Yes, it absolutely did, but not always for the best reasons. On the positive side, the Gionee S8 is beautifully made. That’s not new for the company either, the models we’ve reviewed in the past have always been top-notch. It’s made of a smooth metal, and rather than stretch the antenna bars across the body, it has run them around the edge of the device. This cleans up the back of the phone, and frames the body nicely. Handling the phone is pleasant. It’s very light and only 7mm thick, but still manages to fit in a 3000mAh battery. We smiled.

Related: The Blu Pure XL is a Gionee phone in disguise, and here’s our review

The screen is also smile-inducing. It measures 5.5-inches and has a 1080p resolution, and because it’s an AMOLED panel, it looks great. The Amigo user interface hasn’t made us smile in the past, and it’s version 3.2 installed here. It has many annoying alterations — putting the quick access buttons in a drawer that’s pulled up from the screen rather than down, for example —but it did at least feel fluid and smooth in our quick tests. The screen has 3D Touch, adding pressure sensitive shortcuts to certain apps, just like the iPhone 6S. It’s not the only similarity, the shortcut menu is almost identical to the one used by Apple in iOS. It’s actually almost too close for comfort. We still smiled, but not not in a good way. It’s also limited to only a few apps, and for animating the live wallpaper.

There’s plenty of connectivity options, including VoLTE and Cat 6 LTE, plus some interesting new apps. For example, you can clone WhatsApp — because it’s not possible to install two versions of the app on a single Android phone — because the phone has dual-SIM slots, so you can have a separate WhatsApp account for each number. Gionee really pushed the S8’s camera, boasting about video editing features, a slow motion mode, and a new beauty mode for selfies. These we’ve seen before, but the RWB 16-megapixel sensor supposedly improves low-light photography without increasing the backlight, resulting in better images. That’s new, and not something we’ve tried before.

The MediaTek octa-core Helio P10 processor is also new, and there’s a massive 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space, plus a MicroSD card slot inside the dual-SIM tray. It’s a strong package, and we really liked the design and in-hand comfort, but as with previous Gionee phones it may be difficult to actually buy. It’s going on sale in the next few months for 450 euros, but there’s no word of a wide international launch. That means looking for an importer if you really want one.

Adding up the smiles, the S8 did manage more happy smiles than condescending ones, which means Gionee may be onto something with its research.

Highs:

  • High-tech camera
  • Clever antenna design
  • Bright AMOLED screen
  • 3D Touch

Lows:

  • 3D Touch isn’t utilized enough
  • UI borrows from Apple