At 5.5 mm thick, Gionee’s Elife S5.5 is a smartphone with supermodel proportions

Anything deliberately engineered to be incredibly thin sometimes turns out to be flimsy at the same time. Following a hands-on test at Mobile World Congress, we’re pleased to say the world’s thinnest smartphone, the Gionee Elife S5.5, manages to avoid the latter. However, it is almost impossibly thin at a mere 5.5mm.

Gionee will probably be a new name to many of you. However, after playing with the S5.5, it’s one I’ll remember. Before picking up the phone, I was shown how the aluminum unibody chassis had been milled down from a solid block to almost nothing, and the almost invisible sheets of glass used on the front and rear. It’s amazing to see the process in such detail. It’s not just the phone that’s a record breaker either, as these components – the Super AMOLED screen, circuit board, and rear glass cover – are also the thinnest of their type.

In hand, the Elife S5.5 feels far more solid than one would expect from such a thin phone. The aluminum edging has been shaped to make it comfortable in your hand, while the rear glass panel is cool to the touch. The 13-megapixel camera lens is mounted in a slightly raised section in the top right. At the most it adds 1mm to the overall size of the device, but in a section measuring less than half-an-inch square.

Gionee’s phone is a thing of beauty

It’s a beautiful thing to see and hold, and spinning it round emphasizes not only how slim it is, but also its high build quality. The screen is a 5-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED Plus panel, and it looked fantastic. It displays Gionee’s own version of Android named Amigo, which is based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Like Huawei’s custom UI, all app icons are shown on the homescreens. It’s bright and full of little graphical flourishes, such as a “flex” to the menu when they reach the end, but the odd stutter did show up occasionally.

A MediaTek octa-core processor with 2GB of RAM runs the Elife S5.5, plus other features include a wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera, 16GB of internal memory, and a 2,300mAh battery. Gionee says the S5.5 will cost $370 when it goes on sale, and it’ll be released in 40 unspecified countries. A Gionee rep told us at least one European country would see the Elife S5.5, and that even though there are no solid plans, it would love to offer the phone for sale in North America. Whether it’ll happen or not, we’ll have to wait and see. Additionally, a 4G LTE version will come in June.

Phones produced in China by manufacturers of which we’re unfamiliar often have a reputation for being poorly constructed, but the Gionee Elife S5.5 proves at least in this case, it’s simply not the case. In the brief time I used it, Gionee’s super slim phone seemed as if it could hold its own against most other top-of-the-range smartphones.