The Gtel SL 5.5: slimmer and still giving you more

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Gtel has continued with its onslaught against the established flagships on the local market, bringing  to the table a new device with specs similar to the big time marquees.

The latest offering is the Gtel SL 5.5 a phone dubbed as the second slimmest in the world (at the time of launch) and the slimmest in Zimbabwe.

Gtel SL 5.5

This time the build quality is second to none with both the front and back both having Gorilla Glass, and the edge having a magnesium alloy. The moment I held the Gtel SL 5.5 I was impressed, purely by the effort that I could see had been put into the making of this device.

Build

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As with the Gtel Xplora, the packaging of the device includes not just the regular accessories, but a few extras as well. These include a pair of in-ear earphones, a USB data cable, a charger, a screen guard (because they know even with the Gorilla Glass, scratches do come), a SIM extractor, a manual and also this time a connector to USB devices. As before the earphones give decent bass, but treble leaves a lot to be desired.

Gtel SL 5.5 accessories

The phone has glossy Gorilla Glass on both the front and back, and for the sides has segmented magnesium alloy edges, similar in design to those found on the iPhone 4 and 4S. The left side has the power button and volume rocker; a deviation from the norm where you have the power button on the right.
Gtel SL 5.5 Front Angle

I found the placement of the buttons a bit awkward to handle, but probably one would get used to the design with time. The right side has the SIM tray on the upper end, which takes a micro SIM card.

On the front face, you have a 5 MP front secondary camera on the top, and at the bottom you have hardware touch keys for menu, home and back.

On the back of the Gtel SL 5.5 you have your 13 MP primary camera which protrudes a little, not sure if this is by design or if the phones profile was too thin to work with. This might prove to be an interesting bit to look at with time depending on the material used for the outer piece.

Gtel SL5.5 back

Next to the primary camera is a secondary microphone presumably for clearer audio during video recording. The phone’s memory is restricted to a rather low 16 GB (7.9 user addressable), with no hope of expansion as there is no micro-SD card slot.

Like the Gtel Xplora, the Gtel SL 5.5 is completely sealed, meaning no hope of replacing the battery if it dies. I hope that Gtel is capable of supporting repairs for its devices.

Camera

The camera is to be honest quite good, giving rather crisp daylight images. It is able to auto focus based on where you tap on the screen for the camera to focus, compensating for lighting conditions in the process. This means that the image almost always comes out well.

Under low light conditions the camera is not that good, more often than not failing to focus and when it does it occasionally gives grainy images. The flash tries to compensate for the low light and does so well enough, given that it’s an LED flash. The only short coming is on the camera UI, which seems rather lacking, in terms of features.
camera ui 2

The settings area of the app does not rotate when the phone is held sideways, which could make altering setting on the fly awkward.

camera ui sl5.5

It is however possible to install a camera app, like Google camera which offers some extra features for free.

Display

The display on the Gtel SL 5.5 is not just crisp with its full HD resolution, but bright as well. The display used is a Super AMOLED display similar to those used in the Samsung range of phones, the result is a bright display with vibrant colours. Visibility both indoors and outdoors in bright sunlight was good, something that seldom happens with slim profile phones.

SPECS

Dimensions145.1 x 70.2 x 5.5 mm
Weight133 g
Display TypeSuper AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours
Display Size1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches (~441 ppi pixel density)
Card slotNo
Internal16GB
Ram2 GB
GPRSYes
EDGEYes
SpeedHSDPA, HSUPA
WLANWi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
BluetoothYes, v4.0
NFCNo
USBYes, microUSB v2.0
Primary13 MP, 4160 x 3120 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
OSAndroid OS, v4.4.2 (KitKat)
ChipsetMediatek MT6592
CPUOcta-core 1.7 GHz
GPUMali-450MP4
SensorsAccelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Stand-byUp to 490 h
Talk timeUp to 27 h (2G) / Up to 11 h (3G)
Price$490 or $64 per month for 12 months on Telecel Khuluma Contract

User Interface

User Interface on the Gtel SL 5.5 is the same Amigo OS 2.0. The Amigo OS 2.0 is skinned on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Like on the Gtel Xplora, there is no app drawer, instead the system has home screens and quick shortcuts for the regular apps.

Swiping between home screens is fluid with no lag whatsoever. The tap twice feature is still there for activating the screen. The icons have retained their flat appearance. I felt the experience might have been somewhat better had it been on stock Android.

The notification area, has two sections. One section gives system notifications, the other gives access to quick settings. The quick setting section seems to have been updated since the last iteration on the Gtel Xplora, featuring more vibrant colours now.

ui sl5.5

Telephony, Phonebook and messaging

The dialler app, has a simple interface, with the contacts link on the bottom left hand corner. There is an option for native video calls where supported. Icons retain the same flat colour used on the main system menu. On the bottom right hand corner, there are three dots which show or hide the speed dial menu. Texts can also be sent when you choose not to answer a call.

telephony sl5.5

Synthetic Benchmarks

Benchmarks confirmed the expected performance of the Gtel SL 5.5. However, the phone did get a bit warm during tests, and during web browsing. As can be seen, the Gtel SL 5.5 is quite a performer, launching itself into the lower range of the flagship section.
Antutu
antutu sl5.5

Vellamo & 3D Mark
vellamo 3Dmark sl5.5

Gallery and Media Players

The gallery app is a simple affair, with no menu options whatsoever. It like the one on the Gtel Xplora is quite basic with regard to features. What I found annoying was that the gallery app would not rotate to a landscape mode when the phone was held side ways.

gallery sl 5.5

The music app was handled in a much better way. It has all the sort criteria, i.e. artist, albums, folders and all songs. The only let down from the music app is that it does not automatically detect the music after it has been copied onto the phone. Instead one has to run a manual scan for the library to be updated. The SL 5.5 like the Gtel Xplora features DTS settings, which allow one to alter how the audio sounds according to one’s taste.

audio player

The video app is decent, and includes touch gestures, not just dedicated on screen keys. I found it occasionally would have audio lag when playing high resolution video. On the whole though it is a decent offering for a video playing app.

sl5.5video

Battery

The battery on the Gtel SL 5.5 is 2300mAH, which is rated to give up to 11 hours on 3G talk time. Experience though was that with video playback the battery seemed to drain rather fast. However with normal use the phone seems to keep its charge and can last until the evening with a full charge in the morning.

Final Thoughts

Gtel has yet again presented something for the local market that is a worthy alternative to the more expensive giants like Samsung and Sony, especially for those looking for a 5 inch phone. I would have however preferred that the phone have at least 32GB storage or that the memory be at least expandable considering how 1080p video recording takes a lot of space.

For its $490 asking price the Gtel SL 5.5 should be able to compete with the big names, On the whole, this is a good presentation from Gtel, here’s to hoping they keep up the performance.

22 Comments

  1. ic0n1c says:

    Yes the SL5.5 is indeed a good phone. I was impressed with the precision and detail that went into its production. I am also sure these are the phones that will revolutionize the way we use smartphones. Kudos GTEL!

  2. ADM says:

    This is the Gionee Eifel S5.5 launched in china back in March –
    http://www.gsmarena.com/gionee_elife_s5_5-6109.php

    You can see the GSMARENA review here:
    http://www.gsmarena.com/gionee_elife_s55-review-1096.php

    I believe it has also been launches in the USA under the BLU brand:
    http://www.phonearena.com/news/The-worlds-thinnest-phone-Gionee-Elife-S5.5-hits-the-shelves-March-18-for-374_id53821

    Nice to see they chose to bring it this side, its quite a beauty. But by far the biggest concern for me would be storage – it can get away with just 16GB in other markets because I guess customers can use cloud storage and steaming services – but in Zim how likely is that? Especially given that the Telecel Contact package itself is SUPER STINGY on data! Would have been nice if GTEL had asked the manufacturer for 32GB. And then another issue – 500 Bucks for a phone with no LET and no NFC as well? I don’t know hey, not exactly future proof – there are Samsungs with less fancy display/body metal/slimness BUT packing both NFC and LTE. Just another pretty face? Would be fun to see this on ZBC TV though, they need some Bollywood flavour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmbbKDgYBEU

  3. ADM says:

    This is the Gionee Elife S5.5 launched in China back in March:
    http://www.gsmarena.com/gionee_elife_s5_5-6109.php

    You can see the GSMARENA review here:
    http://www.gsmarena.com/gionee_elife_s55-review-1096.php

    I believe it has also been launched in the USA under the BLU brand:
    http://www.phonearena.com/news/The-worlds-thinnest-phone-Gionee-Elife-S5.5-hits-the-shelves-March-18-for-374_id53821

    Nice to see they chose to bring it this side, its quite a beauty. But by far the biggest concern for me would be storage – it can get away with just 16GB in other markets because I guess customers can use cloud storage and streaming services – but in Zim how likely is that? Especially given that the Telecel Contact package itself is SUPER STINGY on data! Would have been nice if GTEL had asked the manufacturer for 32GB. And then another issue – 500 Bucks for a phone with no LTE and no NFC as well? I don’t know hey, not exactly future proof. There are Samsungs with less fancy display, no metal body and not as slim BUT packing both NFC and LTE. Just another pretty face? Would be fun to see this on ZBC TV though, they need some Bollywood flavour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmbbKDgYBEU

    1. Mastermind says:

      lol, would you have buy the phone for 500bucks if it had LTE and NFC? what would you possibly use NFC for here in Zimbabwe, pay for for stuff with your phone..?? Why would you need a phone with LTE when you’re living in a country where there’s no LTE..??

  4. Magneto says:

    GTel you must establish your own plant now. It can be local or in China no problem as long as its your brainchild!

    1. Jon Sno says:

      Why? Even a large shipper of phones like Apple manufactures primarily in China. G-Tel does not have the economies of scale

  5. Aye Aye Capn' says:

    Ah ah ah, is that a yiffy rip I see? Pirates ahoy! Otherwise this phone is looking quite decent. Will they be bringing the LTE version when Gionee releases it?

  6. tanatswa says:

    this is a gionee phone really no need to praise gtel cause they just branded,so they have to be honest to us the customer and tell us its the chinees company which designed the phone not them,and the model failed to take off in china ,it had very poor sales ,because of a poor camera at night and a low battery,

  7. tendy says:

    actually the secondary microphone is for noise cancelation during voice calls

  8. REWMO says:

    your review is rather shallow for someone in the tech industry. you don’t even state which type of gorilla glass they used. as for dual microphones, its a feature that has been there on sim major brands for a while nw. next tym we need details on pixel density, brightness (nits) when used outdoors and resolution when talking about display. how is the colour accuracy? I can go on but the point is that ypur reviewleaves more questions.

    1. Mastermind says:

      that’s so true hey, they couldn’t even name the processor used as well as the GPU, what they referred to as a secondary microphone for video calls is actually a voice cancellation mic which has been on Android phones since 2012.

  9. I geek says:

    No MicroSD + No user Removable battery = NO THANK YOU !

  10. sgonda says:

    This phone is the Gionee Elife S 5.5 rebranded to Gtel sl 5.5 its time you start designing your own products not just go to china and rebrand chinese phones and market them here as your own

  11. REWMO says:

    it doesn’t deserve to get any review.

  12. Mastermind says:

    7.9Gb with no SD card option?? that’s really REALLY great, am sure all my endless music and video files will fit in there.

  13. Kudzi says:

    The V2 from Astro is still a better phone

  14. kay says:

    …..And you will never dream about OS updates with Gtel…You use it as is until the day u trash it..If you buy this phone, don’t get excited about Lollipop bcoz you will never get it……….don’t tell me you will root the phone to get it.

    1. brian says:

      That’s not very accurate, the update roms are available for Gtel devices, in fact i am willing to bet that the reason Gtel doesn’t roll out Android updates is because of the data costs needed for the end user to update the phone OTA. I have managed to update my Xplora to Android 4.4.2, and i’m very happy with it.

  15. jabbatings says:

    GTel is shouting from the mountain top yet this phone is crap. No removable battery, no sd card, just 7.9Gb for a flagship phone? That ought to land the price to below $300. The techzim guy did not tell us about the actual perfomamce. Does it freeze? How is the signal reception? What would make one opt for that phone instead of the giants in the market?

  16. Carmen says:

    I have this phone and i do love it. Though as i had spoken to you guys before about how to change the appearance and put my file explorer in the bottom tab, or a folder so i don’t have all these apps and goodies messing up my screen. Can’t stand the clutter or the fact that i can’t use widgets with it and the weather thing it has on the top of the screen. I also want to remove some built in aps like google crome etc. This phone comes with several different internet apps and a whole lot of apps that i would never use. You had mentioned to root my phone. I have never done this before and have no knowledge of how to do it. Went online and downloaded Kingo Root. It said that if it does not pick up the phone enable debugging which i did and it still is not picking it up. Do you know what the problem might be? Is something on my laptop interfering with it? Any help would be super super super

  17. Anonymous says:

    how do i disable bakground data on this fon

  18. ngonidzashe says:

    gtel fon perfom better as fo e zimbabweans but we having problems wen e fonstart developin a problem a year in e wrkshop no changes develop wrkshops in all twn ratha than harare only provide parts alwaz wen yu launch e kneww mobiles

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