Review

Oukitel U15S review: A combination of wrong choices

Oukitel is known for its big battery smartphones such as the K4000, K6000 and the mammoth K10000, which were rather bulky and catered to a different set of users. This time around, the company has taken a different approach and has launched the U15S, which is a slim phone with 4 GB of RAM instead of a high capacity battery. The device seems to be targeted at customers looking for that extra amount of memory without spending a lot.

The U15S comes in only one variant, which features 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage and is priced at about $160. It is also available for as low as $120 in weekly flash sales. However, the pricing and specifications alone don't paint the complete picture, as the smartphone struggles to stay relevant due to a number of odd choices such as using a custom skin, an old chipset and a smaller battery than the competition. Let us see what the device offers for the price, and whether it can hold its own in the ever aggressive entry-level smartphone market.

Specifications

  • 5.5-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD capacitive screen protected with 2.5D curved scratch resistant glass
  • CPU: MediaTek MT6750T octa-core chipset with a clock speed of up to 1.5GHz
  • 4GB LPDDR3 RAM / 32GB ROM, microSD card support up to 128GB
  • 13MP rear camera with LED flash, PDAF, f/2.0 aperture, supports 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second
  • 5MP f/2.8 front-facing camera
  • Non-removable lithium polymer 2,700mAh battery
  • dido OS 7.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Hybrid dual-SIM support, only accepts nano-SIMs
  • Rear mounted fingerprint sensor
  • Network bands supported: 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, 3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz 4G: LTE 800/900/1800/2100/2600MHz
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC Support: No
  • Dimensions: 150.9 x 76.2 x 7.6mm
  • Weight: 169 grams

What's in the box?

Oukitel is rather generous when it comes to bundled accessories. The U15S is no different, as it comes with a silicone cover, a pre-fitted screen protector, and an additional one for later use.

Other than these, what you get in the box is fairly standard: an AC adapter, a micro USB cable for charging and data sync, and a sim card removal tool. There are no earphones provided, which doesn't surprise me anymore.

Hardware & Design

The U15S borrows a lot of its appearance from the iPhone. In fact, if it came with a fingerprint sensor on the front, it would have definitely looked like an iPhone 6/6s. The phone is very comfortable to hold due to its thinness, and the minimalist bezels on the sides make it easier for one handed use, which is a very good thing, as the device features a 5.5-inch screen.

Oukitel has done a decent job with the build quality, which is almost as good as the Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime from last year. The device doesn't feature a unibody frame, but comes with a fixed backplate. The two strips at the top and the bottom of the device on the rear side are made of plastic, and most likely can be removed for repair purposes.

The front of the device features the speaker, front facing camera, and an ambient light sensor. There are no physical or capacitive keys. The top and bottom bezels are symmetric, and the phone is quite pleasing to look at in general. On the back side, there is the main camera, an LED flash, and the fingerprint sensor.

On the side, you can find the volume rocker, power button, and the sim card slot, while the top features a 3.5mm headphone jack. The bottom is reserved for a microphone and a loudspeaker. Though there are two grills at the bottom, only the right one has a speaker underneath, with the left grill being purely there to complete the design.

The U15S weighs in at 169g, and feels very light in the hand, but its thinness is the factor that really gave it an extra bit of comfort. It isn't as slippery as the Redmi Pro, which has a very smooth back and a slightly thicker frame.

Overall, it is a well made smartphone, borrowing some heavy inspiration from the iPhone. However, it should be noted that the same design is being widely used by all Chinese smartphone makers, and Oukitel might just be trying to capitalize on the trend.

Display

There is nothing special about the Oukitel U15S' display, which I felt was quite a poor panel, with color reproduction issues, and very cool colors in its default mode. The 5.5-inch IPS LCD features a 1920x1080 resolution, which gives it a density of 401 pixels per inch. However, the quality of the screen isn't up to the mark and that kicked off the list of negatives of the device.

It suffers heavily under direct sunlight, and renders washed out colors even in dim light. There are plenty of MiraVision display controls that help make the colors bearable, but overall it left a lot to be desired. The blu-light defender available in the display settings reduced the coolness of the colors to some extent. Neowin editor Vlad also had a similar experience with the Oukitel U20 Plus, which makes me think that the same panel is being used in this device too. Coming from an AMOLED screen, it was even more difficult to adjust myself to this screen.

The display's viewing angles are okay, and the brightness settings can go quite high. Even the automatic brightness is well calibrated, which is an issue present on the cheaper smartphones I have reviewed so far. This and the resolution are the only pluses with the U15S' display, but it boasts nothing that can set it apart from competitors featuring similar display specs.

Audio & Call Quality

The Oukitel U15S does get the basics right. It worked well in varying network conditions, and the in-call sound on both ends was very clear. I used the smartphone on Vodafone 4G, and got complete coverage in most parts of my city. This can vary for everyone, but even when it used 3G there were no signal issues, with call quality remaining pretty consistent.

With the loudspeaker too, the experience was pleasing for the most part, as it is capable of maintaining a smooth sound even at high volume. There was low bass in the output, but that didn't bother me much, since I prefer to use earphones for listening to music or other content. The output from the headphone jack was also loud and clear with nothing to complain about.

There is no support for US 4G LTE bands, which is a nagging issue with all the Chinese smartphones and that reduces their appeal to a large extent for most buyers.

Camera

Probably the worst part about the Oukitel U15S is its 13-megapixel rear camera, which is extremely slow, and even unresponsive at times. It isn't clear whether the module is the main culprit here, but the photo quality is quite poor. The image is often out of focus and even a slight shake is enough for the phone to blur out the photo during a shot. It was faster to capture images using custom camera apps such as Snapchat, or the built-in snapper in Instagram, compared to the bundled camera app.

In daylight, I managed to take only a few decent images, but things got worse in low light as the camera simply could not focus on objects, and the results were pathetic. The situation for low light videos is absolutely the worst with recordings lagging and being way out of focus. Nothing useful can be shot in absence of proper lighting with the U15S.

There's nothing great about the 5-megapixel selfie camera either. It is a fixed focus shooter, which does not capture proper colors, and produces a lot of noisy images. These cameras certainly can't cater to the social media enthusiasts who want to share their daily experiences through photos.

You can check out the camera samples below, but do note that they needed a very steady hand and about 10-15 seconds to capture.

Software

Unlike other smartphones from Oukitel, which came with a mostly stock Android skin and a custom launcher, the U15S features the company's own flavour of Android, called dido OS. The operating system is currently on version 7.0, but it is the first time I have heard about it. It's more of a theme on top of Android rather than a complete departure from the original. Even so, it is quite heavy, and results in slow animations.

Some of the usual menus from stock Android have been rearranged or removed from Settings, which is extremely annoying. It took me a couple of days to find out some of them, such as the cellular network settings for enabling VoLTE. The notification bar uses different icons than standard Android, and the clock is positioned towards the left side and cannot be changed.

Since dido OS doesn't offer anything new in terms of ease of use, I found it rather odd that Oukitel chose to use it on this smartphone, which could have been much better with stock Android. Among custom skins, MIUI is probably the only one that has nice additions and thoughtful shortcuts, but other manufacturers who are still trying to gain users should avoid shipping such skins which ruin the user experience in general.

Performance

The MediaTek MT6750T is a 64-bit octa-core system-on-chip, with a clock speed that can go up to 1.5 GHz. Even though it is a decent low-end performer, and the Mali T860 GPU is also capable of rendering casual games, it is rather strange that the company opted for these year-old components in the U15S. Competing companies have already launched devices with Helio P10 at similar prices to the U15S.

The only thing that sets the U15S apart from those devices is its 4GB RAM, which helps it keep ticking along without shutting down any apps. For basic usage, these specifications are perfectly fine, but one cannot expect to play high-end games or use heavy applications that require a capable CPU on this smartphone.

In benchmarks there is nothing spectacular supporting the U15S' case, as its performance is bested by almost every device, new and old. It's safe to say that it isn't exactly an up-to-date smartphone.

Battery

One of the casualties of the Oukitel U15S' dido OS is the Android battery graph. That said, app specific usage can still be found out from the battery menu. The 2700 mAH lithium polymer battery can be considered quite small compared to what every other manufacturer is offering these days. It did not last me more than 12 hours on a full charge, and even the standby time was noticeably shorter than other devices I have used recently.

With sparing use of WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, I could manage to use the phone for 10 hours, beyond which it used to die or last an hour or so if I used the power saver mode. Playing games while off the charger drained the battery even faster. It is definitely a phone that can't get you through a couple of days, and traveling with the device can become a problem due to its very short battery life.

This too is a negative point towards the Oukitel U15S, and it might just be the ultimate decider for most of the customers who were considering this smartphone as a secondary one for calling and sending text messages.

Conclusion

After my time with the device, I came to the conclusion that it didn't have much going for it, except for the sleek looks and sturdy build. At the $199 price point currently available on Amazon US, there are vastly better smartphones to choose from, with users not finding it too difficult to pass on this device.

I personally believe that stock Android could have made a lot of difference on the U15S, as I felt that the software was to blame for most of the usability issues. The camera and battery were completely disappointing and if the device is going to get a successor, these two components need an overhaul.

There is tough competition in the low to mid price range, and Oukitel's offering is not going to spoil anyone's party. Other Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Huawei and ZTE have launched much better devices recently, and users would be better off choosing one of those.

The ZTE Blade V8 Pro offers a dual-lens camera, Qualcomm Quick Charge, and a bigger battery for $30 more, while the ZTE Axon 7 Mini has a better chipset, and an AMOLED screen for the same price as the U15S. There are of course the usual devices such as the Moto G4 and G4 Plus, which still offer a better value even though they will soon be replaced by the Moto G5.

The review unit was supplied by Oukitel. If you would like to purchase the device, you can head to GearBest. where the smartphone is currently priced at $160. You can check out more information about the U15S on Oukitel's website.

 

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