Jelly Pro Smartphone Review: Tiny Yet Solid, With Android Nougat On A Budget
The Jelly smartphone is the world's smallest handset to support 4G internet speeds and it's amazingly tiny, but arguably potent for its category.
The current trend might be about increasingly bigger smartphones with huge displays, but that's the opposite of the minuscule Jelly that sports a 2.45-inch screen.
Jelly blazed through its initial Kickstarter goals in no time and it's now on Indiegogo InDemand to expand its already impressive network of supporters before it starts shipping next month. It's fully funded and fully capable, so why has this tiny, tiny smartphone gained so much interest that it raised $1,499,283 USD so far?
The little Jelly smartphone starts at $79 and it comes in two variants - the regular model with 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM, and a more powerful Jelly Pro version with 16 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM. The rest of the specifications, as well as the design and software, are the same for both variants. I've spent the past week with the Jelly Pro, trying to use it as my main smartphone as much as possible. I expected a more cumbersome and sluggish experience considering the Jelly's size and entry-level category, but I was pleasantly surprised. Here's the deal.
Jelly Smartphone Design
The first thing that strikes you about the Jelly smartphone is its design and, implicitly, its size. It definitely stands out because it's a fraction of the size of current smartphones, but otherwise its design is pretty basic and unimpressive - as expected for a budget handset. It has a glossy plastic build that can be slippery at times, but being so tiny makes the Jelly easy to use one-handedly and slip even into the smallest pockets.
That said, the miniature design does come with its drawbacks and those with larger hands might have trouble operating the smartphone especially when it comes to typing. A third-party keyboard such as SwiftKey does make things easier, particularly for those who don't mind typing by swiping, but it's still difficult to have a conversation. The keyboard also takes up roughly half of the screen even if you select the smallest layout, so you won't see much content on the display while you're typing.
While in the design department, it's also worth noting that unlike many current smartphones that come with a unibody design, Unihertz designed the Jelly smartphone with a removable back and battery. Once you pry it open and remove the rear cover, you'll see two SIM card slots and a microSD slot, which is not too shabby for a cheap entry-level phone.
The Jelly phone comes with a rear camera with flash, a selfie camera in the upper right corner of the front panel, a microUSB port and the power button on the right side, two volume buttons on the left, and a headphone jack on the left of its top side. Simply put, it basically has all you need from a smartphone, albeit to a lower standard.
The 2.45-inch display has a meager resolution of 432 x 240 pixels, so don't expect any crisp visuals. With a low-cost phone this size, however, Unihertz had to cut corners somewhere and the display is a far cry from what we've gotten used to with modern smartphones. It's decent enough to check messages, social media, and such, but the size and resolution are not exactly fit for media consumption. Since audio isn't all that great either, it's best to watch videos and the like on a different smartphone. On the other hand, a tiny phone starting at $79 doesn't really scream media consumption from the get go.
Jelly Phone Specs And Performance
The Jelly phone packs a quad-core processor clocked at 1.1GHz which, coupled with the 2 GB of RAM gracing the Pro version, accounts for a smooth performance. The handset can easily handle basic tasks such as checking emails, social media, messages, and others such. I expected social media sites such as Facebook to load with slight delays, but that's not really the case.
Applications run smoothly and without any hiccups, on both 4G and Wi-Fi connections. I haven't even attempted installing more graphics-demanding games on the tiny Jelly, but lighter ones such as word puzzles or the likes work with no issues if you can play on a display this size. The 16 GB of storage of the Pro version is enough for a few essential apps, photos, and favorite songs, but the 8 GB of the regular model might be a tad too limiting. If you use it as a secondary phone, however, that shouldn't be an issue.
Despite its entry-level category and low price, the smartphone runs a near-stock version of Android 7.0 Nougat. Plenty of other far more expensive smartphones still run older versions of Android, so this is a great bonus for the tiny Jelly. The phone also comes with DuraSpeed preinstalled out of the box, which is designed to improve performance by restricting background apps and boosting the speed of the app in the foreground. It speeds up the app's launch time, but you might miss some notifications from background apps. I disabled DuraSpeed and apps still worked smoothly, but they did take slightly longer to load.
Jelly Phone Battery
When it comes to battery performance, you'd expect a device of this size to last for quite a lot on a single charge. At the same time, a device this size also means that it has to fit a tiny battery under the hood, and the Jelly phone comes with a 950 mAh unit. Unihertz says that it should last for up to three days on a charge, but the most I've gotten out of it was roughly 28 hours with medium usage mainly comprising of a few phone calls, a lot of email notifications, and a minute or so on social media every once in a while. Using it as a Wi-Fi hotspot drained the battery much faster. The phone has a customizable LED notification light that's more visible than on most other smartphones, since it lights up the whole home button rather than just a tiny dot at the top.
Jelly Phone Cameras
The Jelly phone has an 8-megapixel rear camera with flash. The photos may not be great, but they're nonetheless decent. They don't look like much at first, on the Jelly's modest display, but viewing Jelly photos on a different device with a superior display might actually be a nice surprise. The Jelly won't compete with any flagship smartphones with high-end cameras, but it doesn't intend to.
For the occasional photo on the go, it will do the trick although the photos are often quite noisy and blurry, with washed-out colors. HDR does seem to help a bit, but it doesn't work wonders. The 2-megapixel front camera, meanwhile, works like a 2-megapixel camera - don't expect any good selfies. The image below is taken with the Jelly Pro's rear camera.
The Jelly phone definitely has a few drawbacks, but that was entirely expected. Overall, however, the Jelly is solid, reliable, easy to use, and it fits in a coin pocket. It gets strong reception and it even handled calls better than my regular smartphone in areas with poorer reception, which is a notable bonus. It's surprisingly responsive and hasn't crashed or frozen once, not even when I left a slew of apps open in the background and continued to use one in the foreground.
The Jelly Pro version is currently available on Indiegogo InDemand at a promotional price of $95, but will cost $105 once it hits the market. There are other entry-level smartphones out there in the $100 price range and some may even deliver a better experience, but the Jelly's main selling point is that it's the world's smallest 4G phone.
Unihertz itself markets it as an alternative to your main smartphone, and it can fit this role with no issues. It's perfect to take for a jog or a workout at the gym, use as a Wi-Fi hotspot or simply as a backup phone if your main one dies in the middle of the day. That said, I wouldn't use the Jelly Pro as my main driver, but as a secondary phone it's definitely worth considering.