Following the release of the iPhone 5, 4" might become the new sweet spot for phones. Samsung is producing a 4" Galaxy S3 mini with other OEMs sure to follow. The 'phablet' and other larger screen devices might be taking off, but practicality might let the 4-inch market prosper. Among the thriving China based brands there is a range of options. Lenovo, THL and Bedove are all producing 4-inch phones using the latest dual core MT6577, but today we will be taking a look at a relatively new brand - Jiayu. The G2 is only the second mainstream device made by Jiayu, but it has become known for offering a high quality, high spec phone at an exceptional price. Is this reputation warranted, or a myth out of China waiting to be busted?
This review is based on multiple Jiayu G2 devices purchased by me for personal use and for friends and family. Most hands on time has been with the single core MT6575 model.
The phone comes in a clear plastic lunchbox type container with a paper sleeve. Included is the phone, two 2050mah batteries, micro USB cable, earphone headset, clear screen protector, a flat pin 110-240 volt wall charger and a Chinese language manual. The phone rests in a foam mould and comes well packaged. Note that these accessories may vary depending on where your device is purchased.
Like many of it's other kindred China devices, the G2 is powered by a Mediatek processor. There are two configurations available, a single core and dual core CPU option both clocked at 1GHz. Outside of this both models are identical and use the following specifications:
- Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
- 1GB RAM
- 4GB ROM
- Dual SIM with 2G quadband 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz in both SIM slots with 3G 900/2100 limited to one
- 8MP autofocus rear camera with LED flash
- 2MP front facing camera
- 4.0" WVGA display with In-plane Switching.
- Bluetooth 2.1
- GPS with Assisted GPS
- FM Radio receiver
- MicroSDHC card slot, supporting up to 32GB
- 2050 mAh battery
- 124 x 63 x 10.6 mm
- 163g with battery
Fairly standard specifications for this type of device, although it is nice to see 1GB versus the 512MB regularly used with Mediatek CPUs.
The G2 is available in Black or White, with some retailers swapping out the battery cover and offering 'Oreo cookie' half and half options. Physically it is a perfect rectangle with rounded edges. The front has a rather sharp edge to it but the back has a more angled gradient. The bezel around the screen is glossy with the back and sides having a light matte finish. On the back is a light grey print of the Jiayu name and logo with short written blurb the bottom. What exactly this says can vary; Some use Chinese script and others capitalised English. Either way it's a small font and doesn't ruin the look.
Navigation is via a combination of a rounded square physical Home button below the screen in the centre and capacitive Menu and Back keys at either side. These are responsive, but the Home button does rattle and could be fitted a bit more snug. As you'd expect, the speaker, light sensor, proximity sensor and front facing camera are above the screen with the microphone on the bottom. Also on the bottom is the micro USB port. Unfortunately this jack can be rather loose. When using the phone while charging the cable has slipped out more than once, and I'm not the only one to notice this. I suspect this is due to the port being recessed into a deep plastic hole in the battery cover rather than being flush with the edge. There's a standard 3.5mm jack and power button at the top and a volume rocker on the left side.
Under the back cover there is two standard SIM slots and an insertion force microSD slot. Below these is the giant 2050 mAh battery - this is huge and is what makes the phone have more bulk than you think it should. I don't have the tools to accurately weigh the battery but I wouldn't be surprised if it was close to half the weight of the overall device. It doesn't make the phone hugely thick but it is definitely a bit chubby.
The exact version of Android you get can vary out of the box. The single core model will most likely have 4.0.3 running, but there is a quick and easy firmware update to 4.0.4 available. I've only had one dual core model to go by, but that came already loaded with 4.0.4 - it's probably a good bet that this is standard, considering it was released two months ago. Jiayu has said that Jelly Bean should be coming soon, but ultimately I think this would depend on Mediatek. It might become available, but they also might be holding off to give it to their next generation of processors.
The Android implementation is extremely barebones and vanilla. There are only 4 apps preinstalled that you wouldn't find on any other ICS device:
- A 'Nature scene' Live Wallpaper
- eJiayu - a shortcut to the official Jiayu site
- Baidu - Chinese search/social thing
- System Update - lets you update from zip files on the SD card
All of these apps can be disabled or removed, although I highly recommend keeping the latter one intact. Beyond these it's the bare minimum to get Android up and running. All of the basic stock apps are here, but anything that you get from the Play Store isn't. Don't worry, everything from Maps to YouTube work perfectly once installed - I have not encountered any app incompatibility warnings in the Play Store. This is probably one of the best things about all Jiayu phones. Often China based manufactures like loading devices up to the brim with all kinds of bloatware apps, often making them difficult to remove without root. Having such a minimal footprint by default is one of the highlights of the G2.
When you first boot the device it will be set to Chinese. Anyone familiar with Android should be able to change it to English or another language of choice with ease. The default input method will also need changing - the standard English ICS keyboard is already installed, so its also a simple change.
Once you've installed your battery, SD card and SIM(s) things are a go. Keep in mind that the batteries will most likely be dead flat (maybe done to keep the International shipping risk down?). The first charge can take a good 6+ hours to reach 100%, but subsequent cycles are generally faster.
On first boot you won't be met with any quick start guide to hold your hand. You'll get a 'New SIM detected' dialog setting the defaults for calls, messages and data and after that you're at a blank home screen. Chances are if you're reading this review you already know your way around Android well enough, and it's not at all difficult to figure out.
The first thing you'll notice is the screen. And it's a looker! The Jiayu G2 has the best display I have ever seen on any China branded device. It's advertised as using In-Plane Switching technology and I have no doubt that this is true. Colours are very accurate and vibrant right down to the deepest blacks with next to no discolouring when viewing from an almost right angle. The 800x480 pixel resolution might be shunned upon for people wanting qHD or greater but I never felt like I was lacking detail. I did find the automatic brightness setting to be a little dull - I ended up setting it manually to about 80% and leaving it. I have held the G2 side by side with an iPhone 4S, Galaxy SII, Galaxy Ace and some lesser Huawei and ZTE phones and it always holds up as comparable. Truly the screen is the star of this phone.
Call quality is standard. The speaker is loud and clear, holding up in noisy environments like on public transport. It only has a single, small hole microphone but I've had no major complaints about the clarity.
One thing that does annoy me in the G2 is the vibration feedback - it's rather loud. Having your phone on silent still means that you'll easily hear when it goes off. If you're a light sleeper it's loud enough to wake you up in the night. It might not be an issue for some, but if you need your phone to vibrate in silence during business meetings it could be a deal breaker.
Dual SIM is a big feature of nearly every China branded phone and the G2 is no different. The Dual Sim implementation is identical to every other Mediatek phone running ICS. You can set defaults for calls, messages and data and swap these with a toggle that appears in the notifications when using an appropriate app like Dialer. Paul already covered Dual Sim functionality in his Gallant Duo review, so I'd encourage you to check that out for more details. Rest assured that it functions identically. Keep in mind that it is Dual SIM/Dual Standby for calls - you can't receive a phone call from one SIM when you're already in a conversation on the other.
For comparison, here is Antutu benchmark results comparing the MT6575 single core and MT6577 dual core models of the G2:
CPU Range: 112-1001 mHz
Total score: 5200
CPU Range 250-1001 mHz
The dual core definitely increases performance, but not by as much as you might expect. It's interesting that the single core model has a bigger clock speed range, meaning the CPU can run slower (and theoretically use less power) when at idle.
Both models perform well for day to day tasks. Using Opera Mobile, websites render fast and I didn't notice much scrolling lag even on the most bloated pages. The Dual Core obviously has the advantage when it comes to higher end apps. Bad Piggies HD ran without a hitch, but it really struggled with only the single core.
Both models have a 4GB ROM with about 2.4GB of internal storage available for apps, no annoying partitioning or reserved space here. The glories of cheap memory cards can also be had with the microSD slot supporting full 32GB cards.
The camera is controlled with the stock ICS app. Interestingly it seems to have some of the same additional features as Acer's Gallant Duo, leading me to think that they're part of the Mediatek Android package rather than something done by OEMs. These include a HDR mode, some colour filters, strange scene changers and a gyro based Panoramic mode.
I was rather impressed with the 8MP camera in the G2. Similar phones that claim to have 8MP cameras sometimes just interpolate from a VGA resolution sensor. It's definitely not the case here with photos retaining detail well in a range of lighting environments. The LED flash isn't something I'd ever recommend using for photos unless you really want to give the impression of being in a 70's neon strobe light disco. Be sure to take a look at some included photos below.
As I said before, most of the added thickness and weight in the G2 is because of the giant battery. It's 2050 mAh rating is far beyond similar sized devices like Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S3 mini or the iPhone 5. Like all Dual SIM phones, having both active all the time does reduce battery life a bit. For most of my time with the G2 I was only using a single SIM and this always gave me a whole day with upwards of 25% to spare. Using 2 SIMs might cut down on this a bit, but I would expect it to cover a full day for a reasonably heavy user. Unfortunately I haven't had enough hands on time with the dual core G2 to be able to make a definitive claim on the battery life, but people I know using one as their primary phone haven't had any significant complains in this area.
This is probably one of the most simple devices I've come across to root. The included System Update app doesn't seem to run any authentication on what compressed archives are loaded and flashed. There is a modified firmware available that contains SuperSU and is pre-rooted, and loading it is as easy as putting the update.zip on the SD card and running the app. Beware that there is two versions of the single core G2 and they have differences in the firmware used. Always be sure to check you have the right files before applying an update. Failing this you can use Mediatek's Windows program to apply an update by flashing over USB - a very useful failsafe if you should somehow brick your device.
Buying China brand phones can be a challenge. As it stands now the single core Jiayu G2 is a little south of £100 and the dual core a little north. Aliexpress is probably the best place to purchase these from now. They offer an escrow service by default, giving some level of protection for buyers. There is a few big online stores stocking Jiayu phones but I've never had great service with any of them. Keep in mind that Air Mail from China or Hong Kong can take over a month to arrive so it might be worthwhile investing in a faster shipping service.
The device is available from AliExpress, we recommend you use a seller with as much positive feedback as possible.
Among the sea of branded phones out of China, the Jiayu G2 is one to take notice of. The two stars of the show here are the Dual SIM functionality and the screen. Oh yes, that screen is something China as a nation should be proud of.
Keep in mind that Mediatek always has the next generation of processors on the line. The next processor, MT6589, is planned to be a quad-core chip with a 28mn die versus the 40nm in the current chips. It's due out later this year but it will be some time after that before quality, branded devices start showing up. Jiayu also has the G3 planned - a 4.5", 720p phone - but this has had a range of setbacks and many delays since July.
China devices are renowned for their low price and I feel confident in saying that I've never seen a better Android phone available at this price point. Ultra loud rumble and a thick and loose all plastic design are the penalties you get in a device this close to £100, but it still represents some of the best value you can buy.
Pros and Cons
- Absolutely stunning screen
- Very rootable
- Lots of storage and storage options
- Dual SIM
- Performs well
- Giant battery
- Exceptional Price
[*]Deafening vibration motor
[*]All plastic bland design
[*]Home button rattles
[*]Loose micro USB port
- Absolutely stunning screen
- A 'Nature scene' Live Wallpaper