We have all aspired for a phone that would last us through about a couple of days and not cry out for a wall charger at the smallest hint of high-intensity task. This demand has almost fallen on deaf ears as brands have gotten into the rut of trying to outsmart each other into making smartphones razor thin. The component that usually loses out the most and takes the hit is the battery, which the manufacturers willingly sacrifice. However, as the demand of big battery phones continues to rise, several manufacturers are treating this as a separate category and coming up with phones that can last forever (not literally).
The sad part about these big battery phones is that OEMs place them into the budget to mid-range segment, which means that there is a substantial amount of cost-cutting that goes into it. Most of these phones have a plastic body, poor display and painfully slow charging. In our quest of finding that perfect big battery smartphone, we landed up with a Gionee Marathon M5, a phone with a 6020 mAh battery. Did it quench our thirst? Let’s find out in our full review below:
Availability and Box Contents:
Breaking away from the norm of keeping their phones off the online-only radar, Gionee has made the Marathon M5 an online exclusive product on Flipkart. This makes the Marathon M5, the second Gionee device after the Elife E8 to be available exclusively online. The phone is retailing at a price of about Rs 17,999 and comes in white, black and golden color with 32 GB of internal storage. The review unit that we got was golden in color and we must say it looked rather sweet.
The MRP mentioned on the box is Rs 18,725, so there is not much of a setback in terms of pricing from the box and the price available for customers to buy the phone today. In terms of what comes inside the box, you get the device itself with a phone case and a couple of screen protectors. There is an OTG cable and power brick along with a Micro USB to USB-A cable. There is an SIM ejector tool as well as a pair of headphones and plenty of documentations in there.
The phone was a bit of a problem to pick up and order as it was largely out of stock when we attempted to buy it. However, when it was available eventually, Flipkart promised to deliver it to us here in Mumbai in about 5/6 days.
The Gionee Marathon M5 comes with a 5.5 inch HD AMOLED screen which is protected by Gorilla Glass 3rd generation. This gives the phone a Pixel Density of about 267 PPI, which is not really all that impressive, but the fact that it is an AMOLED panel does definitely help out. The phone is powered by Mediatek MT6735 Quad Core chip and has 3 GB of RAM. Conveniently, the phone gives you 32 GB ROM, which means you will have enough space for your apps and multimedia.
There is a slot for Micro SD card in there, in case you want more space. The OS on the device is Android 5.1, with Amigo 3.1 skin on top. The phone comes with a Dual SIM micro SIM slot too. On the connectivity front, you have Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n. The phone also comes with IR blaster on top which is a massive bonus.
Hardware and Build Quality:
The Gionee marathon M5 is built like a tank. The phone is a heavy block of metal and is perhaps one of the thickest phones that Gionee has produced so far, stark contrast with the likes of S7 and S5.1. The phone does not have a removable back panel and is an assembly of several parts, and therefore, there is no unibody goodness happening here. The phone has rounded corners, which despite the 211 grams of weight, makes the phone rather easy to hold as long as you are not going to be writing essays on it.
The front of the phone is largely dominated by the 5.5-inch touchscreen with the proximity sensor and the 5 MP front facing camera sensor on either side of the earpiece. Below the touchscreen you have the three capacitive buttons namely Home, Back and Recent apps. The inner bezels of the phone are black in color, which gives the impression that the phone has extremely thin side bezels, but that is not really the case, turn on the display and you will see sizeable bezels. The bottom chin of the phone has the Micro USB port as well as the main microphone.
The top of the phone has the 3.5 mm headset jack and IR blaster on the top. Turn the phone around and you meet the engraved Gionee branding, a 13 MP rear camera accompanying a flashlight and secondary microphone. The bottom of the phone at the back has the main speaker grille. The right side of the phone features the Micro SD slot, Power button and Volume Rocker. The left side only has the slot for Dual SIM card tray.
Aforementioned, the phone has a really good build quality and we did not experience any sort of creeks in our time of using it. The only time the phone creeks is when you apply a lot of torque on it, and that creek is expected. The phone is easily capable of taking a couple of falls and since there are no chamfered edges here, you are likely to see the scratches or dents come fall on the body or on the side rim. There is a shiny ring that surrounds the perimeter of the phone and we felt that was the one part that really picks up a lot of wear.
The phone comes with an AMOLED panel, with 720 P resolution. The PPI of 267 is not really the best, but thanks to AMOLED, the panel is one of the brightest that we have seen. The colors really pop up and contrast levels are really deep. You kind of get the idea of how bright the panel is the moment you crank up the phone, and you see the bright orange Gionee logo and the deep white Android logo.
If anything, the whites have a tint of blue in them, so if you are looking for the perfect whites, then the Marathon M5 may not be the best out there for you. The viewing angles are good though you do see some shifting, especially from gray to black when you go to about 120 degrees. Outdoor visibility was never a problem and at full brightness, the text was sharp and crisp. The phone comes with ‘Economical backlight’ alongside ‘Adaptive brightness’ which ensures your eyes do not go for an absolute toss when using the phone in pitch dark conditions. The device registers touch without an issue and thanks to Gorilla Glass 3, the surface literally allows you to glide your fingers.
The Gionee Marathon M5 comes with Amigo 3.1 which is running Lollipop 5.1 below it. The OS as expected is heavily customized, and like pretty much all the Chinese manufacturers, there is no app drawer. All your apps, folders and widgets lie right on the desktop though you can install a launcher of your choice, in case you want to go for a more stock look. The lockscreen is really interesting as it allows you to scroll through the backgrounds or even set the category of backgrounds that you would like to see. You can long press on the lockscreen to bring up the settings that allows you to customize your lockscreen according to your taste.
Gionee has also included a very Apple-like Control Center, that is launched by swiping from bottom to up, which brings up the controls like Wi-Fi, Location, Brightness toggle, etc. You have features like ‘Super Screenshot’ which allows you to select the area to take a screenshot instead of always taking the full page as well as an ability to place a fake call. Using this, the phone will give you a call in 15 seconds to get you out of a sticky situation. You can launch apps like torch, calculator and camera right from the Control Center. You can turn the access of control center on or off from the lock screen. While Control Center is a cool implementation, we did miss the toggles living right in the notification tray like on most Android phones and took a lot of effort to not repeat the double swipe down the action.
The phone comes bundled with several preinstalled applications such as WhatsApp, UC Browser, Spider-Man, Danger Dash, Asphalt Nitro, DU Battery Saver, Twitter, Touchpal 2015 and more. Thankfully most of these apps can be uninstalled if the user does not want it to be there.
The Gionee Marathon M5 also comes with the Chameleon app which basically allows you to take an image from the surrounds, and uses that color to change the backgrounds and color schemes on your Gionee phone.
The Settings menu is no more tabbed into two sides, and you have one consolidated list where all the settings for your phone live. The phone comes with TouchPal keyboard by default, though we did move to Google Keyboard soon, given the experience of using the TouchPal keyboard was a little laggy. The messaging inbox is divided into three tabs, called Conversation, Service and Others and based on the sender of the message, they are placed in one of the tabs.
You can also import/ export messages, as well as blacklist users, from your text messages. We had no problems running Google services on the phone and cannot wait for Marshmallow to come on the Gionee M5 to see if Gionee does a visual overhaul of its Amigo UI or not. The update is expected to hit the phone sometime in the first quarter of 2016.
The 3 GB RAM on the Gionee Marathon M5 really shines for the device as we had a really good time using it. You will not experience any problem from the phone in the everyday tasks. The only time, you will really notice lags or frame drops is when you are watching a 1080 P video for a long time or when you are trying to play a really intensive game which requires a good GPU. FIFA 2015, Riptide GT for example, did not do that well, and dropped serious frames, but that is to be expected from a phone running on a MediaTek MT6735 chipset. We have seen the likes of Meizu M2 struggle with similar issues.
In terms of benchmark scores, the phone scored mediocre results, clocking just above 31,000 on AnTuTu and 13,281 on Quadrant Standard. Nenamark, on the other hand, showed the phone to be a consistent performer for low-end graphics, thanks to its 59.6 fps rating for the phone. The Gionee Marathon M5 does get a little hot with memory intensive tasks especially on the top right corner of the phone though this is nothing alarming.
The USP of the Gionee Marathon M5 is definitely its battery life and boy, does it not shine through. The phone comes with two cells, each of them being 3010 mAh Li-Po unit, giving the phone 6020 mAh worth of juice. The phone comes with a Power Manager which basically allows you to switch your phone to Normal Mode or Extreme Mode, which allows you to extend the battery life by turning off the likes of WiFi, Data and in general dropping down the performance. We let the Gionee Marathon M5 die on us on standby, and surprisingly with 50% battery and intermittent usage, the phone went almost 2 weeks without a problem.
On regular usage, we easily got two days out of the device and can only imagine this performance will improve with the Android 6.0 update and Doze on board. The charging speed is fast and the phone goes from 0 to about 75% in just a shade under two hours, it does take a while, though, from about 80% to 100%. In just over three hours, you are good to go from 0 to 100%.
The Gionee Marathon M5 comes with a 13 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front-facing snapper. While the camera performs decently well in well lit conditions and outdoors, there is a distinct lack of details when it comes to indoor shots. The macros were good though anything less than perfect lighting conditions and you begin to see a color shift and lack of crispness in pictures. No OIS meant that any little shaking was picked up, which spoilt the image or the video.
The phone’s camera app is perhaps one of our favorite camera apps out there. You have several photo modes in built, like the Face Beauty mode for those touchups, night mode for that extra bit of cranking up on exposure, Magic Focus that allows you to change the focussed subject, HDR Mode, Panorama, and Filters. You also have a Professional Mode that basically allows you to change the Focus Mode, Shutter Speed, White Balance, ISO and Exposure control on the phone. You can capture the image in 4:3 aspect ratio in 13 MP while if you like images to be 16:9, then you can at max go up to 10 MP. In the video mode, you have the option to turn on Anti-Shaking, which is basically EIS, as well as changing the video quality between 1080P, 720P, 480P and QCIF. You have the Scene Mode for videos too, for allowing you to shoot videos at night.
If you are looking for a camera to replace your point and shoot, then the Gionee Marathon M5 will disappoint you. However, if you plan to use the phone as a backup and just want to take some shots as memories, the camera definitely gets the job done, no more, no less.
The Gionee Marathon M5 makes phone calls just fine. Since the device is a Dual SIM phone, you can configure your default SIM card for dialing calls, sending messages or using data. The network was consistent across the board and the sound of the speaker was crispy clear. We did have an issue with speakerphone calls, as keeping the phone with the screen up meant the sound was really muffed due to the surface below. Other than the minor annoyance, we really had no problems with the basic function of making phone calls on the Gionee Marathon M5.
We did give away our conclusion in the Camera segment, that Gionee Marathon M5 is literally the perfect second phone that you can have. if you are a traveler and need a phone that will survive you ages, this is the one. However, if you are looking to pick it up as your primary device, you have enough choice in the market at the Rs 18,000 mark. The likes of Motorola Moto X Play or even the iPhone 5s now, are compelling choices over the Marathon M5 simply because of the software. While Amigo has come a long way since the days of the Elife E6, we still cannot help but feel that without Amigo and with stock Android, the phone would perform absolutely top class. If you have used a Gionee, Lenovo or even a Xiaomi phone in the past and are not bothered about the software and just want something that would last long, you definitely would want to pick the Marathon M5.