Ule­fone Fu­ture

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS -

A bezel-less dis­play, side-mounted fin­ger­print scan­ner and USB-C are among the high­lights in this fu­tur­is­tic phone ap­pro­pri­ately named the Ule­fone Fu­ture. A Dual-SIM phone with an octa-core He­lio P10 pro­ces­sor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of stor­age in­side, this mid-range An­droid phone also per­formed pretty well in our per­for­mance bench­marks.

The Fu­ture is a Chi­nese phone avail­able in the UK through grey-mar­ket sites such as GearBest, which sent our sam­ple for re­view. Right now you can buy the Ule­fone Fu­ture for £188 with free ship­ping. Note that you may have to pay im­port duty when it ar­rives at UK cus­toms, how­ever.

De­sign

From the rear, the gold alu­mini­umti­ta­nium al­loy cas­ing, white lines and corner-sited cam­era make the Fu­ture look very much like an iPhone wannabee. How­ever, turn it over and things get a lot more in­ter­est­ing.

We have to start with the screen, since this is the first time we’ve seen a Chi­nese phone sold with an edgeto-edge or bezel-less dis­play. It looks fan­tas­tic, and 2.5D curved glass atop the dis­play gives the feel­ing that the screen might ex­tend fur­ther, wrap­ping around the sides. Alas, this seam­less de­sign is spoiled by the gold case vis­i­ble from the sides. Had our re­view sam­ple been black we imag­ine it would look a lot nicer.

But even as it stands, the screen is a nice fea­ture. It’s a 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080) panel that’s crys­tal clear and suf­fi­ciently bright. Colours look re­al­is­tic and viewing an­gles are good. It’s pro­tected by tough Go­rilla Glass 3, plus a very thin black plas­tic coat­ing around the oth­er­wise vul­ner­a­ble edges of the glass.

On the right side a fin­ger­print scan­ner sits just be­low the vol­ume rocker and power but­ton. This is some­thing we’ve seen be­fore with the Sony Xperia Z5 fam­ily, where it was ac­tu­ally in­te­grated to the power but­ton. At first we were a lit­tle stumped as to what it was, given that it looks as though it’s some sort of port cover and the SIM- and mi­croSD card slot sits at the top left.

How­ever, in use the fin­ger­print scan­ner is one of the best out there. It’s in­cred­i­bly fast, with a 0.1-sec­ond recog­ni­tion speed, and it is per­fectly placed for righthanded users. Left­ies won’t have much joy with it, but our only real gripe is that the first time you ac­cess the phone fol­low­ing a restart you must en­ter a PIN or pass­code rather than us­ing the scan­ner.

There’s a third in­ter­est­ing de­sign fea­ture, too, although we have to say we’re not overly en­am­oured with it. The SIM tray pin, which every­one al­ways loses and ends up re­sort­ing to a pa­per­clip, plugs into the head­phone port at the top, thus keep­ing out the grime and en­sur­ing the pin is never mis­placed. It’s a great idea, but it also looks re­ally weird.

The head­phone jack looks as though it has a lit­tle hat on, but it’s a SIM tray pin, stick­ing out the top of the phone and spoil­ing the clean lines. And where are you sup­posed to put the pin when us­ing the head­phone jack out and about? To be hon­est, we’re not even sure whether you’re in­tended to store the pin here, although that is how it came in the box.

In gen­eral, the de­sign has been care­fully con­sid­ered. For ex­am­ple, two speaker grilles sit ei­ther side of a re­versible USB-C port at the bot­tom of the phone, and in this po­si­tion they en­sure sound is fired out­ward and not into a palm or desk.

How­ever, we’d like to have seen the three-stan­dard An­droid back, home and mul­ti­task­ing but­tons sit be­low rather than on top of the screen (there is plenty of room be­low the screen, if not at the

It’s a 5.5in Full-HD (1920x1080) panel that’s crys­tal clear and suf­fi­ciently bright. Colours look re­al­is­tic, and viewing an­gles are good

edges), and given its height and the size of the screen it would be nice to see the Fu­ture slimmed down fur­ther than 8.5mm. As things stand, it weighs a no­tice­able 190g.

A cou­ple of nice touches sup­plied in the box in­clude a clear sil­i­cone case and a Mi­cro-USB- to USB-C adap­tor. The lat­ter is par­tic­u­larly use­ful, since it’s prob­a­ble that the only USB-C cable you’ll have around the house is the one that comes in the box.

Per­for­mance

The Ule­fone Fu­ture is very fast for a mid-range An­droid phone. It has some ca­pa­ble hard­ware in­side, in­clud­ing an octa-core He­lio P10 chip (the Me­di­aTek MTK6755), the Mali-T860 MP2 GPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of stor­age (25GB is avail­able). Should you need more stor­age space you can also in­sert a mi­croSD card up to 128GB in ca­pac­ity, though you do so at the ex­pense of the sec­ond SIM since they share a slot.

In real-world use we found it up to the job of all ev­ery­day tasks, even when tasked with sev­eral at once. Launch­ing apps isn’t in­stant, but it is fast, and nav­i­ga­tion on the whole feels slick. The cam­era app – which is where you’d usu­ally see the most lag – is up and ready to go in about three sec­onds.

Of course this is all our sub­jec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, so we also run a va­ri­ety of bench­marks to com­pare per­for­mance with that of com­pa­ra­ble phones. We run Geek­bench and AnTuTu to get an idea of over­all pro­cess­ing per­for­mance, GFXBench for graph­ics power, JetStream for JavaScript per­for­mance and the Geek­bench 3 bat­tery test to com­pare run­time.

In our bench­marks we found per­for­mance a touch faster than the cur­rently £60 more ex­pen­sive Ele­phone Vowney, a He­lio X10-pow­ered phone with 4GB of RAM and a 5.5in quad-HD screen. In Geek­bench 3 we recorded 3276 points against its 3299, but the Fu­ture came out on top in AnTuTu where it recorded 50,676 against the Vowney’s 49,842.

The dif­fer­ence in screen res­o­lu­tion af­fects graph­ics per­for­mance, so de­spite the more pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor in­side the Vowney the Ule­fone Fu­ture came out on top in GFXBench. Whereas the Vowney scored 16fps in T-Rex, the Fu­ture man­aged 18fps. Both recorded 6fps in Man­hat­tan.

The Vowney failed to com­plete JetStream, but the Fu­ture com­pleted the test in 27.423. This isn’t amaz­ing, but it’s ac­cept­able for a sub-£200 An­droid phone.

Our fi­nal test is for bat­tery life, and sadly here the Ule­fone Fu­ture fell down with one of the low­est scores we’ve mea­sured. It man­aged four hours 38 min­utes, and was awarded 2778 points. In our ex­pe­ri­ence it will last you a day’s use, but heavy users will likely need to top up be­fore bed time.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

While bat­tery life isn’t out­stand­ing, the 3000mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery in­side the Ule­fone Fu­ture does sup­port fast charg­ing over USB-C. Us­ing the mains charger in the box (with an adap­tor if you’re in the UK), you can fully charge the Fu­ture in an hour. We also ap­pre­ci­ate the in­clu­sion of this USB-C port in terms of fu­ture­proof­ing and con­ve­nience – USB-C is re­versible, mak­ing it quicker to plug into the phone with­out need­ing to check its ori­en­ta­tion.

We do like the fact the Ule­fone Fu­ture sup­ports two SIM cards (one Nano-, one Mi­cro-), too. Dual-SIM phones are still rare in the UK, although we’ve yet to see a Chi­nese phone that doesn’t in­clude this func­tion­al­ity.

While bat­tery life isn’t out­stand­ing, the 3000mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery in­side the Ule­fone Fu­ture does sup­port fast charg­ing over USB-C

As al­ways when buy­ing a phone from abroad you should check it sup­ports your home coun­try’s net­work bands. In the UK we use 800MHz (Band 20), 1800MHz (Band 3) and 2600MHz (Band 7) bands for 4G LTE, and it’s pleasing to find the Ule­fone Fu­ture sup­ports all three.

The only down­side to this DualSIM dual-standby func­tion­al­ity is that you must choose whether to use this or to take ad­van­tage of the mi­croSD card sup­port. With 32GB of in­ter­nal stor­age in­side the Fu­ture we think many users will get along just fine with­out the re­mov­able stor­age, how­ever.

Other con­nec­tiv­ity specs are fairly stan­dard, although there is no NFC which is re­quired for mo­bile pay­ments such as An­droid Pay. Me­di­aTek pro­ces­sor-pow­ered phones of­ten come with HotKnot, which is a bit like NFC, but the Ule­fone Fu­ture doesn’t have this ei­ther. It’s no sur­prise to find the Ule­fone Fu­ture also lacks an IR blaster – these are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare – though you do get du­al­band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 4.0, Mira­cast, OTG and GPS.

Cam­eras

The Fu­ture has a 16Mp pri­mary cam­era with a dual-tone flash. It’s also ca­pa­ble of record­ing Full-HD video at 30fps, but this can be rather jerky with no OIS. When test­ing the cam­era in Auto mode from our seventh floor roof ter­race over­look­ing the St Pan­cras Re­nais­sance Ho­tel we found the cam­era tried to fo­cus on the sky and the ho­tel it­self ap­peared very dark. Turn­ing on HDR fixed this, but with both shots we saw a very strange ef­fect where only the very cen­tre of the photo was sharp. The blur­ring is par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent in the right half of the photo, but when you zoom in it’s ev­i­dent ev­ery­where ex­cept the mid­dle sec­tion.

This is a real shame, be­cause in the cen­tre the cam­era qual­ity is ex­cel­lent. We sus­pect this is a soft­ware is­sue that an up­date should be able to fix. You can see our Auto and HDR shots, left.

The cam­era app is rather ba­sic, with a se­lec­tion of real-time fil­ters, but only Panorama, HDR and Nor­mal shoot­ing modes. You’ll also find a 5Mp selfie cam­era at the front.

Soft­ware

The Ule­fone Fu­ture runs a vanilla ver­sion of An­droid 6.0 Marsh­mal­low which, un­til Nougat is re­leased within the next few months, is the lat­est ver­sion of the OS.

The only ad­di­tion is a Turbo Down­load fea­ture, which al­lows you to com­bine cel­lu­lar data and Wi-Fi to speed down­loads over 20MB in file size.

Ver­dict

Ule­fone has at­tempted to build a fu­tur­is­tic phone with the Fu­ture’s edge-to-edge dis­play and USB-C port. For a mid-range An­droid phone per­for­mance is good, and the de­sign is good, even if the phone is on the heavy side. We can’t turn a blind eye to the cam­era qual­ity, although a soft­ware up­date should be able to fix the is­sues we saw. Marie Brewis

GFXBench T-Rex

GFXBench Man­hat­tan

AnTuTu

Geek­bench 3

JetStream

Auto set­tings

HDR on

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