Updated June 14, 2019:
So many phones out there, so much choice, so much rubbish. When it came to updating my own phone last year, I took advice from my friend Antonio (Mr Shark) and went for the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 and as it turns out, it was good advice as the Pocophone is an absolute winner. More of that elsewhere.
The phone arrived here safely in deepest rural Spain, tracked and on time along with a separately shipped glass screen protector. 16/4/2019 - Above image taken this morning with the F1 back camera – no adjustments or enhancements.
My experience from opening the Umidigi package through to actual phone use is that of a high-end model phone – from the boxing and thank-you card from Umidigi themselves through the packaging effort by Banggood and to the phone and accessories, everything looks top notch.
As I understand it, during part of April at least, Banggood had this phone at just under 170 Euros – OR you could splash out on a new self-destruct flagship – the obscenely expensive Samsung Galaxy Fold that appears to be giving reviewers a hard time by inconveniently failing.
The Umidigi F1 phone is black (they do other colours) and despite not being one of the more well-known names, the phone has a solid feel to it – but let’s skip the boring stuff and get to the meat of why this phone looks like a winner.
Now bear in mind that this is a low-cost phone (I won’t even start comparisons with major brand names as I think Apple have lost the plot - £1000+ for a phone which will almost certainly get scratched within months and possibly get smashed in it’s first year, just seems like madness to me and I’ve already passed comment about Samsung’s self-destructing, folding flagship). So if you are in the market for a phone in the £150-£250 price bracket there are NO shortage of models out there and I’ve owned and reviewed quite a few, not all of which were good value.
Enough waffle, here it is - a photo taken in full Spanish sunlight with the Umidigi F1…
By now you’re probably thinking “enough, let’s see some meat” – here you go:
128GB storage, 6.3” seamless waterproof display at 2340*1080, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, Helio P60 processor, 2Ghz operation, 4GB RAM, 5150maH battery with 18w fast charge, dual cameras on the back - 16MP and 8MP respectively), 16MP camera on the front, f1.7 aperture, ANDROID 9, NFC, Fingerprint and face unlock…. need I go on? I'm not going to expand on that feature set as I've included links at the bottom of this blog entry.
Almost no space is wasted on the front of the Umidigi F1, the phone is all screen with very little wasted space. Charger and lead are included in the box.
A phone is a phone so they say and for me, I take basic operations like phone, WIFI and Bluetooth for granted. On top of that, I want (importantly) a decent battery, the latest, bloat-free Android, lots of storage and decent cameras as well as a high definition screen – the F1 has all of that. Here’s something to start the ball rolling.
Sharp as you like, one of my first photos with the F1. This simple shot was taken in our garden in Galera and features the Dolly Lama – what? You don’t have one? This delightful ornament (the yellow one) came from a local supplier back in the Northeast of England.
The photo below is taken at the highest resolution possible in 18:9 format (around 11MP) – I tend never to take old-style 4:3 photos (which would give higher resolution vertically of course, taking the phone camera up to 16MP).
Nothing special here? Well, it WAS on and off very cloudy when I took the shot, not much I can do about that. See that white car over on the right? Here’s a blown-up segment from the same photo. Not too shabby for a budget phone and for my first session with the Umidigi F1 in far-from ideal conditions.
Here’s the little white car you see above far right. If I applied a little sharpening this would look even better, but here it is, unprocessed.
On the subject of batteries, the phone arrived with a 90% charged battery and I’ve been taking photos and installing apps on and off all day. It is now 6pm and the battery indicator has hardly moved, maybe down to 80-85% – more precision when I update this blog soon.
I’ll also do a short video to show the various camera modes (including Pro, video and bokeh) in action. The stock camera software does not include panorama but there’s an app for that - I don't understand why that feature is missing but it certainly is. I checked video – up to 1920*1080 at full frame rate – 4K would have been nice, my Pocophone does the latter but then it does cost twice as much. Video and more photos when the weather picks up, hopefully in a few days (all the way to Spain and what happens? It rains).
Oh, did I mention the phone is dual SIM with the option to add up to 256GB of microSD? Personally I think the built-in 128GB is sufficient for my needs and we will no doubt be using both of those SIM slots at some point. Like most phones, SD expansion is not as flexible as the internal storage and so I find it best to go for the larger internal storage versions. For this phone we’ve been using GIFFGAFF in the UK and unsurprisingly, on first adding the GIFFGAFF SIM to the phone – nothing – no mobile data. I got up early one morning (30/04/2019) to address that. Simples – the phone had automatically added O2 as the API name for the SIM – WRONG. I changed that to GIFFGAFF.COM, rebooted the phone and was immediately greeted with mobile data. Next stop was checking out my VPNs and they too worked perfectly. Next stop, Sat-Nav (Google maps which needs both data and GPS location – that worked perfectly, too).
There is also a standard 3.5mm earphone socket and power/data transfer comes via USB C.
All in all the Umidigi F1 phone appears to be a good deal at the price. My only other slight gripe at the moment is that the last Android security upgrade on this phone (OTA) was January 2019 – the Pocophone is kept far more up to date.
I should point out for those with a little more spending power, that Banggood also do the Umidigi S3 Pro (also using Android 9) and I hope to be looking at that in the very near future. Unlike the F1, the S3 Pro DOES have panorama mode built into the camera software. It also has a 48Mpx rear camera and more. Lots more on that subject coming up soon. With our new HITS MOBILE contracts here in Spain (I’ve referred to that elsewhere) we’ll be making the best of the data-consuming features of our new phones as the weather here continues to improve… and as a member the local camera group here I plan to promote the use of smartphones for photography both locally and online, as several models out there do a decent job. I hope to be able to report that the Umidigi models are good candidates.