Vernee Apollo X – the cost-efficient flagship

Apollo X was presented by the Shenzen-based company in Barcelona, the capital of the mobile phone world, during the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2017).

Introduction, Specs

The history of Vernee is only written since 2016; however, they showed that fame can be obtained in moments. We were first introduced to the Vernee Thor, which stirred up the stilled water, and then the Apollo Lite and the Mars continued this story of successes.

The public considered Chinese phones as junk-products, but in the last few years, the Far-Eastern manufacturers outgrew these prejudices and matched the levels of the well-known brands. Moreover, they even overshadowed their Western counterparts in a few categories. It is enough to look at the table below and it can be seen that 7 out of 10 manufacturers are located in the country where the largest human-made building can be found. Yes, this is the world’s longest cemetery, the wall of tears or as it is known, The Great Wall in China.

Vernee is far from having a place in the TOP10, but they successfully recognised the changes and needs of the market and they implemented these in their products. They do not use unique UIs, nor special extras, and they sell only well-made, well-functioning mobile phones for reasonable prices – which is what the biggest proportion of the users want.

After the introduction, let us see what the box of the Vernee Apollo X – named after the roman god of healing, hunting and arts, the twin of Diana. The X, according to Jacky Zou (CEO), refers to the ’Do Better’ spirit in which the phone was made, as in they measured the needs of the users and re-thought the Apollo-series.

The test subject arrived in a simple, moderately elegant, black paper box. There are no highlighting references to what the box contains, unlike in the case of the Ulefone Gemini. Naturally, the main specs can be found on the back of the storage unit.

Taking off the top of the box, we can first lay eyes upon the device itself, and after removing the tray on which the phone lies, we can see the provided accessories with which we are not spoiled. There is a 2 ampere charger, a Type-C USB cord, a SIM needle and of course the user’s guide. What they forgot, is a headset of better quality, with which the premium-nature of the product could have been emphasized.

A foil is already installed on screen, so at least we do not have to bother ourselves with that.

Appearance, Display

The Apollo X is covered with a 152×76,2×9,2 millimetre sized metal casing and it weighs about 175 grams. The anodized casing, polished with double CNC cut and 3D sandblasting, is protected from fingerprints by a special coating. The manufactured was careful, so the construction of the device is flawless. Once held in hand, one can feel the quality of the product. Usually the most expensive devices are constructed with such care.

The display’s – protected by Gorilla Glass 3 – resolution is 1080×1920. It is a Sharp IGZO IPS display which deserves attention thanks to its fine contrast qualities, outstanding brightness and 401 ppi pixel density. The viewing arches are wide, albeit its calibration is a bit blue – but this can be adjusted with MiraVision by MediaTek. The display operates with 2.5D and covers about 75% of the front of the device, and it is not too much, not extreme narrow and the proportions are well-designed. An OnePlus One copy can also be discovered and the frame is a bit bigger than the display, so if dropped, the screen will probably not break as the blow will be taken by the frame.

On the upper side can the usual sensors be found (light and proximity sensor) along with the 5-megapixel camera, the speech-speaker and the colourful LED for notices in the left corner. Below, there are no physical buttons, nor capacitive touch-buttons, the space below the display is completely empty. The Android buttons are software-based, thus they occupy part of the display. The order of the virtual buttons can be rearranged, and when they are not needed, the lane can be easily removed.

On the left side, two SIM-trays can be found, a nanoSIM or microSD for the upper one and a microSIM for the one below. The manufacturer uses the so called hybrid dualSIM technology. When using two SIMs, the storage of the phone cannot be expanded, however, as the built-in storage is 64GB, I do not think this is an issue. Ont he right side, the power and volume control buttons are located. These are comfortable to use and even though they are a bit loose in their sockets, their pressure points are spot-on. The back is clean, the antenna-trails are not disturbing, they fit in the design. The main camera sticks out a bit. Left from the camera, the Led flash, and below it, the fingerprint-scanner can be found (the latter functions finely with a 8/10 success-ratio). Along with these, the unobtrusive brand- and model-marks can be seen.

On the top of the device, there is only a lonely 3.5 millimetre jack port. On the bottom and in the middle, we can see the USB Type-C port, engulfed by the speakers’ trellises. These are only similar for symmetry reasons; the speaker is under the right trellis, while the mic is under the left one. However, it is worth to highlight the new generation Type-C USB port, which provides fast data-transfer and together with the possibility to charge the phone, we can also plug a headset here, which has better quality as the analogue transformation is left out. It is also useful that – as in the case of Apple’s Lightning technology – the cords are symmetric so they can be plugged in without paying attention to the correct alignment.

Hardware, Software

Performance is supplied by the world’s first mobile processor with 10 cores, the MediaTek Helio X20 (MT6797). The processor is made with a 20 nanometer three-clustered manufacturing technology, namely the 10 cores are divided into three parts which activate depending on the usage. The slowest, but most power-friendly 4 Cortex-A53 cores operate with 1.4Ghz, the medium-fast Cortex-A53 core use 2GHz and if these are not enough, the core designed to achieve the highest speeds activate: 2 Cortex-A72 duos, which provide a handsome 2.5GHz. The unique Big Little technology contains another curiosity. There is a 364MHz ARM Cortex M4 core too, which handles the tasks that require minimal resources, such as listening to music with a locked screen or the processing of the sensory data. Together with this, there is a 780Mhz Mali-T880 dual graphic core too, which easily operates the 1080p display screen.
We receive 4GB RAM, so there will be no problems with the system, and 64GB storage space, which is expandable with a maximum of 256G microSD card.

What is sure is that we will not have to compromise in terms of hardware.

Its scores in the performance-test can be seen on the pictures below.

The results of the Benchmark tests do not reflect the real capabilities of the Apollo X, although these numbers are considered good in the middle class. The real question is how the device performs while it is being used. An acquaintance of mine who uses an iPhone 6s Plus remarked only after a few minutes: ’wow is it this fast?’ Yes, it reacts real fast, system speed is continuous, transitions are lag-free, and it can run games without any issues. I tried F1 2016, Real Racing 3 and Nova 3, and the device did not produce any lags – there are no currently available games, which it could not run enjoyably.

The installed software was a bit disappointing. The phone runs VOS (Vernee OS) which uses Android 6 as substructure. According to the manufacturer, while their system is similar to the base Android appearance-wise, it contains extra functions which they consider essential to enhance user-experience. In practice, we get an unchanged Marshmallow-version. There are no problems with that, but unfortunately, there is nothing unique in this.  Where are the extra features? (It is a mystery). I thought these will be something like the CyanogenMod (now LineageOS). Nevermind, the promised Nougat-update will bring changes.

As the images show, the system is not littered with unnecessary software. Out of the Google-package, we only receive Chrome together with the ancient AOSP-based ones. There is a functioning Play Store, we can get from there what we need.

Camera, Multimedia

On the back of the device, we have a 13 megapixel Sony IMX258 shooter with an aperture of f/2,0 supported by a flash LED (with adequate brightness). On the front, we can find a 5 megapixel Samsung S5K5E5 camera module with an aperture of f/2,2 – suitable for making selfies and conducting video-calls. The camera records video files in 3gp and in maximum Full HD with 30fps the base application. With Open Camera, better qualities can be achieved and in mp4, which is why I used that app.

While making photos, the weather was clear and sunny, so the bright colours are a bit off, but anyways, the photos made during daytime are completely alright, sharpness and details are satisfactory, noise is relatively low, albeit the shutter focuses somewhat slowly.

The usual test pictures were made in automatic settings using the Open Camera app.

Images are shown in full size here

The music player is – how utterly surprising – the usual AOSP-based version, there are no issues with it, but it may be worth to replace this to a more modern version. The phone has an FM-radio too, which can be used if an earphone is plugged in, RDS-info appear and the programmes can be recorded.

The mono speaker located on the bottom of the device produces clear sounds; no complaints can be set against the sound quality, although bass sounds are missing a sin the case of many other phones. The sound quality transferred to headphones is also adequate.

Communication, uptime, conclusion

The Vernee Apollo X can hold a nanoSIM and a microSIM or a microSIM and a microSD. We can use 4G services if the SIM (or SIMs) are in either container with the dual standby feature so we can be connected to two networks at the same time. If we use the one SIM, the other disconnects from its service.

I found the quality of the sound during calls satisfactory and there were no issues with loudness.

Supported frequencies:

– 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
– 3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz
– 4G: FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz

The standard 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi modem is sufficiently connective with both hotspot and Direct functions. We get Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, and a GPS with GLONASS and BeiDou for tracking. The Type-C USB port is OTG capable, external devices can be connected to it with ease. The GPS performances were tested using the usual Sygic GPS Navigation and the location was acquired in moments and the device held the signal stable.

Gyroscope, light, proximity gravity, and hall sensors are given, NFC and Infra are not included.

Under the non-removable back, a 3500 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery provides power. It charged from 20% to 100% in an hour, thanks to the MediaTek Pump Express Plus 3.0 technology. The device operated for for about 36 hours on average, which is pretty good for hardware this strong. During a 2-hour YouTube-spree, the device consumed 18% battery power.

What do we get for our money?

The good:

With a great price-tag and strong hardware, this is a well-constructed device for everyday use, and it is also perfectly suitable for running games on it. It has no problems with the 800MHz LTE networks, its fingerprint scanner operates with high efficiency, quick-charge is functioning well and uptime is superb too.

The bad:

Maybe it would have been better to jump straight to the Android 7.0 Nougat, or to expand the current system with a few useful extras. The capabilities of the camera are average because of the ancient software, but this can be optimized by using other apps. The volume control button, which is a bit loose, also spoils the overall appearance a little.

The phone cost 180 USD (50 000 HUF, 66 000 with additional costs) and it can come in Moonlight Silver and Space Grey colours. The Vernee Apollo X can be purchased from this website.

Szerző: FonTecOne

2017.05.17

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