VERNEE APOLLO LITE - MY FINAL REVIEW|
A few months ago, I purchased a Vernee Apollo lite from TOMTOP - a seller I
do not recommend at all (read about why here). I purchased the Apollo Lite
as a gift for a friend, but it took so long to come (despite paying for
fast shipping), that I had to end up keeping it for myself. I have used
the handset myself for a few months in the UK on the O2 network and this
is my final thoughts on the Vernee Apollo Lite.
DISPLAY - 6/10 The FHD (1920x1080p) IGZO panel looks nice enough, and
gets fairly bright, until you put it next to any recent
iPhone (from the iPhone 5 onwards) or any recent Samsung Galaxy, where the Apollo lite
seems relatively dim. Blacks are ok but could be a lot blacker. You can clearly see the outline of
a dark gray display when the phone is powered off. Whites are average, with a slightly warm cream tint,
compared to the iPhone 6S.
I think most consumers would have paid a little more for a
more exciting screen topology, such as OLED or Super AMOLED (with an sRGB mode in
the settings menu of course for those who prefer to mimick the less oversaturated look
of a more common IPS LCD panel. On a positive note, I applaud Vernee for sticking to 1920x1080p resolution.
Anything above this is overkill, and significantly reduces battery life as well as
smoothness/performance. The only real advantage of a 4K panel would be for VR, and
that it something that is unlikely to appeal to the mass market as a significant KSP
for 5 to 10 years yet. So well done for sticking to FHD.
BUILD QUALITY - 2/10 Well... erm... all I can say on this is; either I recieved a
defective model, or quite simply the build quality of the Apollo Lite is bad... and I mean REALLY
terrible. OK, Yes, there is ONE good aspect to the build quality in the fact that
its design incorporates a metal unibody. However I found even this developed significant discolouration marks, which are very ugly (see attached photos).
I can only think these have been caused by sunlight. The metal itself is warm to the touch
and quite slippery, and a more aluminium-like shade of gray would have been nicer in my opinion.
On my Apollo lite the bottom half of the volume rocker has also been defective (jammed) ever since the phone arrived. Also, despite
having a tempered glass screen protector fitted, when I accidently dropped the handset from waist height
onto a tiled floor just weeks after buying the phone, the Apollo Lite Screen cracked all over
despite having Corning Gorilla Glass, and the rear camera lens also came out in one big piece
from the same drop! (making the camera pretty much unusable)
WIRELESS & CONNECTIVITY - 2/10
Again, wireless and connectivity has been a disappointment. The 4G worked initially until the first OTA update,
I have had no LTE connectivity since installing the OTA updates, despite the same sim cards providing
excellent coverage in all my other phones. I have tested EVERY possible network preference mode
(GSM, WCDMA, GSM (PRL), CDMA (PRL), EvDo, LTE, Unknown etc...) with both the Automatic and EURO radio bands,
making sure all bands are enabled each time in engineering mode. Yet 4G still does not connect.
WiFi is also terrible. I have to put the phone into Airplane mode every 20 minutes or so in order to reconnect
to WiFi, despite it showing a full strength connection at all times when connected. This is a particularly
bad issue when streaming HD videos. Bluetooth works OK, but there is no NFC so forget Android Pay. This seems a p
particular shame since there is a fingerprint reader, however that too is not the most accurate, only working
3 or 4 times out of 5 for me.
CAMERA - 3.5/10
You can get a decent enough shot in sunlight with a steady hand, where the autofocus works OK, but not the fastest.
However in low light, the camera becomes almost unusable. There is no EIS or OIS, and dynamic range
and video recording are not great. Vernee removed 4K video recording
mode with an OTA update, and they also lied about the aperture of the rear camera in their marketing,
claiming it to have an f stop of 2.0, when it is really aparantly 2.2 - a much more significant difference
than it might sound on paper in my opinion.
SOUND - 4/10
Again, disappointing. The model has average loudness for both speakers and earphones, with a single
tinny speaker at the bottom right. I found the speaker is easily covered or obscured by the hand during use
and disappointingly has no bass or subbass response at all.
BATTERY LIFE - 7/10
Easily the best aspect of the phone, getting through a full day with approx 25% to spare under medium to heavy use.
However the metal back of the phone gets VERY hot during charging with the fast charger, and on that not it doesn't ship with regional power adapters, so I guess a lot of us are using US travel adapters? I have also already noticed significant degredation of battery life (by about 20 minutes).
CONCLUSION & OVERALL SCORE = 4.5/10
It seems a real shame, because the Vernee models showed so much promise,
but they just cut too many corners, especially on the software side. Ultimately I was left with the choice of either buying another
Apollo lite, (for ￡175 upfront + ￡14 p/m for 24 months = ￡511 over 2 years) or getting a Google Pixel contract
(￡125 Upfront + ￡24 per month = ￡701 over 2 years). With regret, it was a no brainer for me and I've ordered
the Pixel. I truly hope in 2 years time when my 24 month Pixel contract expires, Vernee will have made great strides and are able to offer
an amazing sub $350 phone which truly rivals the best smartphones on the market, rather than trying to build a $229 flagship killer.
It's just not possible at that price point.
Lastly, Just in case the R&D guys at Vernee are reading this (and just for a bit of fun), my ultimate Vernee Phone
in November 2018 would have the following (and I think I speak for the majority of consumers):
1) A Vernee Mars Style Design (the Apollo Lite Design should be ditched, as the Mars is much nicer looking)
2) Keep the Metal Unibody, but improve its composition and treatments, for better grip and a more premium feel
3) Dual front facing Stereo Speakers with a flatter frequency response, including a bass and subbass response, like current iPhones
4) A 1920×1080p (FHD) Super AMOLED Bezel-less Edge to Edge Display with a natural sRGB mode
5) A processor built on Samsung's 10nm FinFET manufacturing process (e.g. Snapdragon 835)
6) A leading 2017/18 camera module with a large pixel size (above 1.5μm), built in camera Gyroscope/OIS, improved PDAF and/or a hybrid system
using PDAF with Laser Autofocus, and other major software improvements such as predictive motion tracking and multi-axis EIS (like the current Sony Xperia XZ).
7) A dedicated Camera Button with "half-press focussing" that also functions as a silent/vibrate mode toggle when the camera app is not open.
8) Seperated up and down Volume buttons, with a textured power button (of benefit in the dark)
9) 120fps Slow Motion Video recording at 1080p
10) 4K Video Recording
11) Good Low Light Photography and Videography (as good as the current iPhone 7)
12) NFC Chip for Android Pay
13) Wireless Charging Support, and Fast Charging, without overheating
14) An accurate, fast, side mounted thumbprint reader (like the current Vernee Mars)
15) A stronger WiFi Antenna
16) Support for more TDD and FDD LTE Bands, for improved 3G and 4G Signal reception
17) IP certified dust and water resistances
18) Oleophobic and hydrophobic coated Gorilla Glass 5
19) Unaltered, Stock Android (Android 8?)
20) A premium Metal and Glass construction (100% Plastic-free)
21) Remove the "Model:" from the back of the Smartphone so it just says Vernee Mars, not Vernee Model: Mars
22) 6GB LPDDR4 RAM
23) A high quality DAC for High Resolution Music Playback (e.g. from Wolfson, Burr Brown, Asahi Kasei, or ESS)
I would hapilly pay $350 for a smartphone with these features. Perhaps the 'Vernee Mars Pro 2? when my Google Pixel Contract Expires in November 2018.
An awesome idea would be to base the Vernee Smartphone line on the Solar System, releasing
a new 'Planet' each year. Heck, you could even have a metal, glass or translucent enamel planet on the back of each model, in a similar way to Apple
have a metal Apple on the back of their phones. This idea could actually be implemented quite beatifully with careful thought over the use of light, colour,
and premium quality materials.
So I guess I look forward to buying my awesome Vernee Mars Pro 2, or Vernee Jupiter for $350 in November 2018, but for now I am afraid it's goodbye.