Jump to Review Section
2. Unboxing and Design
3. Display Review
4. Operating System and User Interface
5. Hardware Performance and Antutu tests
7. Telephony and Apps
8. Security and Accessibility
9. Camera Overview
10. Battery, Network and Connectivity
Going beyond the specifications we saw during the unboxing of the Gretel A9 phone, we were able to dedicate some amount of time to have a hands-on experience of the device. The performance of a phone doesn’t always depend on the specifications listed on the box, it’s more often about the user’s first experience and impression with the device. In that case, it is safe to say that the new A9 device was impressive beyond what its spec-sheet listed.
A well customized user interface based on Android 6.0 (Nougat update coming on April) plus the new front-mounted fingerprint sensor, which is now part of the multi-functional Home key, add that to the new design and the variety of paint jobs and finishes, and you get a device that is surely worth checking out.
With all the great features, the Gretel A9 still has some short coming in few aspect (as always with every device out there). At the course of this review, we will point out the low and high sides of this device, before we go into that in details, let’s glance through is its specifications.
Gretel A9 specs Highlight:
- Body: Metal unibody, 2.5D curved screen
- Screen: 5.0″ IPS LCD with 1,280 x 720 px resolution (320ppi)
- Camera: 8Mp (13MP interpolated) Autofocus back camera with flash
- Selfie cam: 2MP (5MP interpolated) front camera with flash
- OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
- Chipset: MediaTek MT6737; 1.3 Ghz Quad-Core processor
- Memory: 2GB of RAM; 16GB storage with microSD slot
- Battery: 2,300mAh Li-Po (sealed)
- Connectivity: Dual-SIM; LTE-A (Cat. 12 600/150Mbps); USB 2.0; Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; GPS/GLONASS/Beidou/Galileo; Bluetooth 4.0
- Misc: Fingerprint reader
Unboxing and Design
Box and Components:
Gretel A9 comes in a compact paper retail box with no wrap and no seal. Our dazzling new Matte-Black Gretel A9 awaits inside, but there is more.
The retail box contains a charger plug and a proprietary USB 2.0 cable. This cable is compatible with regular USB 2.0 ports, so it’s not exclusive to the A9 only, There is a spare screen guide and a transparent case. The case is made of rubber, and it snaps fitted onto the A9 device. You will also find an ejector pin and the user guide in the box but sadly, no earphones.
Body and design:
The Gretel A9 is encased in a metal body with perfect curved angles to improve your handling of the device, Gretel offers the A9 in Matte-Black and Pink colors. The device weighs approximately 164 grams.
With a body dimension of 146.6 * 72.8 * 7 mm, the borders are slimmed down but still has enough room for the volume adjustment buttons that can be found on the left side border and the power button which is placed on the right side, just below the SIM/Memory card slot.
The top border is dominated by the USB port and audio jack while the bottom border is left with only the primary microphone hole.
The A9’s front is entirely covered by a fancy 2.5D shaped glass, making it look gorgeous and more premium, the top bezel of the screen is occupied by the 2MP (5MP interpolated) camera, soft flash, call speaker and the proximity sensor. The lower bezel of the screen makes room for the navigation keys, the home button is embedded with a fingerprint scanner that can be used for advanced security purposes.
With a screen size of 5.0 inches and a resolution of 720 pixels by 1280 pixels, viewing angles will always tend to produce crisp displays for the enjoyment of the user. Video playback on the device was exceptionally OK, colors came out bold, though some of the colors (white especially) are a bit warmer (yellowish) than they should be.
The Gretel A9’s screen has a pixel per density of 320 and supports multi-touch of up to 5 fingers at the same time, the display is so effective that even when placed in landscape mode, images and video do not get distorted in any way. The display sports a 2.5D curved glass, there is a pre-applied screen protector on the device to protect the screen from scratches.
Operating System and User Interface
The Gretel A9 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. There’s a healthy dose of Gretel customization behind the User Interface, firstly, the traditional app drawer in most Android phones has been eluded here making navigation bit more blissful. The company is scheduling a 7.0 Nougat update for the A9 in April or later.
There’s a theme change option where you can download different themes to use in your device instead of the default theme it came with, the ThemeClub app has a wide range of themes you can choose from. You can also add widgets to the home screens by swiping up while in home screen.
No changes were made in the notification drawer except for the absence of owner icon that we normally see in the top right corner of the notification toggle. You can pull down notifications by swiping down from anywhere in the home screen, this happens to a be feature I enjoyed during the review period.
To display opened apps, you press and hold the home button, the navigation keys responded fast enough. You can swipe opened apps to the left or right to close, no option to close all opened apps at once. Holding down the power button for about 2 seconds will pop up the power options to either Shut down the device, Restart or activate Airplane Mode, holding it down for up to 10 seconds will automatically restart the device.
Hardware, Performance and Antutu tests
The Gretel A9 is powered by a MediaTek MT6737 chipset with quad- core 64-bit processor, it clocks at 1.3GHz which promises improved performance. Multitasking on the device was a bliss, thanks to the on-board 2GB RAM, there were no lags experienced. The inbuilt memory of the device is 16GB which is practically expandable to about 64GB. Though the inbuilt storage is a bit small for gamers and heavy data users, the expand-ability option will be very handy in terms of storage. One major setback here is that the A9 uses SIM one slot for SD card, if you decide to use an SD card on the device, you will be left with only one slot for your SIM card.
Performance and Antutu Scores:
We noticed that the A9 gradually gets warm under maximum load but that didn’t affect its performance. While some top-end flagship devices like the OnePlus 3T came out on top with the score of 162,297 in Benchmark tests, the A9 scored a total of 29,361. Its CPU and graphics skills are equally good, scoring moderate marks across the benchmark.
The scores are generally not close to best but it is definitely great for a mid-range device with approachable price tag, overall performance from the device is impressive, you’ll probably never spot any lags under normal circumstances.
First section in the gallery defaults to a timeline, which sorts your images by the date you’ve captured them with the phone’s camera. The second section is Stories, here you can create beautiful slider of your favorite pictures easily. You can opt for the standard Album view, this last section has all of your images sorted in different albums, and you can also have hidden albums, though that’s more of an organizational tool than a privacy one – they are there when you hit hidden albums.
We observed a strange feature in the gallery options- Jigsaw. This is an option to photogrid 2 or more (maximum of 6) pictures into one picture with a custom background of your choice.
The A9’s video player is quite unique with some features like; swiping up and down on the left side during video playback increases and reduces brightness respectively, doing the same on the right side of the screen during a video playback will increase and reduce volume respectively, you can fast-forward and rewind videos by swiping from right to left and left to right respectively. The video player has a floating window video playback option which is also not seen in all devices.
Gretel A9 has quite stylish Music app pre-installed. It offers five default playlists – songs, artists, albums, genre and recently played. You can create your playlists too. The Now Playing screen is pretty standard and well organised, it offers album art and track list.
Track selection interface has an option to quickly select only the songs you want to play at that moment, I find this very innovative, this feature will serve well for people with enormous songs on their playlist. You just have to click on the dot by the right side of each tracks to select them and click the play icon when you’re done.
Audio output is decently clear, output loudness during video playback was commendable. Tracks will sound the way they were meant to, the volume was a bit louder than most Android phones we tested it with.
Telephony and Apps
The A9’s dialer shares a common interface with the contacts app. There are no groundbreaking features here, only a good looking interface and nothing missing. The dual-SIM settings menu lets you rename cards, disable them from software and select which one does calls or data by default.
Call speaker in the A9 sounded very clear and distortion free, even at maximum volume.
The message interface is nothing short of clean and organized, you can aswell change the default messaging theme to any style of your choice.
You have a ton of basic tools app preloaded, including a proper file manager, calendar app, Calculator, Note, weather, sound recorder, FM radio, ThemeClub, e-mail, Home screen setting app and more.
Security and Accessibility
In addition to the basic security options available in Android phones, Gretel A9 comes with a fingerprint reader that is embedded in the multi-functional home button. As always, to activate this feature, you’ll need to setup password or pin for the device before adding your fingerprint, you can add as many as 10 fingers to the device. Unlocking the device with fingerprint was alternatively easier and faster.
Under the accessibility setting, you’ll find; Smart Enable, which when activated will enable “Smart Light” and “Gesture Operations”. Smart Light is a feature to wake screen by double tapping, while the Gesture Operations is simply Smart Wake, here you can choose to unlock to any app by drawing a certain pattern on the screen when in sleep mode.
Still under the Accessibility Setting is the ‘Three pointer take screen shot’ which allows you to take screenshot by simply sliding three fingers down on the screen, The ‘Non-touch operation’ option lets you do things like; wave palm across the top of the phone to switch pages.
Gretel A9 is equipped with 8MP (13MP interpolated) camera on the rear with an efficient single LED flash to boost image quality in low light conditions. The camera has some good features as you can see in the screenshots below:
Image capturing with the back camera wasn’t in the best quality, it is just good enough, getting the camera to focus was a little difficult but at the end, the image came out in good and accurate colors, see sample below (click on the image to view full size):
The front panel host a 2MP (5MP interpolated) camera and a LED flash light, it comes with features like face beautifier and more…
The front camera color samples are not that great – there is noise, little detail, inaccurate colors. All the same with the Beauty feature and LED flash in the 80 degrees dynamic range front camera, you can capture good selfies. See front camera sample below (click on the image to view full size):
Battery, Network and Connectivity
The Gretel A9 is powered by a 2,300 mAh battery, non-removable. The phone ships with a charger capable of outputting 5V/1A, with the maximum power of 240V.
Getting the battery of the phone to get used up wasn’t really a hard task, making use of the device for barely over 24 hours (including standby time and heavy usage time) before the phone became completely depleted, thanks to the Standby intelligent power saving mode built into the device.
If you use the charger supplied in the A9’s box, you get from 0% to 55% in just 40 minutes which is quite impressive given the absence of fast charge tech. The phone also gets a little warm during charge but this is the same with virtually all phones so no cause for alarm.
Network and Connectivity:
The Gretel A9 supports LTE (4G) network connectivity with FDD(B1/3/7/8/20): 2100/1800/2600/900/800,
TDD(B40): TDD 2300, five 3G bands and the usual quad-band 2G.
There’s full-fledged Wi-Fi support – a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, with Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot support. You also get Bluetooth v4.0 for peripherals, A-GPS, GLONASS.
There’s a 2.0 USB port which supports OTG (On The Go) connectivity, this feature allows you to couple the A9 with peripheral devices such as; flash drive, a wireless mouse, a wireless keyboard, game controller or camera controller. No configuration is required, just connect it to your phone with a USB OTG cable. There’s also an analog 3.5mm headphone jack too and FM radio support.
Gretel A9 is a thoughtfully designed smartphone with low budget buyers in mind, though having shortcoming in few areas, it is one of the worthiest sequels we’ve seen lately. One of the most notable issues we found with the A9 is low front camera performance, don’t expect to make the perfect selfies with the device.
Nonetheless, the A9 is a wonderful device that is not way short of standard with is body design and build, and it’s also in connection with the new trends. Above all, the device is affordable at a price range of ₦31,000 to ₦35,000 (80 USD). The device has been launched and available for purchase from various retail stores.