When Unihertz reached out to ask me if I’d like to review the latest Jelly phone, I was somewhat intrigued as to what it might be like to use a phone reminiscent of early devices in the mid to late 2000s.
With its 3-inch display, just half an inch smaller than the original iPhone, the Jelly 2E immediately brought back memories of my days reviewing these phones as flagships.
But time moves on, so can a phone like this really be taken seriously at a time when a lot of us are demanding ever bigger displays to satisfy our media consumption cravings?
Unihertz isn’t selling this to appeal to that market, but rather those who wish phones hadn’t got so big and were kept nice and simple.
I thought hard about the most appropriate way of describing the Jelly 2E, and despite a plethora of words the one I kept coming back to was ‘funky’, because it looks and feels funky – and everyone I showed the phone too agreed with this assessment.
Of course, some mocked the look of the phone as you’d expect (it’s hard not to smile when you first take the phone out of the tiny box), but it certainly caught their interest.
It’s nice to have something else to talk about than just another flat black slab, and there are lots of retro-style features to be found here, looking a lot more like early Android phones, or even feature-phones before that.
Of course, in terms of functionality and performance, the Jelly 2E is significantly more capable than the phones of old.
On the left are two small volume keys, and on the right a power button and a second red button that can be set to do custom things like take photos, or toggle the torch on and off.
Below that on the side is the USB-C port (thankfully no legacy Micro USB here), and at the base a down-facing speaker.
At the top is an Infrared port and 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, a phone this small can still accommodate a headphone socket! Some might think that the excuses for removing the port on bigger phones are, well, just excuses.
Screen size wise, there’s plenty of bezel around the 3-inch screen, but it has a 854 x 480 pixel display that gives a decent pixel density, ensuring everything looks suitably high-definition. The original iPhone made do with 480 x 320 pixels.
The screen is responsive and the on-screen keyboard, which is clearly tiny in portrait mode, still allows for surprisingly accurate text entry once you get used to it (or you can swipe over the letters to form words).
There’s face unlocking as well as a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor for security. The fingerprint sensor isn’t very fast, but once you know to use a firm touch it all works just fine.
You probably wouldn’t expect a tremendous performance from a tiny phone with a single camera on the rear, but the 16-megapixel autofocus sensor actually isn’t terrible.
The biggest issue is seeing the viewfinder clearly, given the small display, and a shutter lag that can be frustrating if you don’t take that into account. The autofocus can also hunt and risk a blurry image, but is remedied by touching on the screen first to lock.
Night time performance is very average, but with the integrated LED flash you can at least use this to get some decent indoor photos of friends and family. It’s probably best to give up on anything more adventurous as there is no special night mode.
That said, you do have a Pro camera mode that lets you manually adjust settings and can fix the auto exposure issues for photos taken in less than optimal conditions.
Video tops out at 1080p 30fps, and besides it occasionally hunting for focus (as you can see on the sample video below) the quality is quite acceptable. The audio was very low, however, and is hopefully fixable in a future software update.
So, the Jelly 2E is not a serious competitor to other phones out there when it comes to photography, but it’s perfectly acceptable for people who may not take photos often but still want something usable on occasion.
The 8-megapixel selfie camera is also acceptable, and more likely will be used for video calls than taking photos for Instagram.
It goes without saying there are no special filters, bokeh effects, or fancy AI-enhanced digital zooms. The phone can zoom up to 4x, but with the obvious decrease in image detail.
Features and Performance
Just as you’re unlikely to buying this phone for an incredible S22 Ultra or iPhone 14 Pro Max camera performance, it’s also a pretty safe bet you aren’t looking at this phone for outstanding performance.
The question is whether the phone is fluid enough to use for normal everyday tasks, and unfortunately it does occasionally lag for no apparent reason.
Perhaps the problem is that despite the smaller screen, the phone is still running normal apps that have the same requirements.
The phone has 4GB of RAM, which is usable but not exceptional, and there’s no virtual memory here. 64GB is the storage limit, but there is a microSD card to further expand this.
Setting up the phone was quite a long process, and installing apps in general can take some time. But, once you’re all done the phone will speed up noticeably.
Benchmarking wise, AnTuTu failed to work at all – insisting it needed to keep installing, and re-installing, the additional files needed to give a score. It’s fair to say the phone wouldn’t be featuring high up the table, and just as fair to say that nobody is playing anything more than simple games on this.
Of course a more powerful SoC would have been welcome, but it really wouldn’t bring many benefits that could be appreciated on a phone like this, so it’s sensible that Unihertz kept it simple – and helped keep the price down.
Connectivity wise, it’s great to see USB-C here, and the phone supports dual-band Wi-Fi too (433Mbps 802.11ac). There’s no 5G support, and 4G seems to only allow one band to be used at a time – meaning the speed gains through multiple carrier aggregation won’t be available here.
With a side-by-side test, with the Jelly 2E and an Oppo Find X5 Pro, both using EE, the Jelly 2E topped out at 30Mbps using one band of 2600MHz 4G, while the Oppo was around 120Mbps and climbing, thanks to LTE Advanced support from the significantly more powerful Qualcomm X65 modem.
But, 30Mbps isn’t slow so – again – let’s maintain perspective here.
Okay, so let’s stop and do the sums quickly. It has a small display, isn’t massively fast, won’t win any speed tests (networking or benchmarking), and it has an average camera.
It doesn’t sound too good if you say it like that, but the Jelly 2E isn’t competing with powerful phones around ten times its price, or even aiming at the same type of customer.
This is a phone for people who don’t want a big phone (and, for all intents and purposes, the new folding phones are not a viable option for a lot of people just yet), but still want or need to access to smartphone apps. Not having a smartphone can be a big disadvantage and hinder your ability to do normal day-to-day tasks.
The fact you can still watch YouTube or Netflix, and take occasional photos, is a bonus on top of what is a good, solid, phone.
In terms of accessibility, you can increase the size of text and icons, although not adjust the overall screen density. If you don’t have perfect vision, you may need glasses or contacts to see everything clearly. That is however just as true for larger displays with small text as is generally the norm these days.
The additional Infrared port is a nice addition to let you us your phone to control TVs and other appliances around the home (or even at your work, hotel etc).
The battery life is great; two or three days between charges, thanks in part to that tiny screen, and for people who want to actually use a smartphone as a, well, phone, the call quality is good too – with support for Voice-over-Wi-Fi included also.
Unihertz created the Jelly phones for a specific market, and I think they’ve got all the basics just right.
The phone comes with Android 12 out of the box and at the time of writing it isn’t clear when Android 13 may roll out, or the frequency of OS updates in general, but this is also something that a lot of buyers aren’t likely to be too worried about.
Right to Repair
One more thing to note is that Unihertz needs plenty of respect for actually allowing repairs to be made by third-parties or even customers themselves, thanks to its official parts site that will sell you key components should you damage your phone, or simply need to change battery a couple of years down the line.
Every phone manufacturer should be doing this to help keep e-waste to a minimum.
Pricing and Availability
- The Jelly 2E is available at a retail price of $169.99, with a further reduction to $159.99 for early sale. It can be purchased direct from the Unihertz website.
- Special offer: $139.99 November 1-7th 2022 via website ‘warm-up’ page
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|Size/Weight||95 x 49.4 x 16.5mm|
|Screen||3.0-inch TFT LCD|
854 x 480 pixels
60Hz refresh rate
|Audio||Mono (down-firing) speaker|
|Chipset||MediaTek MT6761 Quad-Core|
|Storage||64GB + MicroSD memory expansion|
|Camera (front)||8MP Fixed Focus|
|Camera (rear)||Primary: 16MP Autofocus|
Video: 1080P/30 with EIS
|Connectivity||Dual band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)|
4G+ with VoLTE and VoWiFi
|Other||Dual Nano SIM + memory card (hybrid design; 2 SIMs or 1 SIM+microSD)|
Clear plastic protective case in box
Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor