Jelly 2 Review: The Best Small Phone Got Better – But Who’s It For?

Published on June 18, 2020
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The future of WiFi is here. Do you ever find yourself saying, “Man I love everything my Android phone does “but I’d just wish it could be more of a choking hazard”? Well, have I got a phone for you. (upbeat music) This is the Unihertz Jelly 2. And if it looks familiar, well, thanks for your a long-time subscription. This is the sequel to Unihertz’ first gelatinous effort which I covered back in 2017. I went back and re-watched that one to get some context for this review and you’ll be happy to know one thing hasn’t changed. As with most novel Android phones, I expected the Jelly 2 to be, well, bad. For the most part, it’s really not. To begin with the kind of cheap build of the first generation model has given way to a much nicer looking blend of Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and a glossy polycarbonate on the back. Normally, I’m not a fan of shiny phones but I don’t know, maybe it’s just the fact that there’s so much less area on this phone that makes it work. It certainly helps reinforce the jellybean-like aesthetic that gives the phone its name. Also on the back is the most obvious upgrade from the original Jelly. There’s a capacitive fingerprint sensor. It’s not one of the best I’ve used, you really have to nail the positioning of fingertip on pad but still, it’s better to have it than not. Back around front, the display’s been upgraded to a full three inches from the last generation’s 2 1/2, and the new phone doubles the resolution as well. I wish the corners were curved to better blend it into the phone’s design but it’s a nice enough display and it gets just bright enough to remain readable even in the sun-bleached days of summer where maybe the phone makes the most sense. Below the screen is a trio of capacitive keys for going home going back and switching apps, but if you don’t like that, you can indeed enable gesture navigation instead because yes, the Jelly 2 runs Android 10. And I got to say it runs it pretty well even though the processor in here isn’t the newest. It’s a Helio P60 first introduced about two years ago. But Unihertz backed it up with six gigs of RAM and 128 gigs of storage, so not only could I download my old standby and the huge World of Warships Blitz without a problem, I could actually play it, too. Absurd? Yes. But enjoyable? Also yes. By the way this is pre-release software. Unihertz told me it plans on issuing regular security updates and even an Android 11 upgrade. I certainly hope it’s able to stick to that but many small manufacturers make the same pledge only to let it fall by the wayside, so caveat emptor. Not to belabor the point but for everyday use, almost everything is pretty speedy on the Jelly 2’s out-of-box launcher. For a short time I replaced it with Nova Launcher just to get a cleaner look but it actually slowed the phone down quite a bit so I reverted. It’s close enough to stock Android anyway with the notable exception of a menu setting to control this red key here on the side. I got to say I’m a sucker for variable function physical buttons. This one can be programmed to open literally any app on the phone. I settled on the one that I find most useful most often: Google Assistant. Remind me to find a barber who’s actually open. – [Assistant] Okay, find a barber who’s actually open. – You can actually do a lot more with it. You can assign different functions to a short-press, a long-press, or a double-click. I prefer to press and hold for the flashlight and double-click to record a voice memo. Yes, just like the button on those 15-year-old Nokia’s I just covered on “When Phones Were Fun.” My only complaint is that the size and texture of this key is identical to the power standby button right next to it so you can’t feel out a difference without looking and that means you record a lot of accidental voice memos before you train yourself to remember which is which. I tested the Jelly 2 here in Brooklyn over the course of three days on T-Mobile and Verizon. During a half-hour test call over LTE, my caller had no complaints but he did mention that he could clearly hear people near me as well, so background noise rejection doesn’t seem to be the best. I enjoyed the sound quality on my end until I turned on the speakerphone. It gets plenty loud but it’s also really teeny. Fortunately, Bluetooth works well for voice calls and for music streaming. And there’s also a headphone jack alongside the IR port up top, both rarer and rarer these days. And folks, even the battery was surprisingly respectable. Part of it is because you just don’t wanna use this phone as often or as long as you do your larger ones, but the other part is that Unihertz managed to squeeze a 2000-milliamp-hour battery in here, double the size of the original Jelly. I know that’s a lot of pros loaded onto the front half of this video. So if you’re wondering where all the cons are at, well stay tuned after this quick word from today’s sponsor. Right now staying connected is more important than ever, which means WiFi dead zones are more frustrating than ever. Well that’s a problem my sponsor eero is here to solve. eero blankets your whole home in fast, reliable WiFi. Get a single eero device for a small apartment or a bundle to cover a larger home. The setup takes just 10 minutes. And adding coverage, well, that’s as easy as plugging in another module. Even if your home is a weird split-level Escher painting like mine, eero’s TrueMesh technology will keep you connected. So you get a strong signal everywhere from the attic closet to the basement bathroom. Plus, you can help protect your family with enhanced parental controls and keep your devices secure from online threats like malware and phishing attacks with eero Secure. And my favorite part: enhanced privacy and safety controls that only give connected devices the permissions they need. After all who wants their personal data hijacked by a smart light bulb? Give your connected home the heart it deserves with eero. Hit the link in the description and save 20% on the smartest WiFi around. All right, well first, you knew the cameras weren’t gonna be any good so hopefully you didn’t have your fingers crossed. Colors are washed out, highlights are overblown, and video maxes out at Full HD. I’m glad the cameras are here for moments of necessity or the occasional video call but when you’re being outclassed by the Galaxy Z Flip and even the Motorola RAZR, yeah, your camera’s just not very good. Second, while the processor is fast enough, it’s associated modem is on the slow side. Side by side with a Galaxy Note10+ and the same cell site, the Samsung got 21 down and nine up, while the Jelly 2 chugged along at about six and six, so a significant speed bump. Third, one of the nicest things about the first-generation Jelly was that for some people it could have been an impulse buy at 80 bucks. Well, Jelly 2 will start at an early bird price of 129 when it goes live on Kickstarter in early July. Now it is a much better phone than that first one and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than the most notable competition from Palm, but well, on to my fourth, and final con to consider. Folks, using a phone this small is inherently uncomfortable. Even when you max out the keyboard to full height, typing is an exercise in frustration. Text is so small that reading it while walking is difficult. It’s not even comfortable to talk on for that long. So while I really admire the Jelly 2 as a technical achievement, I struggle to envision the kind of person who should buy it. The typical customer for a minimalist phone doesn’t really need or want all the features of Android 10. Those people are better served repurposing an old phone, or buying a dumb phone, or even getting a standalone smartwatch. And if what you want is a fully featured phone but one you don’t need to worry about breaking or losing, well, there are cheaper options out there like Moto’s G7. Not as flashy but also not as frustrating. I don’t know, maybe it’s my own failure of imagination, maybe there’s a whole subclass of people out there who’ve been waiting for a tiny Android that doesn’t skimp on features. If that’s you, well, leave a comment below letting me know what you’re gonna use it for. And for your convenience, there is a link in the description if you do wanna buy it. This review was made possible by a Jelly 2 sample device provided by Gadget Labs, a pre-production sample running pre-release software. But Mr. Mobile works for you, not the manufacturers. No compensation was provided for this coverage and neither manufacturer nor retailer was given copy approval rights or a preview of this video before release. Please subscribe if that’s the kind of video you’d like to see more of on YouTube. Until next time, thanks for watching. Stay safe at home for now if you can, but in spirit as always, stay mobile my friends.
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