Vernee Apollo has been announced back in beginning of 2016. What followed were a lite version of Apollo, the Vernee Thor and the Vernee Mars. When 2017 arrived it was time for Vernee to introduce their long awaited flagship. The Apollo is equipped with a Helio X25 processor, a 2K resolution display, 4/64GB memory and a 21 megapixel camera. Vernee is famous for high-quality smartphones focussing on standard functions without many gadgets. We have tested whether the manufacturer’s success continues, or not, and are now presenting the results in the following review.
Design and build quality
Vernee Apollo measures 152mm in length, 75.5mm in width and 9.7mm in thickness. Its conical shape makes the smartphone a little thicker in the middle but still lies comfortably in your hand. With a weight of 185g it is not the lightest 5.5-inch phone, however, not disturbingly heavy. Bezels are kept small (3mm) and Vernee ranks among the compact 5.5-inch mobiles. Depending on the size of your hand, one-handed usage is possible. Vernee Apollo consists almost entirely of aluminium, except for its front side. The full metal casing is divided by antenna stripes on the top and bottom side which you will not notice. Power button and volume control are also made of metal, are located on the right outer side and firmly fitted in the casing. Further, they possess a perfect pressure point.
Instead of the typical Android sensor buttons, Vernee has on-screen buttons. This has the big disadvantage that the lower display is mainly occupied with buttons. A clear advantage of it, on the other hand, is that you can adjust each button in the options menu. A notification LED flashes in pleasant brightness and in blue colour on the top left, above the display. The camera protrudes from the rear casing by one millimeter. Next to it is a dual-tone LED flash and the fingerprint sensor which performs quite well in practise. Vernee Apollo can be activated from standby mode within one second after placing your finger on the sensor. The accuracy is at 7 out of 10 tries.
The dual-SIM mobile can house one micro SIM and a nano SIM at the same time. They can be inserted via two separate SIM card slots. As an alternative to a nano SIM, it is also possible to expand the storage with a micro-SD by 128GB. The 3,180mAh battery cannot be removed. Apollo also features an up-to-date USB type-C port on the bottom side. In total, Vernee Apllo has a great build quality. We also like the metal design very much. The small manufacturer Vernee is a real competition for Xiaomi or LeEco. This new phone turned out beautifully with pleasant size and with a high quality.
The IPS display of Vernee Apollo has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels and thus it has an enormous pixel density 534 pixels per inch. The 2K display is a marketing strategy which usually is used by market frontrunners such as Samsung. A small smartphone producer like Vernee gains no real profit from it. It is only an advantage to those wanting to enter virtual reality with extremely high resolution panels. For regular users there is no noticeable difference to a conventional full-HD display. Moreover, the high resolution has rather negative effects with Apollo’s battery life and performance (see further down).
Single pixels are non-existent. Outdoor readability is great, even in bright sunlight and viewing angles are very stable which is typical for an IPS display. Contrasts are sufficiently high and colour representation in standard setting is very accurate. In the options menu the display can be adjusted to personal preferences via the Mediatek app ‘Miravision’. The automated brightness regulation performed flawlessly during our test period. Vernee Apollo can be set to high and low shining. The device houses a 5-point touchscreen which functions as fast as precise. No lags or inaccuracies during input appeared. It is protected from scratches with tempered Dragontrail glass. The lack of 2.5D glass did not deteriorate haptics. A plastic strip provides perfect transition from display to metal frame.
Performance and operating system
Currently, the phone runs with an Android 6 system, however, an Android 7 update has been announced. Vernee has already implemented the promise in Vernee Mars. Apollo’s Android 6 system is almost not modified and fans of Stock/Vanilla Android will soon feel home. It does not even feature the standard Google brigade (Gmail, Youtube,…). Therefore, you have the opportunity to completely adjust the system via Google Playstore. Crucial bugs or errors could not be found during our 10-day testing period. Updates are installed automatically. Our system version was ‘Apollo_20161223’ and we updated it on Christmas. While we were testing the phone, the operating system performed fast and without any breakdowns.
Vernee Apollo intends to be a high-powered machine, in practice, however, it is underpowered for a 2K display. The Helio X25 processor is a higher clocked X20. The ten cores are divided into four ARM A53 cores each with 1.4GHz, four cores with 2GHz and two A72 cores with respectively 2.5GHz performance at maximum. The processor is further supported by a Mali-T880 GPU and as much as 4GB RAM. The phone also houses 64GB storage which is common for a high-performance smartphone and well thought out. RAM pace is quite good with 6GB/s. Yet it does not reach other manufacturers flagships. Internal reading/writing pace (174/137MB/s) is sufficiently fast.
Unfortunately, the GPU is too weak to play demanding 3D games fluently on the 2K display. Games like Asphalt 8, NOVA 3 or Modern Combat 5, even in low settings, do not work really well. System performance, in contrast, is absolutely on flagship level. Heat management is also alright. After 30 minutes of gaming, the phone heats up to approximately 38°C on the hottest spot. It is noticeable but not disturbing. Benchmark results are consistently good. Those looking for pure performance are way better off in the price range of Xiaomi Mi5 or LeEco Le Max 2 (Snapdragon 820). But Apollo can be used right after unpacking and does not have to undergo complex flashing.
Vernee Apollo is equipped with a 21 megapixel main camera with an aperture of f/2.2. The built-in Sony IMX230 sensor is turning 2 in April, however, is the best performing camera so far in Vernee phones. Good lighting conditions lead to beautiful, detail-rich pictures. As soon as the light becomes weaker, images start to get blurry really quick. Picture quality can be compared to Le Max 2, however, does not even come close to Xiaomi Mi5. Video records are supported by an electronic picture stabiliser which reduces shaking considerably. The maximum performance for videos is 4K with 27FPS. Image quality is convincing, except for artefact development slightly tarnishes the good impression. The autofocus takes some time occasionally as does white balance. Triggering time is almost not noticeable.
Vernee states the front camera to be at 8 megapixels and an aperture at f/2.4. This statement contradicts the pictures we took. Selfies are often blurry and not sharp, even with good lighting conditions.
Connectivity and communication
Vernee Apollo supports the following 2G, 3G and 4G (LTE) frequencies:
2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz
4G: FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz
When it comes to reception, Apollo is on average. Calling quality is convincing as both parties can be understood clearly. The loudspeaker produces a weak echo and background noise is easily transmitted.
A dual-band Wi-Fi module (2.4 + 5GHz) provides a fast and far-reaching Wi-Fi signal. One thing which is absolutely not up-to-date of Apollo is the ancient Bluetooth 4.0 protocol. Nevertheless, the reception was alright, even though the mobile did not connect to the car automatically; I manually had to connect it each time I went in the car. Internal loudspeaker over-operates from medium volume, has no real depth and simply does not convince us. For ringtones and notification it is enough, for listening to music, however, it has not enough power. Even the position of the loudspeaker on the phone is not chosen wisely – when playing games you constantly cover it with your hands. When connecting headphones to the port, the music quality is better.
Apart from the three standard sensors (acceleration, brightness and proximity), the smartphone also houses a gyroscope and a compass sensor. The gyroscope makes it possible to use VR glasses. Here the great 2K display is also a major advantage. The compass sensor is an ideal support for the navigation system and Vernee demonstrates high-class performance with GPS reception. Location is determined with an accuracy of four to five meters. On my test track from Wuerzburg to Heidelberg (150km), all announcements came at the right time and there were no discrepancies. Pedestrian navigation was also working with top quality.
Vernee Apollo features a 3,180mAh battery which we can verify. It is charged via Mediatek Pump-Express quick charge from 20% to 80% within one hour – fully charged after more or less one and a half hours. During charging, the phone gets noticeably warm, but not too hot. One hour of full HD YouTube streaming via Wi-Fi uses 17% battery life. Please note that Vernee has to optimise percentages as the time from 100% to 50% takes longer than the time from 50% to 0%. In PCMark battery bench the phone reached 5.5 hours with medium display brightness. Further, the mobile reached three hours of DOT (time with display turned on) almost every day, although it had to be charged occasionally at 8 p.m. already. This probably results from the high resolution 2K display. In comparison, Xiaomi Mi5 reaches double the amount (12 hours) in the PCMark battery test. Extensive users should buy another phone or have to deal with occasional charging during the day. All average users will make it through the day with Vernee Apollo.