Every trade show has a few gems. This year at MWC, one of the most impressive was from Ulefone, with its new T2 Pro smartphone. The device, due to be released in July, was an unexpected delight of the show.

What makes the phone interesting, compared to other devices on the show floor, is the design. Ulefone list it as a 6.7-inch device, with a 2160x1080 (19:9) display, but by using a combination of an edge-to-edge display, a notch for the front facing camera, and a fingerprint sensor under the screen, the device is a similar size to other Pro flagships. Ultimately what we are looking at is the future, moving to near 100% displays on the front facing real estate. We are clearly going above 90% with a device like this.

I'm going to be bold and say this is what almost all smartphone vendors will do, and soon. The notch extends the screen right to the top of the device, and keeps the camera in the same place (unlike the Mi MIX). Having the fingerprint sensor in the display (or the rear) removes almost all the bottom bezel. Until the camera can also be put into the display, this is how phones are going to go. The Ulefone T2 Pro is the second device we now know of with an in-screen fingerprint sensor, alongside a device made by Vivo, and we confirmed that the Synaptics sensor is being used.

The device has a specific 'first', in that it was showcased as the first implementation of MediaTek's P70 processor. Mediatek has only just announced the P60 at Mobile World Congress, so this device is essentially preannouncing the SoC. We were not able to get specific details about it, but expect it to be a 4x4 Arm Cortex A73/A53 implementation, with Mali G72 in some form, perhaps on TSMC's 12FFC process. We are awaiting information from Ulefone. We tried to benchmark it, but the software was very early.

Despite being such a big screen, as someone who uses ~6-inch display devices day to day, it really did not feel that different. The demo units had plastic curved rears, but we were told that the final units will be curved glass. The software on the units was super buggy and barely booted, crashing in chrome, showing just how early in the cycle these devices are. We were told that there will be some software adjustments to take account of the notch, as the OS was clearly just ignoring it at this point. The rounded corners also cause some overlap for the display, which will have to be optimized for.

So despite the device rear being broken (apparently some journalists earlier in the week dropped it on purpose?) the device felt premium. Along with the display, it we were told it will ship with 8 GB of memory, 128 GB storage, and a 5000 mAh battery. This last one I am a bit skeptical of, as the phone was very light - lighter than expected for 5000 mAh. It could be that the demo unit had a smaller battery in, but if that was representative of a final device, then it comes across as a very nice design.

This is the point that I tell you that it might be impossible to get one. Ulefone mainly operates in China as one of the secondary smartphone brands, but we were told that they are branching out to Europe at least, through retailers. We were told that the estimated price for the unit is expected to be $380, though that might be confused with the wholesale price and doesn't include tax. Assuming the P70 is a nice and highly optimized SoC, then the T2 Pro could easily be a really nice smartphone to use. 

We don't give awards at these shows, but this would be something close to an unexpected surprise. I hope that Ulefone can deliver.

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  • Plumplum - Thursday, March 08, 2018 - link

    Ok then you get the code of the soc.
    Will you be able to build a Rom with it? The answer if No!

    There's code for devices that include most of Mediatek's soc here :
    https://github.com/MediatekAndroidDevelopers
    If M.A.D. provide you their sources, it's because OEM provide them sources officielles stock rom. If OEM provide sources, it's because Mediatek give them.

    On this list you have Jiayu S3, based on mt6752, released with Android 4.4, updated to Android 8.1.
    With the same soc, you have for exemple Elephone P7000, released with Android 5.0, get custom 5.1 on which fingerprint scanner doesn't work, nothing more...sources from mt6752 on Jiayu aren't enough to release better Rom on Elephone.
    If Jiayu released, why Elephone doesn't?
    Some of these OEM are simple factories without developpers. They Ask others companies to make Rom. These companies Ask for money to update Rom and keep sources...sometime they even add malwares.
    It's right, it's difficult to find sources for devices that use Mediatek's but they exist for few OEM for devices with nearly all Mediatek's soc
    Reply
  • Violet Giraffe - Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - link

    GPL is a poisonous license that obstructs progress. Luckily, it's not that popular. Reply
  • zodiacfml - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    Zenfone 5 is already shipping. However, I'm not impressed as I still prefer the design in the Mi Mix or Sharp bezelless phone. We're now in 2018 and still no one has the courage to copy the design. I rarely use the phone for calls and the front camera. I hope to see another manufacturer take on the Mi Mix with update hardware Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    If you have any upper or lower bezel, it's insane to have a notch.
    If you don't have any bezel, pop-up or flip cameras are the way to go as they don't ruin the display.

    It's not only that with a notch you lose 1% of the area and maybe 4% for full screen content, but the notch is infuriating, especially in landscape and always a reminder that someone should have done better. On top of that, if you have a notch, the smarter folks won't and you lost. Then there is symmetry, it's better to avoid losing that. And ofc there is a significant part of the world that will call these phones, iPhone closes.

    People need to stop duplicating every moronic thing Apple does, grow a pair and do better.
    These folks have tortured us with home buttons for how many years now? Now they are gonna go with a notch for another 5 years. Been waiting for 0 bezels for 15 years now and they keep trying to not do what they need to do.
    What they are gonna do tomorrow with foldable displays, double the notch?
    Anyone with a notch needs to go find some other job. Competent product design is the rarest thing on plane Earth somehow.
    Reply
  • xenol - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    But you need dat selfie camera. Reply
  • A5 - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    Notches don't bother me. I'm not using the status bar for anything anyway, and losing a handful of pixels on full-screen video isn't a huge deal. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    I don't view the notch as lost space, but rather space gained by moving the status bar to the left & right of the notch. No need for many single-color pixels in the middle. For landscape.. well, you could simply black the "notched area" out and be fine with a classic aspect ratio. Reply
  • serendip - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    Yes! The notch was Apple's compromise so that people wouldn't get nostril cams or, heaven forbid, have to turn the phone upside down. Android has fully virtual buttons so it's not issue to turn the phone around in any orientation. I still think the Mi Mix did it right by using a full screen and having tiny bezels. Reply
  • warrenk81 - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    I'd love to know how it compares to any of the 2017 flagship phones. Like, idk, pixel 2s or iPhones? Reply
  • BedfordTim - Wednesday, March 07, 2018 - link

    Why would they downgrade the final phone to a glass backed one? Given the prototype failure a better plastic would seem more appropriate. Reply

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