Mobility

The Jelly Pro: Hands on with the 'world's smallest' 4G Android smartphone

Tired of having a monster smartphone in your pocket? Traveling internationally and need a cheap device with two SIM slots? The 3.6" Jelly Pro has what you're looking for.

Smartphones keep getting larger—great for those with big hands and roomy pockets, but not so fantastic for those who want an easier-to-carry, less obtrusive, or just plain smaller device. Shanghai-based Unihertz may just have the solution for you in the form of the Jelly Pro.

The Jelly Pro is a tiny—and I mean TINY—Android smartphone. Its screen has a vertical of 2.45 inches, the device itself total 3.6 inches, and it weighs in at just 2.1 ounces.

Like I said—small.

It would be easy to dismiss the Jelly Pro as pure gimmick, but don't sell it short: This Lilliputian phone is perfectly usable, and even quite fun. It's also perfect for those traveling internationally for business because of an uncommon, yet very practical, feature: dual GSM SIM slots.

Not to mention an incredibly low price.

Note: For this review I'm only covering the Jelly Pro. While the standard Jelly model is still available via the project's Kickstarter, Unihertz informed me that it will only be offering the Pro version for sale to the general public.

Jelly Pro: The good

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Image: TechRepublic/Brandon Vigliarolo

I've been using the Jelly Pro for a couple of weeks, and the first thing I noticed is how many heads it turns. Its small size has surprised a number of people, especially when they realize it's an Android phone running Nougat and not a featurephone.

The Jelly Pro's "look at me" factor aside, there are a number of things to like about it.

As I mentioned above, business users will absolutely love two features of the Jelly Pro: Its price and its dual GSM SIM slots. Once it goes on sale to the general public the Jelly Pro will be priced around $110—perfect for a backup device or one you take on business trips.

SEE: The Comprehensive Android Development Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

Those interested in getting the Jelly Pro for a bit cheaper should head over to its Kickstarter. If you back the project as of this article's writing you can get one for $95.

The dual SIM slot is what really makes the Jelly Pro useful for professionals, and it's as easy to use both lines as plugging in the cards. I have T-mobile and FreedomPop SIMs in the Jelly Pro I've been testing, and both receive calls without a problem.

It's also worth noting that using basic apps on the Jelly Pro is as easy as you'd expect on a tiny screen. You're not going to want to scroll through your Instagram feed or get the latest Facebook updates on the Jelly with any regularity, but that's not what it's for: It's a smartphone designed to be unobtrusive and good at doing the basics, and it does that really well.

Call quality is good, the phone doesn't lag or hang that badly, and Google Assistant works great with the Google Now launcher installed.

Jelly Pro: The okay

If basic usability, dual SIM slots, and just being plain neat is the good of the Jelly Pro, then everyday smartphone features we all take for granted are the not-so-good.

Using the Jelly Pro for the past few weeks has made me very aware of how much of a crutch my iPhone has become. When I'm bored I surf Reddit, I scroll through Instagram, or I just plain stare at the screen. Doing that with the Jelly Pro is possible but isn't nearly as practical.

The screen image on Jelly's TFT LCD screen isn't as sharp as a larger, more expensive phone, and that means images don't look as good, lack color depth flagship phone users are used to, and can appear a bit pixelated even when zoomed in for a closer look. Again, it's a great screen for the price you pay, but don't expect to see all the nuances of a heavily filtered Instagram photo.

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A photo taken on an iPhone 7 (left) and the Jelly Pro (right).

Image: TechRepublic/Brandon Vigliarolo

The camera—if that's an important feature for you—may be a bit of a sticking point too. At 8MP (2MP for the front camera) it doesn't take images as great as an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. The photos are still just fine, but they're not going to replace your DSLR anytime soon.

Typing on the Jelly's tiny onscreen keyboard isn't easy, but it's not impossible either. I spent a couple days learning to be incredibly precise and I found it easier to adjust than I thought I would. I did give up on the stock keyboard and installed Google's Gboard though—its swipe typing option made using the Jelly to send texts and emails a breeze.

Jelly Pro: The bad

A smartphone that costs $110 and is only a bit more than 3 inches tall is sure to have some drawbacks, and that's the case with the Jelly Pro.

The most glaring problem is the battery. It's only 950mAh. That's over 1,000mAh smaller than the iPhone 7 battery and less than a third the size of the Samsung Galaxy S8's. The Jelly Pro has been sitting on my desk mostly idle today, and as of 2:30 pm (it came off the charger at 7:30 am) it's at 64%. My iPhone 7, which I've been using regularly is still at 77%.

SEE: 10 tips to improve Android battery life (TechRepublic)

I used the Jelly Pro to record a 2-mile run with MapMyRun several times too, and it drained an average of 10% of the battery—that's a lot, especially considering that the Jelly's Kickstarter page boasts of three days of working time and seven days of standby. I've done my best to turn off unnecessary features in an attempt to improve the life, and I still can't get it to last much more than a full day—and even that's pushing it.

I reached out to Unihertz on the Jelly Pro's battery life, and they said the three days/seven days statistic was just theoretical.

Some apps don't scale properly for the small interface either, leaving some essential UI elements (like login buttons) hidden below the bottom of the screen. That made a few of my regularly used apps useless, though Unihertz did say they would take feedback on specific apps to help fix those issues.

The Jelly Pro also has some heat issues when talking on the phone. In the course of a 20-minute call I noticed that it got really warm. Not painfully so, but definitely noticeable and a bit worrying.

Jelly Pro: In conclusion

I don't want to sound like I'm being too hard on this tiny little device. I've enjoyed using it quite a bit and it definitely fills a role that's sorely lacking in the modern smartphone market.

Having a phone in my pocket that doesn't feel like a burden is refreshing, and I honestly hope that more manufacturers follow suit and start releasing miniature versions of their devices. (I'm looking at you, Apple.)

I can confidently recommend the Jelly Pro for two categories of smartphone users: business travelers who want an inexpensive travel device and those who want to transform their smartphone relationship from constant distraction to utilitarian tool.

Unihertz and the Jelly Pro are definitely worth keeping an eye on, especially future models that may solve some of the problems that came with this new, and largely experimental, device.

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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