The Vernee Apollo is no Oneplus 3T killer, but it can firmly stand on its own as an affordable flagship
We have been hearing about the Vernee Apollo flagship for a long time, maybe a bit too long. The company did takes its sweet time to launch the flagship smartphone, and after months of promotions, the device was officially released in December 2016. The Apollo was an important device, not just for Vernee but also for local Chinese smartphone enthusiasts. The flagship promised stellar build quality and performance but we know, not many promises are kept in this market. Hence, it was important to see, whether a new entrant like Vernee could live up to our expectations.
I have been using the Vernee Apollo for the past couple of weeks and I would like to thank Gearbest for sending in this phone for review. You can currently get the Vernee Apollo as low as $249 from the Gearbest store.
My overall experience using the Apollo so far has been positive. The company did keep most of its promises and you end up with a flagship smartphone that you can proudly flaunt as your daily driver.
Read on to know everything about the phone in this Vernee Apollo Review.
In the box you have the following:
- Vernee Apollo Smartphone with Scratch Guard installed
- A decent VR Headset
- Strap for VR Headset
- SIM Ejector Pin
Like I said above, the Vernee Apollo is extremely well built. I use the OnePlus 3T as my daily driver and I have to say the Apollo matches the OnePlus model in terms of design. The back of the Vernee Apollo is as good as the OnePlus and it looks beautiful. Coming to the front, after like a week of using the phone, I have seen that the scratch guard that comes with the phone isn’t too good. The basic front looks good, but make sure to change the scratch guard with something better. For a phone that’s marketed as a flagship, I would have expected better scratch resistant film up front. However, don’t worry, the screen underneath is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and it is just the scratch guard that’s not up to the mark.
The Vernee Apollo feels good in hand. It may not be as thin or lightweight as some other flagships, but the difference isn’t too noticeable. You have the power and volume keys on the right side. At the bottom, there is a USB Type-C port along with dual speakers. On the left side, there are slots for MicroSD card as well as dual SIM cards. Finally, on top, you have a regular 3.5mm headphone jack.
Coming to the back, you have a slightly protruding camera hump with dual LED dual tone flash on its left. Just below it, you have a round fingerprint sensor that works well. Rest of the back is clean and polished, except for the Vernee logo down below. The gray antenna bands go well with the overall phone’s design language.
The Apollo comes with a 5.5-inch 2K display. Yes, the phone boasts of such high-resolution and joins the elite club of quad HD display flagships. The display on the Vernee Apollo looks pretty decent. The colors come out well and thanks to the super thin side bezels on the display, the overall display experience is good. Personally, I would have liked the display to be a bit warmer so that it’s more pleasant to the eyes.
However, note that the phone comes with onscreen buttons which eat up some space on the screen. Also, the bezels on the top as well as the bottom are a bit large, at least larger than what I would have wanted. I feel the display would have looked even better if the bezels were smaller in these areas.
Vernee is marketing the Apollo’s 2K Display as ideal for VR experience. This is exactly why you get a free VR headset inside the box which is a nice addition. The box is pretty well built for a freebie. The 2K display isn’t the best I have seen for VR but it does provide a decent VR experience. So for someone who wants to watch a few VR videos, the Apollo would be fine.
In the hardware department, the Vernee Apollo won’t disappoint most users. Like I said above, the Helio X25 chipset is a good performer and is more than enough to fulfill all your everyday needs. The UI is stock Android Marshmallow (yes, unfortunately, the phone isn’t on Nougat yet) and the UI is smooth and responsive.
Under the hood, the Vernee Apollo comes with 2.52GHz Helio X25 chip with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. These are pretty decent specs for under $300 smartphone. Now we know Helio X25 is not as good as Snapdragon 820 in terms of GPU performance, but gaming was pretty smooth on the phone.
Vernee Apollo’s fingerprint works well. The phone unlocks in less than a second.
I played a few games on the Apollo, like Asphalt 8 and Subway Surfer. I found no missed frames or hiccups in the gameplay as the Helio X25 chip managed to render the graphics well. So, although on paper, the Snapdragon 821 beats the Apollo by a great margin, in real life, for everyday usage, the deca-core X25 should be enough.
Even browsing on the Apollo was a pleasant experience with no hiccups loading and scrolling through multiple pages.
Vernee Apollo Benchmarks
Antutu Score: 90,053
GFXBench Manhattan Offscreen (ES 3.0 | 1080p): 18 fps
GFXBench T-Rex Offscreen (ES 2.0 | 1080p): 36 fps
Overall, the Vernee Apollo is a great mid-range smartphone. But if I had to point out a drawback of the device, then it would be its camera. Inside, the phone comes with a Sony IMX230 camera sensor with f/2.2 aperture. Now, this is a pretty good setup, capable of churning out good quality pictures. But the quality of images captured doesn’t just depend on the sensor inside, but also on the software optimization from the company. This is where I feel, the Apollo could have done better.
The default camera app takes a few seconds to focus on an object and sometimes it even takes multiple trials for a successful lock. Sometimes, especially indoors, the phone managed to capture grainy images. Given the slow focus speed and the grainy image result, I wasn’t too happy with the camera experience.
However, there’s a trick. If you can resist from focusing on an object, the camera turns out to be quite good. Don’t touch the camera screen when you are trying to lock in on an object. By default, the Apollo’s camera locks in on the object in front of you quickly. If you try to touch the area you want to focus, the camera app tries to focus again, which is where things get slow and grainy. So, I would suggest just Point & Shoot. Just point at the object/scenery you want to capture and shoot it quickly. You should be able to get better images.
As you will see in the samples added in the google drive folder, the Vernee Apollo did manage to capture decent pictures in ample lighting conditions. Don’t expect anything out of the ordinary but the camera is capable of capture average decent shots.
The video quality is also decent, nothing out of the ordinary. As for the front camera, it’s also average. I managed to capture decent selfies with the phone’s front shooter.
I was continuously using the Vernee Apollo on Wi-Fi and I didn’t notice any drop in speed or signal. Pairing to speakers, wearables, and even other phones via Bluetooth was also pretty straight forward. No issues in these two departments. The call quality is decent and you won’t have issues talking on the phone for a while.
The speaker output is pretty good as the sound comes out loud and clear. The headphone output is also decent as you get clear audio through good headphones. I didn’t find any specific issues with GPS as well.
Overall, the standard connectivity features work well.
What you get is a stock UI experience. Almost everything is stock Android interface, so nothing special and nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s good to see that Vernee went with vanilla Android experience as we have seen Chinese manufacturers mess up the interface when they try to add in their features.
What’s disappointing is that the Vernee Apollo comes with Android Marshmallow out of the box. I haven’t heard about the Nougat update for the phone yet (despite Apollo Lite and Thor getting them), but I am hoping that this company flagship gets the Android 7 update soon.
Given that the Helio X25 is an efficient deca-core chipset, you easily get a day with the Vernee Apollo. Now, 3180mAh isn’t exactly big in today’s standard, but it manages to last an entire day with moderate usage. But what’s best about the Vernee Apollo is that the phone charges very quickly.
You keep the phone on charge for half an hour and the charge goes up from 15% to 50%+ in that time. That’s pretty impressive for a budget flagship smartphone. If you manage to charge the Apollo for like 30 minutes, you are set for an additional 4-5 hours of usage.
Vernee is definitely a company that we have to keep an eye on. The new entrant is here to change the way we look at local Chinese smartphones and the Vernee Apollo is just a glimpse of the kind of quality products we can get from them.
That being said, the Vernee Apollo is not without flaws. The display on board needs some tweaks in color temperature for the best result and the camera is decent but often captures grainy images.
What I like about the phone is its stellar built quality and finish, the efficient Helio X25 chipset inside with 4GB RAM, ample 64GB of storage with MicroSD expansion option and finally a fast charge equipped default charger. The Vernee Apollo has all the traits of a flagship smartphone, with its design being the biggest plus point.
Make note that the Vernee Apollo is no OnePlus 3T killer, but it definitely can stand on its own as an affordable flagship.
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