Good Specs Don't Make Good Phones

While the Umi Touch seems decent on paper, it’s not a budget smartphone I could recommend to anyone over more proven devices in this fiercely competitive market space.

I’ll start with the things I like. The 4,000 mAh battery is huge and delivers great battery life across the board. The fingerprint sensor surprised me at how fast and accurate it was, particularly after a recent software update. I like seeing a 1080p display this price point as well, as companies often opt for cheaper and less processor-intensive 720p displays in entry-level handsets.

The Touch also features a pretty compelling software setup. By default, this device runs stock Android 6.0 with practically no bloatware and no additional features, and this is great to see. But if you want to try out something different, Umi’s Rootjoy application will let you flash other ROMs, including Windows 10 Mobile, without any sort of hassle. This isn’t something you see from the big Android manufacturers, and gives enthusiasts a way to customize their device with ease.

This is where the positives end and the negatives begin. The Umi Touch’s design is pretty uninspiring, and although it does have a metal back and the curved edges to the glass front panel are ergonomic, it lacks precision in its construction. The seams on the back that join metal to plastic are noticeably uneven, and the fingerprint sensor on my review model was slightly askew. These are all quality issues you don’t see from better known OEMs. Plus there’s some serious heft to this handset, at nearly 200 grams.

Both of the Umi Touch’s cameras are terrible. The back camera uses a Sony sensor, but it doesn’t produce quality images in any conditions. There are issues with overexposure, focus speed, camera app preview frame rates, the HDR mode, night time photography, and general color quality. The selfie camera is mediocre and its accompanying front-facing flash is useless.

Performance is another aspect to the Umi Touch that was disappointing. The MediaTek MT6753 looks good on-paper against the Snapdragon 410, but in reality the level of performance I experienced is below what’s acceptable for a sub-$200 device.

To give credit where credit is due, the internal 16 GB of storage is fast, as is the Mali-T720 GPU, but I expect a smoother experience from a modern entry-level smartphone.

Anyone planning to import this device to North America, particularly those who aren’t using AT&T, Bell or Rogers, should be put off by limited support: three LTE bands and two HSPA bands. Alternatively, you might be put off by poor touchscreen sensitivity, which makes typing on the keyboard a complete drag.

At $160, the Umi Touch is a great lesson for consumers: you can’t simply read a spec sheet and expect to receive a decent smartphone. Even though it’s a year old and features 'lesser' hardware, I’d far rather purchase and use a 3rd-generation Moto G for the usability. If Umi had spent more time polishing this handset and harnessing some of the hardware inside, I’m sure it could be a great budget device, but as it stands I’d recommend looking elsewhere or waiting for a significant price cut.

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Pros: Great battery life. Runs stock Android 6.0. Allows installation of other ROMs. Fingerprint sensor is surprisingly effective.

Cons: Terrible cameras. Substandard performance, even for a budget device. Touchscreen has responsiveness issues. Design lacks precision.