Apple was, and in some form still is, the driving force behind the improvement of some Android smartphones. The first iPhone was heavily copied and cloned to a huge extend from the rest of the mobile industry and this practice goes on until today. Every year store shelves are filled with similar or exact copies of the latest iPhone design. 2018 trend is a full view, 18:9 aspect ratio display design, with a notch and top-left vertically positioned cameras, copying iPhone X.
A few companies stay away from this practice, with Samsung being the strongest example, along with its superior notch-less design in Galaxy S series. Some companies prefer their own full view notch-less design but they keep the iPhone X pack panel positioning: best example being Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2s. As you can understand, every trip to a smartphone store today, makes us go very fast from “whow!” to shear boredom every year – and year after year.
Meizu is a relatively small Chinese company with a long history in innovation. With a huge dose of panache Meizu decided to celebrate its 15 years in the smartphone industry by improving its MX line, topping its characteristics. Their creation is called Meizu 15: it has no 18:9 display, no notch, no back-left vertical positioned cameras. Meizu broke the mold of those boring iPhone X copies, with their anniversary Meizu 15, 15 Plus and 15 Lite smartphones, the zenith of MX series.
Most would expect a flagship series with top of the selve parts. Meizu did things differently here too. They focused on the middle category (and the relevant price range) by selecting last year’s Exynos 8895 SoC for the Plus model and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 for the standard model! After a couple of years with low profits, Meizu wanted a smartphone for the masses. With an affordable price their devices could sell easier than a premium flagship that Meizu had planned for the future (Meizu 16 series). The company wanted more and more people to buy their phones, in order to prove to the largest possible extend, their level of expertise and excellence. The standard model arrived in my hands and tries to do exactly that: catch my eye when compared to the more famous Chinese, South Korean and US brands, made by a company that likes to differ.
Meizu 15 Characteristics
- Display: 5.46-inch (1080 × 1920 pixels) Full HD Super AMOLED display, 10000:1 contrast ratio
- SoC: Octa Core Snapdragon 660 14nm Mobile Platform (Quad 2.2GHz Kryo 260 + Quad 1.8GHz Kryo 260 CPUs) with Adreno 512 GPU
- Memory: 4GB RAM with 64GB / 128GB internal memory
- Operational System: Android 7.1.2 (Nougat) with Flyme OS 7
- Photography: 12MP rear camera with wide-angle lens, 1/2.3″ Sony IMX380 sensor, 1.55μm pixel size, f/1.8 aperture, Four-axis OIS, PDAF, Laser auto-focus, secondary 20MP telephoto lens, Sony IMX350 sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 6-LED ring LED flash. 20MP front-facing camera.
- Network: 2G: GSM B2/B3/B5/B8, 3G: WCDMA B1/B2/B5/B8, 4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B8, TDD-LTE B34/B38/B39/B40/B41
- Dimensions: 143×72.7×7.25 mm
- Weight: 152g
- Connectivity: 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 ac (2.4GHz + 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, GPS + GLONASS, USB Type-C
- Battery: 3000mAh battery with mCharge fast charging
- Characteristics: GPS, Miracast, OTG, Type-C, fingerprint ID, Face Unlock, 3.5mm audio jack, Stereo speakers.
Meizu 15 Packaging
The smartphone arrived in a black premium box that has a soft-feel and matte black information and brand marking. It looks and feels luxurious with the Meizu 15th Anniversary written in the tray that keeps the mobile inside. Inside you will find:
- 1 × Phone
- 1 × Built-in Battery
- 1 × Type-C Cable
- 1 × Eject Pin
- 1 × User Manual
- 1 × Power Adapter
Being a 15th Anniversary product I would expect something more like a protective case, etc. Nevertheless, the package is quite pleasing.
Meizu 15 Design
From the first look in its box, Meizu 15 is a beauty created to be loved unconditionally. The wide body has the 16:9 aspect ratio panel with almost no side bezels (width of 1.175mm), a design reminiscent of MX4. Picking it up you notice the display that has a brighter tone of black than the one of the body. The upper and lower bezels have the same height. The upper has a visible selfie-cam in the center. The speaker is a small horizontal line near the frame. The lower bezel has a fingerprint sensor in the center. No side bezels exist as we said, and that is that, a clean minimal front.
The corners of the protective glass dive into the unibody frame. The frame is made from surgical-grade 316L stainless steel and aluminum alloy/composite specially build to feel plastic. The top and bottom have a external noise canceling microphone. On the left side of the phone you’ll find the volume adjustment buttons. The right side has a power button right under the top positioned SIM tray. The bottom has from left to right, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a USB-C port and a loudspeaker. The buttons do not rattle, their feel and position is great. The back part of the frame is u-shaped, brushed with a horizontal pattern for design seen only when light is reflected on the black variant.
Both cameras are located at the top center, positioned vertically with a LED ring below them. On top and bottom we can see the antennae bands near the middle frame in a designed adopted by Meizu long before Apple or anyone else did. The bands have a pattern that looks like the Ancient Greek border lines in pottery and architecture.
The fine exterior does absolutely nothing to keep fingerprints or smudges off. With dimensions of 143 X 72.7 X 7.25 mm and weight of 152 grams the smartphone feels compact and it is easy to handle. Feeling it around there are no parts protruding – apart from the camera ring – it rises a bit over the camera glass adding another layer of protection to it.
I am adding Meizu 15 in my top 5 beauties of the year, next to Vivo NEX, Oppo Find X, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s. The total is an apogee of minimalism. A beauty that derives from clean lines and discretion: Meizu even kept its brand logo hidden in black matte in the back, seen only under the reflection of the light.
Meizu 15 Hardware
The display is an OLED panel of 5.46 inches having a 79.8% screen-to-body ratio thanks to the custom panel design by Samsung. Black is deep and colors are bright and saturated. Resolution is up to Full HD (1080 × 1920 pixels) which is not perfect but not bad for the size. The display is really vivid, it has high contrast with a ppi density of 403. Brightness is excellent, the display is readable under Athens’s midsummer sun, and can easily compare to other Samsung AMOLED panels. Viewing angles and color temperature are excellent. The latter can be set from Flyme in case some people prefer warmer or colder colors. While Gorilla Glass is not mentioned I don’t believe the company would let their anniversary product unprotected. Another fine touch is that fact that the software adds palm rejection, a nice thing to have with so small side bezels.
Fingerprint reader button works as a home button as seen in all smartphones that keep their reader in front. Meizu took its traditional mBack button and enhanced it to Super mBack. mBack was used to navigate the UI with gestures and Super mBack adds a haptic motor. The haptic motor adds custom feedback to on-screen controls – I’ve added my birthday in PUBG Mobile, the smartphone rattling in month and year changes and a wide smile appeared in my face. The button – it is not really a button, just a specific place pushed inside the screen – It is also equipped with pressure sensors to recognize taps and long presses. The fingerprint reader is very accurate and fast and is small enough to impress us with its performance in recognition. Face Unlock works with the selfie cam and the smartphone can be set to wake when picked, but to tell you the truth I rarely used it for unlocking. Meizu is really proud of its work on its facial recognition software. It is very fast with not false positives but struggles in low light conditions – typical of a technology that has no Infrared sensors.
The standard model was positioned in the upper part of the middle price category. The reasonable choice was Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660, a choice made also from Xiaomi when they decided to downgrade their Mi Note series. SD 660 has eight Kryo 260 cores, 4 clocked at 1.8GHz and 4 at 2.2 GHz. GPU is Adreno 512 and RAM is at 4GB. The SoC has been used in all premium-mid tier smartphones in 2017 and some companies as Oppo used it in their annual flagships. With that said the chipset comes very close to flagship abilities as seen in the benchmark suites. Daily usage is great. Gaming and multitasking have no issues while at the same time its price is kept low.
There is no option for expanding the storage space so you need to choose wisely between the 64 and 128 GB models.
Meizu 15 supports dual SIM functionality with two nano Sims. It supports 2G: GSM B2/B3/B5/B8, 3G: WCDMA B1/B2/B5/B8, 4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B8, TDD-LTE B34/B38/B39/B40/B41. Navigation works flawlessly with satellites being found fast and having good precision.
Wifi is of 802.11ac/b/g/n standard and Bluetooth of 4.2. Call quality is excellent and video calls are good without any issues.
Meizu 15 Software
Meizu is known for its lightweight custom Android OS, called Flyme OS that (at the time of this review) is at its 7.0.2 version still being based on Nougat 7.1.1. Meizu’s interface is a vast improvement over the previous version (FlyMe 6) and the company claims that is was worked down to pixel level. I am not a Flyme expert, I haven’t used it since MX4 Pro but I can confirm a few things.
Firstly, I have to say well don to its multilingual support, with no Chinese popping up in smaller menus or applications other than the in house browser. It is clean and fast. The design of Flyme 7 is comparable to iOS in some details and its general approach. Minimalism and clean lines as in the exterior are adding a pinch of art, finesse and elegance.At the same time I can’t seem to handle mBack or Smart Touch simulated smart button, as the gestures have proven to be more difficult than I had imagined. I believe that my own stock Android smartphone is keeping me off from mastering Flyme’s philosophy of handling its gimmicks.
Always-on display can be enabled along with raise to wake up. The later paired with face recognition makes unlocking effortless. Notification area, search page and task switcher are designed nicely and are very practical to use. Nougat supports split-screen and Flyme has a nice way to support it from the task switcher. Diving in Flyme you can find many options existing in some of the other heavily customized MIUI or EMUI OS’s. Vault, guest mode, multi-user, permission and notifications, all have various options to be customized to your specific needs. Meizu has added a Game mode that prioritizes resources and keeps the user undisturbed from external apps. In house applications are beautiful and you can download anything else from Meizu’s App Store or Google Play Store of course.
I can find only one bad and that is Nougat of course. Flyme should proceed to Oreo as soon as possible, as Android P is already reaching its production stage in a few months. While playing around i found a bug. A simple stupid bug not found in any other smartphone that has passed from my hands ever: I cannot change the background image, either from the themes application of the gallery due to my version not supporting it. Waiting for an update then?
Meizu 15 Camera
Meizu 15 is to the company what Mi Note 3 is to Xiaomi. The best camera phone ever made from Meizu. Starting with that fact let’s describe the camera set-up. Meizu has adopted a dual-camera setup with a main Sony IMX 380 12 megapixel sensor (f/1.8 aperture, 1.55µm, 1/2.3-inch). The secondary 20 megapixel (1/2.8″, 1.0µm) is a telephoto lens with two tasks: 2x lossless zoom (can go to 3x interpolated) and bokeh effect. There is a 4-axis OIS, PDAF and laser autofocus. The circular LED consists of six smaller individual LEDs and it’s used for photography along with an extra notification LED existing on the front. There is some AI support here – there where some annotations in night shots but not the plethora of AI support that I have seen in Huawei P20 Pro or other releavant devices.
The camera application is clean too, simple to use but I would prefer it to be a bit faster from mode to mode. You can find Portrait (bokeh), Photo, Video and More. The later includes Pro mode, Panorama, Scan, Time-lapse, Slow-Motion and Square. HRD and Beautify along with a small menu of settings provide the most minimal set up seen in such a good camera and price category.
Daily pictures and Portrait mode provide excellent examples with bright colors almost equal to this year flagships. HDR is being supported brilliantly without over saturating the pictures while color is represented accurately without adding effects. Night shots have some noise but not enough to disappoint us. They are more than good. Meizu took the latest Sony sensor and added the best software she could produce. This is really Meizu’s best camera phone by far. There is one extra thing to add on. Optical zoom is one of the best I have found in any smartphone of the same segment![flickr_set id=”72157699287916074″]
At the front of the phone,there’s a 20 megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. AI is supported here as well and the result is not bad at all. Beautify is supported on both front and back side cameras.
Video quality is good but not excellent. 4K and 1080p both at 30fps provide clear videos with good sound. Colours are good, sound is good, zoom is good, for everyday usage there is nothing extra to ask for. Meizu could add image stabilisation, but sadly they did not – probably because it would increase its price.
Meizu 15 Battery
A 3000mAh battery is hidden in the sleek metal body of the device, while the AMOLED screen and the energy sufficient Snapdragon 660 provide good results. The phone provides 11-12 SOT in case of direct YouTube video playback which is 5-6 hours of daily usage. The phone made it every night with 10-15% with medium usage. My opinion in smartphones is that battery life is never sufficient and I would prefer the body to be thicker – thus packing a 4000mAh battery.
Flyme has two modes to enhance battery life. Low Power mode controls Bluetooth, GPS, sound, haptic engine etc to ensure that you will make it until the end of the day in case you don’t have your charger along. Super saving mode changes the home-screen to black and white and disables mostly everything than phone calls and messages. With 32% right now (at the time I am writing these words) I have one day and three hours remaining battery life in case of emergency. Not bad. 😉
Fast charging is supported with an mCharge 4 charger. This is an excellent charger to include and with a 3000mAh battery you will need to carry it around in case of heavy usage. Charging is fast at only 45 minutes from zero to 100 percent!
Meizu 15 Conclusion
This is an anniversary phone for Meizu’s 15th year in the smartphone industry. Huawei. BBK (Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus) and Xiaomi monopolize the Chinese market and Meizu is strangling to keep a part of the sales.
Meizu 15 is the zenith of MX series excellent design, a design we would see in any smartphone today if iPhone X did not exist last year. Meizu provided the best they could: excellent camera, excellent sound, brilliant design, a fast OS and one of the best fast chargers. Meizu did one thing wrong: the price is not low enough unfortunately – not as low as it could be. At $400+ the category is dominated either by flagship killers from OnePlus and Xiaomi or last years flagships that have superior chipsets and overall characteristics. I am not into gaming so my daily usage is more than covered from this beautiful phone. I would love to have it as my daily driver if it was not for that price. Meizu 16 is at the corner so a price drop on the 15 should be imminent in my humble opinion.
What Meizu 15 does correctly is to provide a statement to the Chinese market that they can handle being different. If you are not into the “mainstream” products, Meizu 15 is an excellent choice. Meizu is up there with the rest of the great smartphone producers, even if they got a bit sidetracked during the previous years.
Well done Meizu.