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If you really want a smaller phone, try the tiny Jelly 2

If you really want a smaller phone, try the tiny Jelly 2

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Can you get by with a three-inch screen?

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Have you been lamenting that the new iPhone SE is just too darn big? Unihertz might have the solution. The Jelly 2, launching today on Kickstarter, is a truly tiny phone — the world’s smallest 4G phone with Android 10, apparently. How tiny? I just tried looking for it on my desk to help inspire a good description for this sentence, and I eventually found it underneath my air conditioner remote. Now it’s in my jeans coin pocket for safekeeping.

The Jelly 2 is the successor to Unihertz’s first phone, the original Jelly from 2017. My former colleague Michael Zelenko tested the Jelly a couple of years ago as part of a roundup of minimalist phones, and his main criticisms were an unusable software keyboard, bad battery life, and too much functionality to let him unplug. The Jelly 2 fixes two of those problems.

I never tried the first Jelly, but its sequel feels way more practical, at least to a point. Unihertz has given it a three-inch 480 x 854 screen, which is obviously very small, but the 20 percent-ish increase in size makes a big difference. You can now see five whole tweets on screen at once, for example, as long as they only contain a few words each. And though I wouldn’t want to type out much more than a couple of sentences, the keyboard is just about workable for quick searches, chat replies, and so on.

A note on crowdfunding:

Crowdfunding is a chaotic field by nature: companies looking for funding tend to make big promises. According to a study run by Kickstarter in 2015, roughly 1 in 10 “successful” products that reach their funding goals fail to actually deliver rewards. Of the ones that do deliver, delays, missed deadlines, or overpromised ideas mean that there’s often disappointment in store for those products that do get done.

The best defense is to use your best judgment. Ask yourself: does the product look legitimate? Is the company making outlandish claims? Is there a working prototype? Does the company mention existing plans to manufacture and ship finished products? Has it completed a Kickstarter before? And remember: you’re not necessarily buying a product when you back it on a crowdfunding site.

The Jelly 2 doesn’t exactly have tiny bezels, but the screen makes much more efficient use of the phone’s physical real estate, so the device is only slightly larger overall than the original. While the panel isn’t the most vibrant I’ve ever seen, it’s sharp enough — and let’s face it, you’re not buying this thing to edit photos or watch movies on. Unihertz’s four-inch Atom XL does feel a lot better suited for general smartphone use, if you’re not willing to go quite this small.

Performance from the MediaTek Helio P60 processor is not what I would call blazing, but more than adequate for the kind of actions I’ve been expecting the Jelly 2 to perform. With a screen this small, it’s not even really worth trying to execute hardcore multitasking. I did play a couple of Asphalt 9 races to test the performance and it was noticeably low-res, but most games wouldn’t really be playable on a screen like this even with unlimited horsepower.

As for the battery life, it’s seemed reasonable in my testing. There’s a 2,000mAh battery inside, which is small by Android phone standards — but then most Android phones don’t have to power three-inch screens, and this is more than double the capacity of the original Jelly. For the expected use case of “keep it mostly in your pocket and use it only when you really need to” rather than the typical phone scenario of endless doomscrolling and 4K video recording, I think the Jelly 2 will be fine.

Speaking of the camera, there’s a 16-megapixel sensor on the back and an 8-megapixel sensor for selfies. The primary camera isn’t great, unsurprisingly, but it does the job as long as you’re only going to be viewing the photos on the tiny screen. Most actual cameras have bigger screens than the Jelly 2, though, so you should probably take one of those along too if you’re planning on visiting somewhere dark or pretty.

Some other notes on the hardware. This phone is 16.5mm thick, which sounds excessive but given the small footprint actually makes it feel reassuringly chunky, like a pebble. The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is by far the worst I’ve ever used and might as well not exist. You get 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There’s a headphone jack, so you could just use this as a compact MP3 player if you wanted. 

If the idea of an Android phone roughly the size of a small potato is at all appealing to you, the Jelly 2 is about as good an example as I can imagine anyone actually making. With Kickstarter pricing starting at $129, it wouldn’t have to be your only phone, either. I can’t say I have much need for the Jelly 2 myself, but I continue to appreciate Unihertz’s devotion to making ultra-niche devices. I’m sure the Jelly 2 is exactly what a very small number of people have been waiting for. 

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