Editors’ Note: This review was primarily written in July 2020 and was updated in December with the final retail software and rating.
COVID-era America may not be ready for the Jelly 2. This tiny, affordable smartphone ($199) helps fight screen addiction by giving you a fully capable device that is just too small to suck you in. It’s a phone for people who want to travel outside and enjoy nature, other people, and the world at large. Unihertz, the phone’s maker, has built several tiny phones, including the Jelly Pro and the Atom. Once this pandemic is over and we can turn our faces to the outside world again, the Jelly 2 will help us enjoy it more.
The Jelly 2 I received to test is a smooth, blue plastic lozenge of a phone that fits very securely in my hand. It isn’t too slippery, although the back easily picks up fingerprints. The body is quite rounded. This is the smallest high-quality smartphone on the market—at 3.74 by 1.94 by 0.65 inch (HWD), it’s even smaller (albeit thicker) than the Palm phone. Weighing in at 3.8 ounces, it’s heavier than that tiny device, but the difference in performance here makes the added weight worth it.
Warning: This Jelly is not peanut butter–proof.
The front of the phone has an 854-by-480ppi 3-inch LCD, which is quite bright and has accurate touch response. It has three touch buttons below the screen.
On the side, there’s a volume button and a programmable quick action button. It comes set to trigger the flashlight, but you can change it to launch the camera, music app, or pedometer, for instance. A standard headphone jack is on top, and there’s a fingerprint sensor and a 16MP camera on the back. The phone isn’t waterproof.
The fingerprint sensor is not great. Though it reacts quickly, it rejected too many of my off-center touches, requiring me to touch it two or three times to unlock the phone.
The programmable action button can be set to launch your most frequently used app.
The touch keyboard is supremely small. When you look at it, it seems impossibly small. It isn’t so bad; I found that typing on it was generally pretty accurate. That said, you don’t want to type long manifestos here, like my daughter’s texts to her friends. Keep it down to a few words and you should be all right.
The keyboard is pretty tiny.
Impressive Compatibility and Power
The Jelly 2 runs Android 10 on a 2GHz Mediatek Helio P60 chipset with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (119GB available). There’s a MicroSD card slot to add storage. One of the things about tiny phones is that they don’t need a lot of power to work well, because they aren’t driving super-high-res screens. I loaded many different apps on the phone and was happy to see they were all compatible, though some apps aren’t very usable because of too-small touch targets.
In tests, the Jelly 2 scored 8,090 on the PCMark Work benchmark, 286/1,065 on Geekbench, and 200 on Basemark Web. That puts it way above its competitor the Palm Phone on application performance, more in the range of the Samsung Galaxy S9 series—pretty impressive for a tiny phone. On the GFXBench Car Chase graphics benchmark, I got 27fps onscreen, as good as a current high-end smartphone in its maximum resolution mode. Of course, that’s because the Jelly 2’s screen is a fraction of the resolution comparatively.
Google Maps on the Jelly 2 gives you just enough information to navigate by.
You don’t want to play games on the Jelly 2. I mean, you can, sure—they play fine. But anything that assumes touch targets is going to be very difficult to operate. Driving games with tilt controls probably work the best.
The Jelly 2 makes an excellent wide-screen TV for your Playmobils.
Music playback is a strength here, and not just with wired or Bluetooth headphones. I was pretty surprised that I could set the Jelly 2 on my desk and listen to music with the built-in bottom-ported speaker. Sure, it’s entirely treble, but I could enjoy my tunes.
Unihertz puts a low-key skin over Android that’s designed to make using a tiny phone easier. There’s no app drawer by default. The company adds a few apps, including an emergency SOS app, a Student mode app (I’m not really sure what that is), and a Toolbox with useful utilities such as a decibel meter, a heart rate monitor, a pedometer, and a compass. There are fun numeric battery and network speed indicators in the status bar; I like knowing that sort of stuff.
The IR remote is a terrific throwback feature. The phone comes with an IR remote app, but the blaster works even better with the many third-party remote apps available in the Google Play store. I controlled LG and Samsung smart TVs with the phone from about a 10-foot distance; it really came in handy when I was at an AirBNB where the TV oddly lacked its remote control.
There’s an interesting NFC app that lets the Jelly 2 clone any NFC cards you use, such as transit cards. I found I still needed to carry my transit card to reload it at a machine, but I could tap the Jelly 2 on a subway entry barrier.
There’s a small fingerprint sensor on the back, but it’s not very sensitive.
Battery life, unfortunately, is a big issue with tiny phones. Our battery test tends to disadvantage small phones like this, because we play a video with the screen on full brightness. You probably won’t be using this phone to watch video very much, but in that standardized test I got only 5 hours, 50 minutes of screen-on time with the 2,000mAh battery. That’s similar to what I found with the iPhone SE, but it falls far short of the 10 hours-plus that I often see on larger phones. With regular, light use, you’ll probably need to recharge the Jelly 2’s battery every two days or so.
Network Performance That’s Good Enough
Call quality is surprisingly good given that the phone is so tiny. The Jelly 2 supports voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) calling on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. I tested it on Verizon and found it supports Wi-Fi calling on that carrier as well. Call quality through the earpiece was loud and clear in testing. The speakerphone is quite tinny and harsh, but the phone supports wired and Bluetooth 4.2 headsets.
The phone takes an interesting approach to dual-SIM: you can have either two SIMs in it, or one SIM and a MicroSD card. The second SIM fits where the MicroSD card goes.
The bottom-ported speakers don’t deliver very good sound.
Data speeds are one place where Unihertz cuts corners. The Helio P60 has only a Cat 7 LTE modem, though it works on most of the frequency bands used by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The slowish modem translated to speeds around 33Mbps down in a 4G Verizon location where a OnePlus 8 was getting 100Mbps. Then again, why do you need 100Mbps on a tiny phone? Sure, maybe for hotspot mode (and it does have a hotspot mode), but considering the size and price, I think this performance is fine.
On Wi-Fi at 5GHz, the Jelly 2 did just as well as the OnePlus 8, getting the full 100Mbps of a 100Mbps connection through 30 feet and a wall. At 2.4GHz, performance wasn’t as good: about 18Mbps down where the OnePlus was getting 65Mbps down, presumably thanks to that phone’s much larger antennas.
But again, this phone isn’t about getting the ultimate RF reception. Good enough is good enough.
No Support for Low-Light Photos
The 16MP main camera and 8MP front-facing camera aren’t great, but they’re adequate for most basic photography needs. The main camera captures 1080p video with no image stabilization, or 720p video with electronic image stabilization (which you’d want if you mount the phone on a bike, for instance).
In outdoor shots, there’s not a ton of shadow detail, though photos are fine overall.
The Jelly 2’s outdoor shot (right) isn’t that bad, but its colors are heavy-handed compared to the photo taken on an iPhone SE (left).
The main issue is in low light, where these cameras don’t have any of the AI brightening capabilities you see in higher-end smartphones. The result is very muddy, soft photos. However, for a $199 phone, that’s pretty much to be expected.
This low-light image shows how much more light the iPhone SE (left) collects than the Jelly 2 (right).
The iPhone SE (left) captured a much sharper, clearer image than the Jelly 2 (right).
A selfie taken with the front-facing camera was a bit washed out compared to the iPhone SE’s selfies, but once again, not bad in good light.
If you focus on sharpness indoors, the iPhone SE is much better than the Jelly 2.
This indoor shot shows that the iPhone SE (left) produces sharper images than the Jelly 2 (right).
Low-light video performance is particularly bad. In a video taken walking down a street at night, the camera had trouble focusing on nearby objects and showed significant jitter; the electronic image stabilization didn’t seem to do much.
That said, nobody is going to want to use this as their primary camera. And as you can see from these samples, except for the night shots, the Jelly 2’s photos are just fine for capturing memories or posting to social media.
With the Jelly 2, Less Is More
The Unihertz Jelly 2 is a tiny phone for putting in your pocket while enjoying our big world. At $199, it works as a secondary handset to take out when you don’t want to get sucked into your big screen, or as a low-cost primary phone that keeps you connected but not distracted.
There’s not much in the way of competition at the moment. The Jelly 2 is more flexible and less expensive, and has better battery life, than its main competitor, the Palm Phone. If you’re looking for something small but more mainstream, the next step up is Apple’s $399 iPhone SE, which is both bigger and more expensive. The Jelly 2 is undoubtedly a niche product, but it fills its niche well.
Unihertz Jelly 2 Specs
|Operating System||Android 10|
|CPU||MediaTek Helio P60|
|Dimensions||3.74 by 1.94 by .65 inches|
|Screen Size||3 inches|
|Screen Resolution||854 by 480 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||16MP; 8MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||7 hours, 0 minutes|