In the June 19, 2018 edition of this blog, I wrote about a new, tiny cell phone that was expected to ship within a few weeks. My description of the World’s Smallest 4G Rugged Smartphone is still available at: https://wp.me/p5httC-18b.
Since that article was published, Unihertz indeed has started shipping these tiny cell phones. I received mine a few days ago and thought I would report on my experiences with it.
I will give the summation first: This is a tiny phone and, as a result, it has some strengths and some weaknesses. I don’t think it is a phone for everyone but, if it fits a specific need you have, it just might be the perfect phone for you.
Now for the details.
In my first few days of usage, I have found the Unihertz Atom to be similar to almost all other Android-powered cell phones. It runs Android 8.1 on an Octa Core 2GHz CPU and has 64 gigabytes of internal storage, which is plenty for most people. However, there is no slot for an expansion microSD card. The tiny phone communicates online at 4G speeds, the same as all other modern cell phones.
The tiny cell phone features Gorilla Glass and also features sockets for two SIM cards. You cannot use both SIM cards at the same time, however. Instead, you select the one you want to use at any one time.
It has two cameras, a 16 megapixel rear camera and an 8 megapixel front camera for taking “selfies” and for 2-way video conversations. It features an internal GPS, Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4GHz/5GHz WiFi connectivity. The charging connector is a modern USB-C connector. (I prefer USB-C instead of the older and slower USB connectors.)
I was quite surprised that the Unihertz Atom also can function as a WiFi Hotspot. Yes, it works as a cellular modem. I tested that briefly and it seemed to work well. (Your cellular company has to support that, however, in order for the hotspot to work. Not all cellular companies offer that.) I connected an iPad via wifi to the Unihertz Atom and was able to surf the web and run all sorts of online apps by using this tiny modem.
I was also surprised that it includes wi-fi calling. If you are not in range of a wifi network, the Unihertz Atom works like all other cell phones. It places its calls over the cellular network. However, if the phone is within range of a moderately strong wifi network and is signed onto that network, calls are sent and received over wifi. (Your cellular company also has to offer wifi calling to make it all work. Again, not all cellular companies offer that.)
The biggest advantage of wifi calling is that your cellular provider will not charge you for the minutes you spend talking on wifi. (Again, your cellular company has to be configured to cooperate with this.) Unfortunately, my cellular provider doesn’t offer wifi calling so I wasn’t able to test it.
I didn’t run any scientific tests but the battery seems to last all day for me. Admittedly, my usage includes hours of waiting for a call and I only communicate once in a while. If you are a heavy user of a cell phone, you probably will have shorter battery life.
Finally, this is a really rugged cell phone! The case can withstand dropping onto a hard surface. The Gorilla Glass can be shattered, however, if it hits face-first or hits a solid object. The Unihertz Atom has undergone stringent IP68 tests for protecting against vibration, shock, extreme temperatures, dust, and water. If you are spend a lot of time outdoors in rugged environments, either for work or for pleasure, you need a ruggedized cell phone!
What about the size?
I find the tiny size (3.8 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches or 96 by 45 by 18 mm for those who think in metric), is both an advantage and a hindrance. It can fit into most any pocket, even a man’s shirt pocket. It slides easily into backpacks, fanny belts, and other carrying cases. My preference is the optional ($15.99) belt clip. Unihertz also sells armbands and bike mounts that securely bolt onto a bike’s handlebars.
However, the tiny size also means a tiny screen that is difficult to read. Yes, it is an excellent eye test. If you have trouble reading the info on the screen, it might be time to visit an optometrist!
Perhaps even worse is the difficulty in always pressing the correct icons or letters while using the tiny phone. If you have fat fingers, you WILL have difficulty with the touchscreen. You won’t be writing any long email messages on this device! I have rather skinny fingers so I can touch the correct spot on the screen most of the time. That’s MOST of the time, not always. When I first started using the phone, I quickly found the backspace key.
Best of all, there is no way that I will be text messaging while driving with this phone!
In spite of the problems with entering data on the tiny screen, I must say I have fallen in love with the Unihertz Atom. The tiny size means it is convenient to carry, much more convenient than any other cell phone I have ever owned.
I once had a police officer stop me when I was walking along a sidewalk with a large cell phone in an even bigger leather “holster” clipped to my belt. The police officer asked to see the contents of the holster. He thought I might have been carrying a firearm! That will never happen with the Unihertz Atom.
The ruggedized case is great for hunters, hikers, mountain climbers, bicyclists, and for use in many other outdoor activities. For anyone working in the construction industry, a ruggedized phone probably is mandatory.
I ordered this phone primarily for use on Zello, the walkie-talkie app that is useful for personal use, businesses, search and rescue organizations, and many other uses. The Unihertz Atom has a bright red push-to-talk button on the side that makes it a natural for use as a walkie-talkie. Indeed, it probably is the tiniest walkie-talkie available.
Before ordering the Unihertz Atom, however, stop to think if you can be comfortable with the small screen.