Infinix Hot S3 is ideal for those looking to buy a great selfie-centric smartphone on a budget.
It is also one of the most affordable smartphones to run Android 8.0 Oreo out-of-the-box.
Apart from camera and software, battery life is another major USP for the device.
“In India, out of 10 pictures taken with a mobile phone, six are selfies.”
This was one of the most important slides at the launch of Infinix Hot S3 last Tuesday. The slide not only shows what people are clicking with their smartphone cameras but shows the general behavior of an average smartphone user. Tracking the smartphone behavior of an average smartphone user is not a tough task.
An average smartphone user would be doing following things: sending and receiving messages on WhatsApp (which I do), posting photos on Instagram (which I do), checking Facebook feed of friends (which I do), talking to some more friends on Messenger (which I do). Yes, I am an average smartphone user here but there is something that I don’t do that often – take selfies.
According to data analytics, not only are 6 out of 10 pictures selfies but the bigger picture is that smartphone users are not pleased with the very first result and they often end up clicking more selfies till they get one that is the absolute best. These stats are further supported by the success of Oppo and Vivo in India, which sell smartphones tweaked particularly for taking good selfies. Infinix, one of the smartphone brands of Chinese player Transsion Holdings, does not want to miss out on that big trend and is trying to undercut offerings from Oppo and Vivo with its budget pricing.
The business model of smartphones in India has been majorly about offering one distinctive feature. This has led to the launch of smartphones with high resolution front cameras, devices with a large battery, or something that adheres to the value-for-money segment. With Hot S3, Infinix is trying to offer a good front camera and a big battery without compromising on overall specifications. In my first impressions, I wrote that Infinix is an underdog in the selfie smartphone space but the real question is: can it even compete? Having used the phone for a while, I think I have found the answer in this review.
Design and Display
In 2018, every other smartphone needs to go big – not by packing a huge display but by trimming the bezels around that display. With the Hot S3, Infinix is doing just that and reducing the bezels so the smartphone looks really modern and on point with the trend of this year. Infinix is not the first one, we have already seen InFocus achieve that design language with its Vision 3 but not bill you in five digits. However that phone had issues and Infinix seems to have overcome those issues.
Apart from those thinner bezels, the overall design is pretty simple. We are still looking at a traditional smartphone with a rectangular display, front camera paired with an LED flash, microphone and a few sensors decorating the front. The back is home to the rear camera module, quad-LED flash, fingerprint sensor and Infinix logo. There is a volume rocker on the right side while the textured power button resides below it. The addition of texture to the power button comes handy while pulling out the phone from your pocket and you precisely know which button to press.
The 3.5mm audio jack is at the top while the microUSB charging port is at the bottom. The SIM card slot is placed at the left and it supports two Nano SIM cards and a microSD card slot, which is a versatile choice. The smartphone uses a metal unibody casing but it’s textured back makes it feel plastic and less bulky than similarly priced smartphones. To put it simply, Infinix has built a practical smartphone and not necessarily one that will win accolades for outstanding design.
The Infinix Hot S3 features a 5.65-inch IPS LCD display with a Full HD+ resolution of 1440 x 1080 pixels. The display supports the new taller 18:9 aspect ratio like some of the more premium smartphones in the market and it has basically led to more screen real estate than possible in this form factor. The Hot S3’s display is adequately bright with adaptive brightness turned on and can get even brighter if you crank up the brightness to maximum level. The viewing angles are pretty good with no visible signs of image distortion but the contrast seems lacking, especially to my eyes which are accustomed to an AMOLED panel.
For a starting price of Rs 8,999, Infinix has managed to pack a good quality display into a package that will feel practical to most smartphone users. The smartphone is about the size of a typical smartphone with 5.3-inch 16:9 display, which makes it compact and easily portable.
Before we get to performance and software bit of the Infinix Hot S3, it is important to talk about the camera first. The Hot S3 is aimed squarely at those people who click a lot of pictures (selfies to be specific) with their mobile phones. The Hot S3 features a 13-megapixel rear camera and a 20-megapixel front camera. Let’s talk about that huge front camera first.
The Hot S3 uses a 20-megapixel Sony IMX376 image sensor with dedicated dual-LED flash and f/2.0 aperture. As I wrote before, I am not a selfie addict but this phone’s front camera could end up convincing me to take selfies more often. First and the most important thing, the front-facing camera is really quick to focus on the subject (humans mostly) and then layers the picture with beautification stuff to give you one really crisp and beautified selfie. It must be noted that the beautification seems natural and some of my friends were fast to add that it isn’t as aggressive as that of its Chinese rivals.
Most selfie-centric smartphones tend to beautify to an effect that the final result can come off from the real subject. The beautification features often try to brighten the face, trim the jawline and a few other things, and I think Infinix Hot S3 does all of that but doesn’t botch up the final result. It also uses a wider 82-degree lens just in case you plan to bring more people into the frame.
If you are really in for the best selfie smartphone under Rs 10,000, I think you’ll find the right one in Hot S3. There I said it, Infinix was on a quest to make a good selfie camera on budget and it has achieved that without much of a compromise.
However, if you are that kind of a person who gives more prominence to the camera at the back, then you won’t be extremely impressed. The rear 13-megapixel camera also uses a f/2.0 aperture and the pictures clicked with that fall short of being described as the sharpest. In bright daylight, it takes good pictures, which is no big feat for any smartphone camera now. However, the end result can sometimes look off focus or either underexposed or overexposed.
For example, I was trying to click picture of a Red Rose (seen above) with small white flowers in the background, the Hot S3 failed to properly reproduce either of the two flowers. The final result looks weak on exposure with no proper definition of the subject since the lighting conditions were pretty challenging.
There are, of course, times when the Hot S3 excels with its photos and that is when it feels worth every single penny you pay for the device. It’s slow focusing system can probably be fixed with a software update while the color profile can easily be tweaked by switching to manual mode. In the past few years, I’ve learnt only one thing about the smartphone camera; It should be quick and reliable and I don’t want to go through those DSLR controls to get the best result.
If I’ve to do that then I’d rather do that on my DSLR, which will give me a bigger image sensor and extensive ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings to get the best result. Readers should note that the Hot S3’s rear camera is not bad but it falls way short of being as good as it’s front camera. It is primarily being let down by the camera software which Infinix should update to get better results and color profiles.
Performance and Battery Life
A bezel-less design and 18:9 display are not tough things to achieve as demonstrated by the InFocus Vision 3, which costs just Rs 6,999. But that smartphone did suffer from issues such as a really slow camera and lackluster performance. The Infinix Hot S3 does not suffer from those issues and it has a decent performance in its price thanks to the Snapdragon 430 SoC. Our review unit came with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage but I’d recommend shelling out a little extra and getting that 4GB RAM variant instead.
The Infinix Hot S3 can easily handle basic tasks such as calling, social networking, clicking pictures and running multiple apps. It can also handle demanding applications such as Asphalt 8: Airborne or Need For Speed: No Limits but you’ll see a slight drop in frame rates. Also while playing NFS: No Limits, I observed that the device got little warm, which is fine for a device powered by a processor based on 28nm architecture.
Apart from the front camera, if the Hot S3 excels at one more thing, then it has to be it’s battery life. The Infinix Hot S3 can last two full days of extensive use. I charged the phone last on Friday and there is still some juice left with all that gaming, browsing, photography and web streaming at the time of writing this on Sunday. I’m definitely going to use this one as my personal hotspot whenever the home broadband starts to exhibit weird behavior.
The Infinix Hot S3 runs Android 8.0 Oreo out-of-the-box with the security patch for the month of November. It is one of the few budget devices to run the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system and that alone can be counted as one of its unique selling points. Infinix has customized the operating system with a light skin called XOS 3.0, which brings a tweaked icon and launcher system.
With Hot S3, the smartphone has basic screens of apps but it also has an app drawer. Honestly, I don’t like it and downloaded the Nova launcher for a smoother layout. I do like few things about this XOS Hummingbird interface though – it includes an app called Freezer which allows users to freeze the memory of apps they don’t frequently use and take control of them whenever you need it. It is a cool concept but I’d have loved to see it being distributed via Play Store instead of building a separate forked version of Android.
In an interaction with BGR India, Anish Kapoor, CEO, Infinix India made it clear that the company wants to keep investing in its custom ROM and won’t be switching to stock Android. So you’ll have to love the OS and it offers features such as dual accounts which is not even available on stock Android, a dedicated browser, default keyboard similar to Gboard and file sharing service similar to ShareIt. You also get Android Oreo features like PiP mode, notification dots and quick access to frequently used functions within apps, to name a few.
I just hope that Infinix does push newer security patches for the device and tries to release newer versions of Android within 90 days of its release. If the company does that then we are really looking at a winner in this price segment.
There is a fingerprint sensor at the back which is easy to reach and unlocks the device almost instantaneously. There is a dual LED flash at the front to capture selfies in low-light, which is a great addition but the flash should have been programmed to slow sync to highlight the foreground first and background later.
The Infinix Hot S3 is pretty good for voice calls but the speaker placed at the bottom is not that great. It is quite easy to cover the speaker and the overall sound profile is somewhat flat. Also, the Hot S3 does not come bundled with headphones so you’ll have to spend some more money to get good set of audio accessories.
Infinix has added an option to trigger the camera by double pressing the volume down button, which means it won’t function when you are playing music in the background. Infinix could have set power button as shortcut for camera like everyone else.
As I wrote at the very start of this review, I am not someone that takes a lot of selfies, but at the end I figured that I could become one of those very easily. I have clicked quite a few selfies with Hot S3 and I definitely get the point of having a phone with an exceptional front camera. But I would like to appreciate that it doesn’t come at the cost of performance or old-school design.
The Infinix Hot S3 is definitely modern and has a processor and memory combination that is totally apt for this price segment. It’s rear camera is not great but it is definitely not bad for the price that you pay. Most people should also consider this one for its mammoth battery that works so well with battery optimization techniques that it will easily last for two full days.
The company is throwing a clear case to protect the device in the box, and the smartphone will be running the latest version of Android at least for next few months. If you are looking for a smartphone under Rs 12,000 with great selfie camera, latest Android and two days of battery life then look at Hot S3 but I fear that we will have a better device for the price out on February 14 when Xiaomi launches its first product of 2018.
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