Infinix S2 Pro review: much ado about selfies

2017 is turning out to be the year of the selfie. Or so I have come to accept after my 30-day stay with Infinix’s latest smartphone, the Infinix S2 Pro. The S2 Pro’s major strength, like most other budget smartphones from sibling brand Tecno and compatriot OPPO, is its front-facing camera sensor. Particularly, its wide-angle shooter whose results are named “wefies”.

See: Infinix S2 Pro specifications

Design

Infinix S2 Pro

The Infinix S2 doesn’t strike you as a device that will grow on you in terms of fondness but that’s exactly what happened over the course of one month that it was in and out of my life as a primary device and at times as a reliable backup device. That is largely thanks to its design which is largely understated as most of the attention is fixed on the camera lens that screams for attention at the top of the device’s front and at the back where it protrudes without a care in the world.

The device’s metal build means that it gets really hot when it is charging or when it is doing some heavy lifting but that is half the story. The full story is that it is actually delightful to hold in the hand. The phone ends up feeling tiny even thanks to how the glass fuses onto its metal encasing.

If what I have seen on the S2 Pro is anything to go by then we’re staring at a serious challenger for top honours in months to come

There are thin plastic strips around the top and bottom of the back where the network receptors are located and these compromises to boost the signal makes for some unsightly look with prolonged use of the device as the colour tends to peel off.

The device’s sizeable chins coupled with the narrowed bezels remind one of either Apple’s iPhone or Google’s Pixel, something that is all the more reinforced by the capacitive navigation buttons that, unfortunately, don’t light up.

Placement of the volume rocker and the power button on different sides takes some getting used to for someone who’s been used to a device with both on one side like I was before starting to use the Infinix S2 Pro. However, they soon grow on you and their middle placement on either side of the device and the power button’s texturing means that you won’t ever be fiddling wondering which is which. The central placement of the fingerprint scanner at the back of the device and the general compactness means that users are spoilt for choice on how to wake the device from its deep slumber: using gestures (double tap to wake), using the fingerprint sensor or using the appropriately-placed power button. Good problems to have.

Display

Infinix S2 Pro display

I have no quarrels with Infinix’s choice of display on the Infinix S2 Pro. While it’s great and all and users of the device will appreciate it (even forgetting for a moment that it’s only a HD panel), there is a rider: that is only true indoors. Outdoors, the S2 Pro disappoints. Even when you manually crank up the slider to full brightness, it still falls short. Otherwise, in optimum conditions, text is crisp, videos are sharp and images look great. Just what you can expect from a budget device that doesn’t stretch your pockets.

Camera

The camera is the whole point of the Infinix S2 Pro. While Infinix won’t tell us what the S really means, we can easily deduce that it stands for “selfie” because the S2 Pro’s focus, at least from what we can all see with our naked eyes, is allowing its users to take over-the-top selfies. Well, calling them over-the-top may be a stretch but you get the drift.

On that “awesome selfie-taking” front, Infinix has somehow managed to deliver. Here are some samples if you need to put what I am saying into perspective:

I still have my gripes with the camera. Like, for instance, the image processing gets overdone in some instances and, as it was the case last year, I still pretty much prefer my face without virtual makeup aka Beauty mode because the latter is still not yet there.

It’s not just the design that is understated. The back camera, too, is understated as all our attention is focused on the front-facing duopoly. It is this back camera that managed to convince me that the Infinix S2 Pro is worth giving a try, if not for anything else, for its cameras. It’s good. I have used it extensively over the last one month to capture everything happening around me – from the sun-laced shores of Lake Victoria, the rock-covered Maragoli hills in Western Kenya, the rain-drenched tea leaves of South Rift, the famous Moi Avenue tusks in Mombasa, concerts in Nairobi and an excursion in Lisbon to a sun-kissed Frankfurt morning.

Full (uncompressed) versions of the above camera samples and many more can be found on Flickr.

The auto-focus is fast, the gestures are a hit and miss and the usual trove of several confusing menus have been kept to a bare minimum – a boon for us who hardly venture beyond auto settings into the dark abyss that is the pro mode which is available.

That one can take snaps using the fingerprint scanner at the back of the device is a nice touch. That comes in handy when taking selfies now that the gestures are a hit and miss.

Simply put, Infinix has started something good with this renewed focus on mobile photography and it is my sincere wish that they build on it in future iterations of the device because if what I have seen on the S2 Pro is anything to go by then we’re staring at a serious challenger for top honours in months to come.

Software

When I received the Infinix S2 Pro from Infinix last month, it ran Android 6.0 Marshmallow. However, that changed in the last week of April as the company started rolling out an Android 7.0 update.

The upgrade to Android Nougat was not without its fair share of missteps. I, for one, was forced to reset the device thanks to some minor issues like persistent vibrations and incessant wake locks which had the added effect of draining the battery faster, after updating the device. The device’s wakelocks have also since increased. The Infinix S2 Pro no longer goes into a state of deep sleep when fingerprint scanner unlock is enabled. I have had to disable mine and limit use of the fingerprint scanner to other things like taking photos just so that the device can be able to “sleep” in peace. Else, the screen is always on. This is something that Infinix can – and should – fix with a software update.

However, the ability to simply swipe through the lock screen when Magazine lock screen is on to switch wallpapers, split-screen multitasking, a more white and neatly arranged Quick Settings panel and notification shade, are, in the long run, a worthy trade-off to a short-term inconvenience (assuming an update fixing these things is released soon).

Like other Infinix devices, the S2 Pro still suffers from the same disease of Infinix bundling its own apps onto the device at launch. It’s a good thing that you can disable them straight away as these are unlikely to be apps you’re on the market for most of the time if your use case and demands, in any way, mirror mine.

Not all bundled software is a burden, though. I am a big fan of XOS’s Multi-account feature which lets users add multiple social media accounts on the same device without having to exit the other. I am using it for WhatsApp and it’s great. So is the shortcuts bar which is reached by swiping up from the bottom of the home screen to easily access shortcuts to the flashlight, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the like. XPower, too, is great for getting a peek into what is draining your juice fast and managing it.

Performance

The Infinix S2 Pro manages to deliver good performance all round. Infinix has smoothened any edges that previously existed as a result of its customization of Android with XOS, its custom overlay, and the end result is something that respectably handles anything you throw at it be it running apps side by side using multi-window, something made possible by the device’s recent Android Nougat update, or pairing up with friends online to kill enemiesĀ in intensive games like War Friends.

Battery

Battery life is good on the Infinix S2 Pro. On a busy day when I am using it as my main device, the S2 Pro, while on Safaricom 4G, will be with me as I read the Business Daily ePaper in the morning, as I listen to my Spotify Discover Weekly for nearly 2 hours and throughout the day as I read emails, respond to my chatty colleagues on WhatsApp and total cars in Asphalt 8: Airborne. I simply don’t have any complaints to make with regards to the 3,000mAh battery unit’s ability to deliver.

Others

Calls are clear, overall network reception is good and the device performs as expected when using both 3G and 4G data.

Infinix S2 Pro speakers
There’s only one bottom-firing speaker, the other grille is just there to enhance the looks and for a hidden bottom microphone

Sound, while crisp and all, could be a bit loud, though.

The Good

  • The design is excellent.
  • The cameras are good. Really good.
  • The device’s performance is above par.

Infinix S2 Pro

The Bad

  • The device heats up a lot when performing some intensive tasks or charging.
  • The device scratches easily both on the entire glass front and on the plastic bands at the top and bottom of the back.
  • The software still has quite some way to go. While we have to applaud Infinix for doing what even big smartphone brands can only dream of doing in another life by releasing the Android 7.0 update for the device, the software still needs quite some soul-searching. When it is not disappointing with its insistence on redundancy (the presence of an app drawer button and a spillover of apps all over the home screen), the XManager is constantly nagging with calls to clear junk every now and then.

Final word

Infinix S2 Pro

For just under Kshs 16,000 you are getting more phone than you would elsewhere with the Infinix S2 Pro, something that makes life hard for similar camera-focused devices from the competition.

Emmanuel Chenze

Let's just say I know my stuff. I have 7 years experience handling, tinkering with and then writing extensively about Android stuff. Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes it is not; things can get stale with nothing new to show but I live for each one of those moments. Have something Android-related that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze@androidkenya.com