What do they say? Third time’s the charm? What if I said second?
That’s because that’s exactly the impression I got the moment I unboxed Infinix’s latest smartphone, the Infinix Note 5.
The Note 5, unlike other previous members of the Infinix Note series, is a bit different and the main reason why I am saying that the Chinese brand may have got it on the second try is because of the programme the device is part of, one that we have dissected further here previously, Android One.
Almost 3 years later, I can see progress in the way things have been handled this time around. Never mind that there is a stark difference in a lot of the decisions taken with regards to the device because of advances in technology and the time difference as well as the different families that the two devices belong to: the first Android One smartphone from Infinix belonged to the then bottom-of-the-barrel Hot family while the second one belongs to the Note family that is more associated with better endurance, something that the former would never dream of, even in a thousand years.
In the box
Before we go further, what do you get in the box when you buy the Infinix Note 5?
I have not used the device for long, as I have been enjoying the good company of another decent (albeit overpriced) Infinix smartphone, the Hot S3, but I have been impressed by the Note 5 so far. This is why:
- There’s the obvious: it’s an Android One device. This means stock Android, timely updates… Basically, all the things that you’d expect an Android-centric site like this one to fuss over all the time and boy, aren’t we happy about it! I like the fact that unlike the grey hole that Android Go is turning out to be as Google allows device makers to customize it to their taste and further interfering with an experience that is, at best, half-baked and totally brings back and validates all my misgivings with 1GB RAM devices, Android One is the exact opposite. Just Android as envisioned by Google but on devices that cost as little as 20% of the price of its high-end showcases, the Pixels of this world. The only caveat here is that while Google does release timely updates to devices in the programme like this Infinix Note 5, providing them users is the sole discretion of device makers. Some can be as fast as HMD Global is while others can just mess up things and be as slow as Xiaomi is (I am still chilling for that Android 8.1 update even after multiple reports that it is rolling out elsewhere. SMH).
- The Infinix Note 5 does not ship with anything extra pre-installed, bar the obvious: Google apps which are necessary for its Google Play certification.
- However, just as was the case when I was setting up the Xiaomi Mi A1 for the first time back in late January, users do get asked whether they are interested in adding some apps the device maker (in this case, Infinix) deems as being important and central to the user experience. In the case of the Xiaomi Mi A1, that was the Mi Remote app to take advantage of the device’s infrared blaster. On the Infinix Note 5, there’s just two of those: XClub, an app for Infinix’s forums that go by the same name where users can engage other users as well as the company’s staff on issues with their device as well as other information, and Carlcare (who is Carl?), an app for service centres where users of the device can take theirs in for service or contact in case there’s an issue that needs expert advice and looking up. For instance, I was penning this article near the Westlands CP on Mpaka Road and it was prominently being suggested on the app. Other than that, nothing else. You start on a clean slate and this is so good.
- At Google I/O 2018 back in May, Transsion Holdings, Infinix’s mother company, was paraded on the world’s biggest stage for Google and Android-related stuff as being one of the device makers that Google would be partnering with to avail the image recognition tech that goes by the name Google Lens in the camera apps on devices it makes. One of the places where we get to see the fruits of that collaboration is in the Infinix Note 5 which is a natural fit because it is the result of an even bigger collaboration between the two companies.
- You cannot talk about Google Lens and ignore the camera app since it is built into it. The cameras on the Infinix Note 5, both the front and the back, look very promising. I am particularly impressed by the performance in low light since that is what I got to try out on the device when I first took it for a spin. I can’t wait to take it through its paces over the next few days and see how it manages to come out under different conditions.
- Unfortunately there’s no face unlock on sight.
- The most obvious thing that greets one when they open the box is the beautiful 18:9 screen on the Infinix Note 5. On any other day, this would be something that I would be more than ready to overlook instead of gushing over since it’s something that we have come to expect from Infinix smartphones these days but, hold on, they are rarity in Android One-land. In fact, it’s only the Nokia 7 Plus, whose price can buy you two and a half Infinix Note 5s, that I have used that has an 18:9 display and guess what? That also happens to be the first HMD Global device with such a panel.
- Urgh, there’s still a microUSB port on the device. I expected better, to be honest. Come on, Infinix! It’s 2018, time to move things forward. Much as some of us already have enviable collections of microUSB cables, it’s time to take a leap into the next generation because USB Type-C is no longer a future we are talking about, it’s already being adopted en masse.
- USB C or no USB C, at least the Note 5 has fast-charging as is indicated by the X-Charge branding on the adaptor.
At the launch event, Infinix promised 3-day battery life on the Infinix Note 5. That is not entirely surprising since the Infinix Notes are known for being “battery warriors” as I have fondly referred to some members of the series that I have reviewed in the past. However, those previous Infinix Notes have been able to be endurance champs because other than packing only the sensors that Infinix deems necessary for its users, they have also been using very adulterated software with optimizations meant to reign in on Android’s notorious resource hunger. Sure, Android P, which the Note 5 will be getting some day, promises to fix that, it is not here yet. So, how does the Infinix Note 5’s battery unit fair with stock Android?
The last two smartphones to be introduced in the Kenyan market by Infinix all pack Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets. For many a gadget freak, Qualcomm chipsets are held in high esteem for their performance prowess while their MediaTek counterparts are usually on the receiving end of constant bashing. Those two Infinix smartphones, the Hot 6 Pro and the Safaricom-exclusive Hot S3 register decent performance so, will the Note 5 be the one that becomes the black sheep of the family?
Those two and many more are the questions I will be looking to answer over the next few days as the Infinix Note 5 becomes my main phone.
One more thing: if you haven’t realized it already, blue is the new wave as far as smartphone colour options go. More so for budget devices where options are usually limited. So, if you are planning on getting a Note 5, get the blue one. Doing that also means that you’ll probably want to leave the included case at home when stepping out. Else if you’re going to hide all that beauty behind a case then just get whatever colour you find at the shop.