Infinix Note 5: The best Android experience on the cheap

If you are always up to date with what’s (should I say popping?) new in the mobile tech world then you are already questioning the truth of that title you just read. And you are not alone. The question whether the Infinix Note 5 provides the best Android experience, not just Android One, in the budget smartphone segment is what I have been asking myself ever since I laid my hands on the device a month ago.

Sure, the jury is still out on whether stock Android, or anything that is close to the stock Android experience advocated for by Google and Android purists, or custom Android, like Xiaomi’s MIUI, Infinix’s XOS, Samsung’s TouchWiz, Tecno’s HiOS, Huawei’s EMUI etc, provide the best Android experience. However, outside the spheres of Google’s Android and AOSP (I tried explaining the difference here), there is only “one Android” worth talking about and that is the experience that me and you get as users.

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Granted that Android is defined by so many things to the point that it’s easy to give up and, like I always like saying whenever my defeatist attitude kicks in, “do you”, it is the overall experience that matters. Many are the times that we hear people saying that they dumped Android for iPhone “because Android is trash” and we end up having too many question marks because the two are two different things, never mind that one is a platform while the other is just a smartphone.

To be honest, outside our usual geek circles, no one cares. No one gives a damn. All that everyone wants is a damn good experience.

So, it’s the work of whoever is responsible for developing a product to put together something that meets that expectation. It’s pointless to be constantly talking about 8 processor cores and a graphics card with a nonsensical long name yet the performance is mediocre.

Value addition

The Infinix Note 5, at its favourable pricing of just over Kshs 17,000, has struck me over the last one month as something that tries, and for the most part succeeds, to be such a device. Sure, the local market is not devoid of impressive options, at least on paper, but none is as complete a package as the Infinix Note 5, as I came to learn.

A variant of the Xiaomi Mi A1, a device I bought with my hard-earned money back in January and reviewed here, can be hard for just under Kshs 2,000 more while a new Nokia-branded smartphone that many reviewers around the world are singing praises for, can be had for Kshs 1,000 less (even much less in some places) than the Infinix Note 5. Yet, they are all still not as attractive options as the Infinix Note 5 is.

This is why: the Note 5 is the best value for money at its price.

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Sure, you can go with the 32GB Mi A1 but you’ll be paying a little more for a 2017 smartphone and, while we are yet to know Infinix’s approach to this whole Android One business when it comes to updates – so far the company has done as it has just availed the July security patch – we do know so well that Xiaomi’s approach to the same is not the best. Sure, you’ll be getting features an infrared blaster and whatnot but what about the entire package?

The Nokia 3.1? Well, unfortunately as things stand, when it comes to the spec sheet of any smartphone, the consensus is that more is always better. Bigger battery? Probably better battery life. More storage? More peace of mind. More memory? Well, better performance. And so on and so on. So, why would you deprive yourself of more system resources and settle for HMD Global’s option?

Design

I’ve got to admit, handling the Infinix Note 5 is not the easiest of tasks. Not only is the device slippery, hence an easy candidate for a date with the floor, it also has a larger profile. The side button (power, volume) takes this and the device’s longer and slim frame (because, 18:9 display) into consideration with their placement leaving users to worry about the smudges they’ll leave on the shiny back and the risk of accidental drops (why a case comes in highly recommended – there’s one in the box).

Feature set

These features that I am waxing lyrical about, what are they?

The cameras on the Infinix Note 5 are good and, bar the usual hallmark of all Infinix Note 5 smartphones, should be top on your list of why you should pick the Note 5 over anything else within its price range.

I’ve been too busy doing the things that I do best to be able to put the Note 5’s cameras to good use but the few times I took it for a spin, it did not disappoint. Could it have been better? Yes, definitely. The beauty mode goes overboard in its cleaning up efforts. Or how else do you explain me looking like I carry baby powder in my backpack for my non-existent wet nose?

It’s no slouch when it comes to performance. I happened to be using the device just when the sequel to my drug for the last 5 years, Asphalt 8: Airborne, hit the Play Store. Of course, you can already guess what happened next: I was glued to the 6-inch display accelerating further and further from my worldly troubles in a virtual environment. Not even for a moment did the device give up. It rose to the occasion when I demanded that of it. What more could you ask?

Other than the Note 5 being a performance champ, there’s not much else to talk about it when factoring in the software experience. It’s the same as that on other Android One devices, nothing exceptional about it. As is the network experience both on cellular networks and on other wireless networks.

The fingerprint sensor located at the back of the device is just as snappy as the overall software experience. Well, this has been the case for most devices for a while now but with the Note 5 lacking what is almost a must-have feature this year, face unlock, it’s worth mentioning. While it often feels like face unlock is a gimmick, given that it can be found on devices that many places below the Note 5 in the pecking order, I see no reason why it couldn’t make it here. Maybe it will arrive in a future update like it has done on older Infinix devices that shipped without it?

Devices in Infinix’s Note smartphone lineup are well known for one thing: long battery life. The Infinix Note 5 keeps the dignity and honour of its family intact by delivering on this front in a big way. Infinix promises 3-day battery life with the Note 5. Well, while that is a stretch, at least going by my experience, you won’t struggle to attain 2-day battery life unless your usage is on the extreme end of the spectrum. This is because the battery lasts and lasts. The kind of long-lasting that will make all the insecure men out there jealous. If you ask me, this is the device’s biggest selling point.

A nice display, nice camera, great performance, stock Android and what have you are pointless when the device that has them is nowhere when you need it. Throw in X-Charge and it’s not even up for discussion what you should get if you have a loose Kshs 17,000 lying somewhere and you are in the market for a smartphone.

The good

  • Good display
  • Good camera
  • Long battery life
  • Fast-charging

The bad

  • No face unlock
  • The back is a fingerprint magnet – put a case on it
  • Still no USB Type-C
  • The speakers are so-so

The lowdown

Buy it!

To be honest, that is a no-brainer if you are in the market for a smartphone and have the money.

Since I have no idea how the Note 5 will manage to hold up in the long run, this may seem like a gamble. However, from my experience with its predecessor – which I still keep to date and do use occassionally – that shouldn’t really be a problem. On any other day, would you believe I just said that about an Infinix smartphone? That should tell you everything you need to about the device.

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How soon can it get Android Pie?

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com