The Infinix S4, the latest Infinix smartphone you can buy in the country at this time, is many things. If you get one, it will be many things to you. To Infinix, it is supposed to be your companion when it comes to capturing your memories and storing digitally (forever?).
To me, as I put it through its paces over the last 3 weeks, it has stood out in several ways, in addition to being the one device that I could turn to for my photography needs, however, limited my skills along those lines usually are.
Ultimately, though, the Infinix S4’s design, endurance and price, in addition to those amazing cameras stand out for me.
Whether it’s that glint under the spring Andalusia sun or the glow under my smart lights at home, the Infinix S4’s design has echoes of an industry trend that we have already seen with the Huawei smartphones we have reviewed here in the past.
The gradient colouring that defines the Nebula Blue colour variant in my possession for the purposes of this review will always be a sight to behold. Well, assuming that it keeps its end of the bargain long after the first few months.
Granted, it doesn’t feel as light as other Infinix devices we have seen in recent months, it manages to distribute its weight evenly along its expansive breadth to make for a device that is not only pleasant to look at but also to hold. To handle. To use daily.
With 3 sensors at the back and a whopping 32-megapixel sensor on the front and the reputation of its predecessors to keep, to say that the cameras on the Infinix S4 are the standout feature is an understatement. They are supposed to be everything, at least going by the hype around this device.
Do they deliver, though?
I’ll let the results speak for themselves [spolier: it’s so good]:
It hadn’t dawned on me how good the selfies the Infinix S4 takes until I blew them up on my computer, zooming in and out to see how that 32-megapixel shooter fares. It’s good. As you can see from the gallery above, it even rises to the occasion under low light settings!
The 3 cameras on the back equally do their bit, very well I must say.
There’s the bit where the dynamic is off (like you can see in those selfies where the supposed blue skies above the Atlantic Ocean have a greenish hue) but hey, at this price, that’s something I can excuse.
While the lack of an LED flash for the selfie camera is very evident, it is not missed. The screen flash does just fine.
I also liked the AI camera’s scene optimization/tuning, especially at night when the results were likely to be disastrous had I been left on my own devices to adjust a thing here or there (assuming I had access to the pro mode one gets on other devices) but it kicked in to save the day.
If you’ve read past reviews I have written of Infinix devices then you can probably predict a lot of what I have to say about the software on the Infinix S4.
That is because not much has changed. In fact, save for some visual aspects I will highlight briefly, functionality-wise, XOS remains largely the same, crippled by all the little annoyances that those of us who get to use other takes on Android customization may find intolerable and which, first time inductees into Infinix’s way of doing things, may not even notice.
Like the addition of a sign up to their forums I noticed as soon as I got around to setting up the S4 on day 1.
Or the annoying nudges to indulge in some of those “instant apps” that Infinix offers, never mind that that may not exactly be the kind of instant apps we like and endorse.
Then there’s the usual: ads, ads and more ads. I’ve shouted myself hoarse over this matter and here’s to hoping that someone reads this review and, for the umpteenth time, does something about it.
On the positive side, though, there are lots of interesting additions and changes that I noticed and which I like. The dark Quick Settings menu is the first of them. Yes, why wait for Android Q when you can already get this?
Talking about Android Q, we don’t know what sort of fate awaits the Infinix S4 but the signs so far are good.
There is built-in screen recording (a feature that the stock Android crowd that would naturally take many swipes at custom Android software like XOS will only get when Android 10 arrives later in the year), there’s a “bike mode”, a “WhatsApp mode” and, even better if you are a gamer, “Game boost”.
For those that find the Infinix S4’s 6.2-inch display unwieldy, a problem I gladly don’t have, there’s a one-handed mode to boot.
A “smart panel” added to the device’s home screen even brings many of these features, like screen recording, closer while also providing easy access to some functions. Like, for instance, composing a new tweet. Or taking a selfie. No need to go to the app drawer (assuming you have, like yours truly, removed all apps from the home screens and restricted them there) to fire up Twitter or the camera app, which can take a few seconds more.
The overall look, feel and even usability of the user interface has been retained with everything feeling pretty much the same. Those who like Infinix software, version 5.0, which goes by the Cheetah moniker, will make them like it even more. For those who hate it and swear by other options, it doesn’t do much to entice them to change their sentiments or even consider embracing it.
Notice how I didn’t talk about one of the Infinix S4’s standout features, that notch? It’s because beyond its inclusion, a first for the Infinix S lineup and a first for its entire device tree with that teardrop style, there is not much. It stays in its place and you can get rid of it if you don’t want it. Nothing much.
The teardrop notch is pretty much a me-too addition at this point. If this device cost 5 times its current price, which will make that the Huawei P30 (standard variant) then I’d probably ask Infinix to do more, to innovate. It doesn’t. It’s a budget device and, as such, it does what it does to get by. To stay stylish. There’s no fault there. In fact, if anything, that ends up being a headache to the devices that compete with it by either price or features.
There is not much to say on this front. The choppiness that I have previously encountered on past Infinix devices I have interacted with is at a minimum only bearing its ugly head once in a while. Overall, everything else works well and there’s not much to complain about.
The battery life is fantastic. A full day of use and still some juice left to see me off to bed has been pretty much the norm on the days I have called on the Infinix S4 to be my companion.
The only let down is that Infinix still sticks by the tried and tested microUSB for both charging and data transfer, denying users a chance to have better experiences when doing both. I mean, worrying that you are plugging in the wrong way shouldn’t be a problem anyone has in 2019, right? Then there’s the small matter about fast charging which is missing on Infinix’s budget smartphone.
- The design is great. I can’t speak for all the colour options but the Nebula Blue colour model goes a long way in making that design pop.
- The camera. For the selfie lovers, they’ll be spending quite some time using it as it manages to hold up its end of the bargain. Well, save for the few seconds lag in between sessions – when you choose to view what you have snapped from the viewfinder, some time is taken before one is transferred to the image viewer.
- Good battery life.
- Fast face unlock.
- The speaker is a letdown.
- XOS is still, well, XOS. Sigh.
- The lack of fast charging, while understandable on a budget device, should be something that Infinix considers since, unlike other device makers that have devices that cost as much as Kshs 100,000, at its price, the Infinix S4 is already half of the highest pricing Infinix current has on any device.
Infinix does have a variant of the S4 that doubles both the flash storage and the memory and while that is good to have as an option and especially since the S4’s onboard storage fills up quickly, I can’t stress enough how good a deal the 3GB RAM variant is at Kshs 15,000. Move a step higher to the Kshs 19,000 that Infinix is asking for for the 6GB RAM variant and there’s no better deal in the market.
Infinix doubles down on the camera with the S4 and this is probably what will drive many to it, especially selfie lovers. However, that shouldn’t cloud the fact that the device is itself a package that includes some of the nicest designs you can get without breaking the bank while still bringing Pie to the table.