Infinix Hot 8 review: Barely hot

It is just over half a year since we had an in-depth look at the Infinix Hot 7. Now with the device’s successor having hit the market, is it as worthy of the consideration by the entry-level smartphone buyer as its predecessor was?

That is exactly what I have been out to find out over the last few weeks that I have had the Infinix Hot 8 with me.

While there is a lite variant of the device that costs just Kshs 1,000 less, my interactions have been limited to the standard variant which is what has been provided to us by the company for testing and review. This exactly what was the case back in March when the Infinix Hot 7 debuted.

The difference is that this time around, Infinix had the guts to give the lower-specced variant a name, Infinix Hot 8 Lite. It also kept things “lite”, opting to drop the many variants that characterized the sixth generation last year. It also misses out on 4G LTE.

Like the Hot 7, the Hot 8 keeps its slim and light aesthetics as well as the glossy back (varies by colour model). So much that snapping the included plastic case feels like a chore with the added weight, however negligible, being immediately recognizable.

Staying with the design, the back of the device is no longer removable, as it was on the Hot 7. This, other than usual advantage of being handy when it comes to absorbing the shock that comes with a drop, isn’t any significant since the removable back cover on the Hot 7 didn’t have any plus besides allowing access to the SIM and microSD card slots. One couldn’t swap batteries and Infinix never bothered to offer swappable back covers.

Other changes in the design of the device include the moving around of some notable features. The headphone jack moves from up top to the bottom. The tiny speaker that stood out on the lower back of the Hot 7 is now prominently placed next to the microUSB charging port on the bottom of the device. The top remains clean.

Another immediately recognizable feature as soon as one turns the device on its back is the addition of a third image sensor. The Infinix Hot 7 arrived with a dual-camera setup at the back. The Infinix Hot 8 changes the optics with a triple-camera arrangement.

Does that come with any improvements?

Barely. The cameras at the back and that on the front don’t fare that well in low-light situations but they try to punch above their weight in well-lit surroundings, something that most will appreciate. However, the slow shutter speed means that without a little bit of patience, one is likely to end up with more blurry shots than they would expect. Obviously, the AI camera can only do so much.

While the camera manages to get by and slip through given the device’s low profile, one thing that we cannot overlook is the performance of the device. It is not exactly popping and, most times, it was disappointing. Or how else do you describe the feeling that comes with opening an input field only for the keyboard, the default one, by the way (Gboard), to take over half a minute before showing up? Hopefully, things are better on the variant with 3GB memory that is available exclusively on Jumia starting tomorrow.

The situation isn’t helped by Infinix’s insistence on bundling as many of its traditional features as possible. There are pre-installed game apps that you barely need, utility software that doesn’t add much to the overall user experience and the usual annoyances: instant apps, ads and what have you. The good thing, as always, is that a quick trip to the settings application – as well as other means – will have the user disabling or uninstalling much of the bloat but, surely, should it ever come to that?

Don’t get me wrong. Not all the “value additions” are misses. There’s the YoParty app, for instance, which allows users to pair their devices and play music in unison, something that Huawei has also tried its hand in on its Y series in the past. Something that Samsung first wowed us with years ago.

For anyone upgrading from Infinix’s other entry-level device lineup, the Smart series, the Hot 8 will be both familiar and refreshing. The latter makes it appealing for the upgrade while the former makes it an obvious choice if one is buying the device for someone using an older low-cost Infinix smartphone, the kind of lock-in that Infinix probably hopes to achieve with XOS (and we can’t blame them for that, to be honest). It is not limited by the resource constraints of Android Go, which powers those 1GB RAM devices but still keeps everything just where the user expects to find it.

Staying with the software, while there’s the included BoomPlay music streaming service whose app is preloaded, I have been pretty much limited to Apple Music throughout the review period. The reason? Well, for some reason, Spotify was being blocked from installing (such elitist problems, I know). Urgh. Thankfully, though, that is the only app that I encountered such an issue on. I had no issues restoring all the other apps I have come to rely for my day-to-day phone usage.

Talking about music, if you plan on storing your MP3s locally, or, for the privileged few among us who use music streaming services (cache and all), both free and paid, you may have to proceed with caution. This is because the 32GB onboard storage is nothing to write home about. It’s not the 8GB of yesteryear, which is what you could expect on devices like the Infinix Hot 8, but it sure does feel close.

By the time I was done installing what I consider to be my must-have/essential apps and restoring critical data like messages (WhatsApp, SMS), I’d already used up 46% of the available storage leaving just little enough wiggle room to get a few playlists of mine from Apple Music offline. A little overindulgence on YouTube doing the same and we’d hit the red line real quick. This is the kind of offering that you get on a device this affordable and so, you learn real quick to manage your expectations. You can still expand the available space all the way up to 128GB and trust me, it’s something you’ll definitely want to do if you want the many hours of screen-on-time attainable with the device to be worth it.

The Infinix Hot 8’s endurance, given that battery unit’s 5,000mAh rating, is expected to be like nothing we have seen before on the Hot lineup. Does it live up to that expectation? Well, that’s such big a call that we have a totally different feature piece on it that you should look forward to. Just know this: if you go with the Infinix Hot 8, you will struggle to get a device at this same price point, that can hold a candle to it, let alone burn the wax for as long as the device will last. In short, you will be impressed.

All that said, where does that leave us?

The design, display (yes, even though we haven’t spent any time on it, it’s just fine, notch and all) and high-endurance rating do stand out on the Infinix Hot 8 while the so-so camera experience serves to remind us what we are looking at: a Kshs 11,000 device that bites more than it can chew. There are a couple of extras that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere on similarly-priced devices. Like, face unlock and a fingerprint sensor that works just fine. And, of course, ready support for Safaricom’s VoLTE and JTL’s Faiba4G.

To be honest, the Infinix Hot 8 reminds me of the Huawei Y6 Prime 2019 which is a much better rival for its predecessor but which also fits the bill very well in this case when it comes to what matters the most: a match of the features on offer and the pricing.

Everything that I like about the Infinix Hot 8 is exactly what I liked about the Y6 and everything I loath on the Hot 8 is exactly what had me pulling my hair during my time with the Huawei device. The key difference? The Infinix is more in tune with our expectations at this point in the year than the Huawei, which is disadvantaged only by its age. We can’t be sure, though, that if updated today in whatever variation, the pricing would hit the Hot 8’s mark and that, at this segment of the market, matters. A lot.

There is also the Samsung Galaxy A10 but, spec-wise, the Hot 8 already wipes the floor with it. Its successor, the A10s, barely touches it, at least on paper.

READ:  Infinix Hot 8 specifications

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