Infinix is no stranger in Kenyan households as of this writing. The brand, which sells phones alongside its siblings from Transsion Holdings such as ITEL and TECNO has, for some time now, understood that the majority of local smartphone consumers purchase budget phones. To this end, Infinix has often succeeded in filling the gap amid stiff competition from other smartphone vendors. Today’s star is the Hot 7, which was released locally less than two weeks ago. I have been playing with the device for more than a week, which is enough time for me to give a short opinion about it, including where it succeeds and which areas need polish.
First, here is a crash course for the Hot 7: there are three variants; the basic Hot 7 with 2 GB or RAM and 16 GB of onboard storage; another one with 2/32GB memory combo and lastly, the Hot 7 Pro that packs 3 gigs of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage and 4G. I have the second variant in my pocket, which has been great for me, at least for the most part.
I should also make it clear that the Infinix Hot 7 is the 7th iteration of the manufacturer’s budget-oriented Hot series of pocket computers. It is also the first iteration that has seen substantial design changes that include a screen cutout and dual cameras – all for the three models. This was a good move because current phones look the same with notches and dual or more lenses. It would have been remiss if Infinix stuck to the old design in a market where the competition has already churned out notched devices, including the recently announced SPARK 3 series by TECNO.
- A starting price of KES 10,000 is just right. A thousand more shillings secures you the model with 2/32GB memory.
- While built from plastic, it feels all right in my hands. The bezels are subjectively minimal, and it includes the necessary hardware features that should sell in the budget segment.
- While the device is equipped with an MTK chip (the Hot 6 Pro is equipped with a Snapdragon 425), we are glad that the chip is different from the one Infinix has been recycling from the Hot 4 days. In addition, memory options have been replenished, which is a good thing to have.
- In my opinion, the overall construction is solid for the price.
- The cameras, while functional, needs some improvements in coming days. It is still serviceable and takes stellar shots in daylight.
- The device is still running Android 8.1 Oreo in an era where Pie is the norm. Even the similarly priced SPARK 3 series have Android 9 Pie. Of course, this will not be an issue if there is a plan toupdate it to Pie.
- The speaker is placed at the back, a drastic departure from the likes of the Hot 5 that had front-firing speakers. This will not bother some people especially those who donot blast their speakers.
- While I understand the device costs KES 10,000, it struggles to perform some basic tasks, although I would not refer to it as a slow phone because, look at the price again!
- No 4G LTE, although the pro model with the wireless technology should be launching soon.
While the device has a notable pedigree, it is worth talking about from time to time. You see, Infinix has the Note series such as the excellent Note 5 from 2018 with Android One (and rocking Android 9 Pie already) that succeeded the Note 4 from 2017. These mid-range phones by the manufacturer offer more than their asking price. The Hot series serves consumers below the Note budget, and a constant release that is marked by iterative or major design updates are always welcome to give the customers something to look up to. The Hot 7 can also be referred to as the default alternative to the SPARK 3, a handful of HMD devices such as the Nokia 2 and incoming Nokia 1 Plus, Redmi 6A, among other budget rivals. Besides its shortcomings, the Hot 7 is still one of the best choice, for the price.
I was looking forward to another colour of the device such as black. The gold model (only the back plate is painted, which can be popped off to give access to the non-removable battery, two SIM and micro SD card slots) look good, but you may prefer another colour.
In terms of handling, the Hot 7 is comfortable, with reachable buttons on the ride side. Charging and data transfers are handled by a micro-USB port at the bottom that’s nestled alongside a mouthpiece. At the top end is a 3.5 mm headphone socket. Infinix loyally provides earphones in the box (Xiaomi would never), but I will advise you to get alternatives because they are not the best in terms of sound quality and comfort.
Speaking of sound, Infinix decided to put the loudspeaker at the back of the device similar to phones from 2011. It is not the right spot, and while it can get plenty loud, I’m still disappointed why it chose the position in place of the bottom end next to the micro-USB port.
Now, the screen is HD+ (720 by 1520, 19.5:9 aspect ratio), which is okay for the price point. I suspected it is not protected by any technology (which is me asking for too much), but that is fine in my books. It gets quite bright, although outdoor usage with the intense sun can be a chore. The display cutout houses an 8 MP selfie camera, a front flash that serves as notification light and an earpiece. Bezels around it are skinny, which is a thing you do not see quite often for budget devices.
You can lock and unlock the device with your face or a fingerprint scanner at the back. The scanner is not the fastest around, but I’m glad it is there for all models. Face unlock is quite reliable, although a tad slow too. You can skip all of that for a PIN or pattern, and the latter is my personal favourite. The avalability of these options is key to users who need a variety of ways to secure their handheld.
In our unboxing first impressions article, I mentioned that the Hot 7’s app drawer did not show any ads and boy, wasn’t happy! The experience has since been the same, and I’m not sure whether the folks at Transsion axed them or they will eventually make their dreaded way back. Either way, spamming users with app suggestions and blatant adverts across the UI was intrusive, and it has to go if there are plans of reviving it. To this end, I can report that an ad-free experience has been great while using the fourth iteration of XOS that happens to be filled with a couple of apps you may not use (but can uninstall right away – which you should like yours truly). The UI can also be spruced up with themes and hundreds of wallpapers packed in XTheme because customizability is key.
Another aspect of the software is the OS: it is Android 8.1 Oreo that will most likely not be updated to Pie. I know many people do not care about this, but I just wanted to point it out considering the SPARK 3, as well as other handhelds from consumers such as HMD already ship with Pie. Pie has neat features such as Digital Wellbeing and cosmetic overhauls that make the entire software experience better. I should also point out that XOS is starting to feel a bit stale, and we are really looking forward to the day Infinix will redesign the interface with a touch of modernism.
As predicted, the Hot 7 is a battery champ and believe it or not, I have charged it twice in a week. Admittedly, my primary SIM is another device, and while my usage was between the two phones, I’m still impressed by the phone’s endurance and overall performance. The 4000 mAh cell is large, which is also compounded by the fact that the device does not pack cutting edge features to drain its juices. Oh, the battery takes more than two hours to fill up, but that should be the least of your concerns to be honest.
Perhaps my major gripe with the device is lack of 4G. I do not know why it a reserve for the pricier Hot 7 Pro that is yet to hit local store shelves. At a time when LTE coverage is vast, a lot of people are going to feel shortchanged by 3G speeds, especially folks who are used to higher speeds. I hope the Hot 8 rectifies this blunder. For a timely remedy, users can choose to wait for the Hot 7 Pro with 4G that should be making its way to the country very soon.
There are so many things that the Hot 7 does right: it is competitively priced, it features several hardware improvement that aligns to modern smartphone trends, it is has a very big battery and while it stutters in some occasions, performance is okay. On the other hand, skipping to equip it with a 4G radio for the first two models is unforgivable, although users can choose to buy the incoming 3/32 GB model that has LTE mentioned previously. Other issues are trivial and can be ignored by may many of use.
The competition has a lot to offer, and we will report how the Hot 7 stacks up against Huawei Y6 Prime 2019 and perhaps, the SPARK 3.