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Introduction

At the moment, Infinix has become a household name in the Kenyan market, and we must admit that the folks at Transsion Holdings have done a darn good job in understanding the dynamics of a local consumer as far as smartphone habits are concerned. The number of phones the manufacturer churns out is high, but the marketing decisions that compel Infinix to build as many iterations of a handset are not surprising because there is a market for them, and there is need to catch up with industry demands that are sometimes unforgiving. With this in mind, we are going to look into the offerings of the Infinix Hot S3 that is a Safaricom exclusive. The aim is to determine if the device deserves your KES 18,999, so you are at the right place if you are in a dilemma as to what phone to buy in a KES 10,000-20,000 range that is littered with multiple options.

Specifications

We already covered Hot S3’s specs on another piece. You can read the article here.

The Good

Size

The phone does an excellent job at being small. In a market that is filled to the brim with phones with big screens, using a small device is a breath of fresh air. It reminded me of the fine ol’ days when using a smart device with a single hand was a thing.

The Screen

Infinix Hot S3

It is bright and with mass-appealing colours that anybody who buys the phone (based on their budget) will hardly fault it. It is only 720p, but that does not limit it to older panels of the same resolution that were, quite frankly, dull and generally bad.

The Cameras

Similar the screen, Infinix has done a good job in fine-tuning their cameras for the selfie-loving folks out here. The primary camera is impressive for the price, and pictures look satisfyingly admirable on the already good screen.

Battery

It is huge, and we doubt you will hug a wall any time of the day if you leave your house at 100%. We are not surprised by the move to fit a 4000 mAh cell in the phone’s body as Infinix has does the same thing with other Hot devices. Its performance is even better thanks to Oreo 8.1 optimizations and HiOS V.3.0.0 battery saving features. What is more, the battery can be topped rather quickly.

Updates

Over the two-week period I’ve played with the Hot S3, the device has received two serious updates. I say serious because these bug-squashing fixes are not your ordinary 50 MB-heavy updates but big ones to the tune of 300 MB. I have noted a significant improvement on the face unlocking-feature that was quite slow when we unboxed the phone. We are not sure if Safaricom has a hand in this (the exact relationship between Infinix and Safaricom is still a grey area, for me, at least), but we hope the handheld continues to receive updates in a timely manner.

The Bad

Price

The Hot S3 costs a healthy KES 18,999. That is a lot of money for a device that has only a 720p screen, slower and older chipset, as well as a single SIM slot in a market that believes in dual-SIM phones. In comparison, Infinix just released the Note 5 that runs on the Android One program (meaning it has stock Android to boot and guaranteed primary updates for the next 18 months and security updates for the next three years – if that is important to you), and costs KES 1000 less. In my opinion, it is a better buy than the S3 – and to add salt to injury, Safaricom has been known to jack up the price of its phones by thousands of shillings – which is in bad taste for some people; but the telco pushes their sales with heavy adverts that need to be recovered, so there is that.

The Screen

It adopts the modern trend of skinny, 18:9 aspect ratio, which makes it thinner. However, it loses points on the resolution. Being a budget device, Infinix has learned the art of squeezing the best of specs (at a particular price range), so they could have done better with the Hot S3. PS: Last year’s Note 4 had an excellent 1080p screen but cost almost KES 5,000 less.

Design

There is nothing particularly interesting about the phone. It is generic, with buttons at their ordinary positions. I get this is a budget phone, but it appears Infinix deliberately avoided going all flashy because bland works in most cases. Some may even call it boring.

Audio Output

It is bad, especially with the packed earphones. Volume is low, flat and cannot serve you well in particularly loud surroundings.

What is in the box and hardware overview

It appears that phone manufacturers are out here trying to eat into the market of case distributors as the past year has seen OEMs package clear, plastic cases for their shiny devices. I actually don’t recall a device from Transsion Holdings that started selling a year or so ago without an included case. The same holds for the S3, which should keep the phone clean for a lengthy amount of time.

In the box are the ordinary Infinix earphones that haven’t been changed for half a decade, and they are not good, so you may need to purchase another set separately if you love your ears like I do.

There is a charging brick and a USB A cable for charging and data transfer purposes. It is capable of respectable charging speeds, which is always a plus.

As I mentioned above, the design of the phone is nothing to write about. All buttons are on the right side, while the left has a SIM/SD card tray. By the way, the power button is knurled to separate it from the volume rocker. Tick.

A single firing speaker lives on the bottom end. The 3.5mm headphone socket is at the top.

At the back is a vertically placed 13 MP camera and dual-LED flash combo, a fingerprint sensor that could be faster and an Infinix logo.

The 5.7-inch display includes on-screen nav buttons.

Thankfully, a notification LED finds its way here, and we hope all manufacturers could do this (looking at you, OPPO F7). A large LED flash snugs alongside the earpiece for selfies and lighting up a face in case you need to unlock your phone in the dark.

On the whole, there is nothing dramatic about the design. It looks subjectively good, and that works for the target buyers.

Camera samples

Here are some samples we took for your judgment.

Buy or pass?

Safaricom has managed to build a good relationship with its customers, especially in regard to customer care. That relationship is especially good if it translates to sales and good after-sale support. In most instances, this has been the case for obvious reasons.

In my opinion, if after-sale support is important to you, and it should, then go ahead and buy the Hot S3. Not that other third-party retailers suck at customer care because all Infinix devices sold locally are meant for the Kenyan market, hence, local warranties – but there is a sense of trust that the mobile operator has been accorded and will charge you a premium having worked really hard at building its reputation.

Buy the phone if you don’t care about dual-SIM devices.

Buy the Hot S3 if a front flash is markedly critical for your selfies. While at it, squeeze as many selfies as possible from the 20 MP sensor.

The phone is also good if battery life is one of the ticks that have to be checked in your list. Furthermore, it makes a good case a small device that can be used with a single hand san any ergonomic qualms.

On the other hand, you can get a better device at a lesser fee. Case in point is the Infinix Note 5 that we keep mentioning, which is a better phone is virtually all ways save for camera performance that we are yet to establish.

Conclusion

Phones are getting better, especially in the mid to budget segments. These are niches that receive notable attention in markets such as Kenya where the purchasing power is centred on those two brackets. Infinix, among other manufacturers such as Tecno and Xiaomi, have conquered the range with appealing handhelds that, truthfully, offer more than we could ever ask for. The same things can be said for the Hot S3, which, frankly, does not try as much to make a name for itself considering it costs a cool KES 18,999. It is somewhat sluggish if you push it, includes a lot of not-so-good value addition apps, blatant and sneaky ads on the lock screen and app drawer, but revives itself with good cameras especially the one at the front. Battery life is unsurprisingly good.

So, depending on what we have highlighted, the choice lies in your hands.

In our opinion, we can recommend it, but it could be better. Much better.

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