Happy New Year.
I spent a weekend with the Infinix Zero 4 Plus smartphone which is marketed as a ‘pro’ device, to be compared with other big name flagship smartphones out there. While I came away impressed with the device, there is still a gap between it and the more expensive flagship smartphones on the market. However, at its current price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find better value for your money.
- 5.98” 1080 x 1920 pixels IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- Mediatek Helio X20 (MT6797M) CPU
- Mali-T880 GPU
- 4 GB RAM
- 32 GB Internal Storage (24 GB useable)
- 20.7 MP rear camera with f/2.0 lens aperture, Optical Image Stabilization, Laser auto focus, and dual LED flash; 13 MP with flash
- Dual SIM Slot (Micro + Nano SIM/microSD card up to 128 GB)
- Android 6 Marshmallow + XOS
- GSM (2G)/HSDPA (3G)/LTE (4G) radios, FM Radio, Bluetooth v4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, Micro USB with USB-OTG support, & Fast Charge/XCharge
- 4,000 mAh non-removable battery
The phone comes in a compact, shrink wrapped, matte black box. Included with the phone are the usual collection of supporting accessories and then some: earplugs, micro-USB cable (no USB Type-C here), a 3-pin charger and a transparent protective case. A black envelope in the box contains some minimal documentation, a SIM tray pin and a tempered glass screen protector. Quite a bounty, especially when most manufacturers are content with putting just the phone and its charger in the box.
Taking the phone in your hands for the first time, you immediately notice the size. People, this phone is huge!! 5.5 inch screens are regarded as the upper limit for what most people are comfortable with but the Zero 4 Plus pushes this boundary with its 5.98” screen which takes the phones proportions to unwieldly heights. It will take a while to get used to the size and extra heft of this device, even for people with large hands. Luckily Infinix have devised a way to manage this issue (More on this in the software section).
Once you get over the size, you notice the rest of its features. The Zero 4 Plus isn’t going to win any awards for its design. It follows the same metal unibody construction that most smartphone manufacturers have adopted, with the necessary curves and chamfered edges to distinguish it from a block of metal. It is well built and there is a beauty in its simplicity and minimalist look, but its looks don’t make it stand out from the crowd of unibody smartphones out there.
It’s power button and volume rocker are on the right side of the phone and easy enough to reach while operating the phone in one hand. The power button has a textured feel that makes it easy to recognize by touch, but the relatively small size of the volume rocker means you will end up pressing the wrong volume button quite often.
The front of the phone is all glass with slim bezels to the sides, and no capacitive buttons at all. Up top is a 13-megapixel camera, a flash for those well-lit selfies, a notification LED and proximity sensor. The 1080 x 1920 pixels IPS display has impressive brightness levels and at this resolution pixels are more or less invisible to the naked eye, leading to a very impressive viewing experience whether in broad daylight or a dark room. For some reason, the brightness doesn’t adjust automatically to suit the environment so you must make use of the slider in the notification area to change that when necessary.
The back of the device houses a very responsive fingerprint sensor and the 20.7-megapixel camera which forms a massive hump that won’t allow the device to lie flat. That hump leaves the glass cover of camera vulnerable to scratches if you choose not to use the included case which lifts the phone high enough to prevent direct contact between the camera and whatever surface you lay it on.
The SIM tray on the left side of the phone can support 2 SIM cards (one nano-SIM and on micro-SIM). You can also use a micro SD card in one of the SIM slots if expanded memory is more important to you than an extra SIM, and the included 32GB isn’t enough for you.
A bottom mounted speaker outputs loud and crisp audio without distortion, even at high volumes. There’s barely any bass but you won’t have a problem picking out individual instruments when listening to music with this phone. Though it appears that both vents at the bottom are speakers, only the one on the right works. The other houses a microphone.
The Zero 4 Plus runs Infinix’s variant of Android 6.0 called XOS Chameleon. Whether it will be upgraded to 7.0 remains to be seen, but we won’t hold that against this device.
I’m all for fancy naming conventions but overblown android skins with too much bling are a no no for me. Thankfully XOS is pretty lean when it comes to customizations and animations. After all the initial android setup and fingerprint registration, you’re met with a home screen that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s used an android phone. Pulling down the notifications area overlays the homescreen with a semi-transparent cover on which rest your app notifications and some frequently used quick settings. Dragging down again reveals the entire quick notification area which is chock full of settings, some of which are obscure in their function. I have no idea what scrollshot and LED switch do and pressing toggling them either did nothing or gave an error message. You can however customize this area and remove whatever settings you feel are unnecessary.
Call quality is loud and clear under good network conditions and all the basic apps work are standard fare with no unnecessary gimmicks. There’s a theme app that allows you choose from a selection of themes that will change the look and feel of you interface and a compass app, in case you really need to know where the north is.
There are a few minor differences from the stock android experience in the UI too: app folders open to fill the screen rather than a small box; the app tray opens to display apps in a grid, sorted alphabetically with a search bar at the top; there’s a magazine lockscreen with offers up a different picture and quote when you press the power button to unlock the phone; pinching at the homescreen allows you hide all apps, in case you want to show off your beautiful wallpaper. Pressing Vol Down + Power allows you to take a screenshot as usual but Infinix went a step further with screen recording which is activated by pressing Vol Up + Power. This will record a video of what’s happening on your screen, along with the microphones capturing all nearby audio. XOS also has voice commands that you can use perform functions like unlocking the phone or launch an app, however the voice command is limited to only one function which makes it feel more like a gimmick that a full feature. This is the same with fingerprint sensor extra function. It can be used for one other thing other than unlocking the phone, such as a shutter button for the camera, answering calls or dismiss an alarm.
Let me say something about the back mounted fingerprint sensor though. On a phone this large it can a hassle to use. It’s responsive and all but it takes a while to get used to placing your index finger in the right position to activate it because of how wide the phone is. The number of times my fingerprint was not recognized was enough to make this an issue. The size of the phone will also be hinder one hand use too. Trying to reach to top of the phone with your thumb requires some nimble hand gymnastics that may lead to you dropping the phone. Infinix has mitigated this to some extent by including the ability to shrink the screen to a fraction of the available display space, bringing UI elements closer to your finger-tips. Swiping from the home button to the left or right of the screen activates this feature, and leaves a section of screen real estate blank in the process.
Infinix includes it usual suite of XOS apps, some of which are reskins of popular android apps and others which would probably have limited appeal. I can’t see any reason why I should sign up for XClub social network/forum or create an XAccount, but that’s just me. They’ve also included some other unique app offerings: an FM Radio (which is a genuinely welcome addtition); Magic Movie (which adds visual filters and sfx to videos shot on the phone); Multiple Accounts (which allows you use more than one account for any apps installed on the phone; and Aha which serves as an app curation service for the Google Play Store.
More pictures available in this Flickr Album
The 20.7-megapixel camera on the back is a capable performer and taking pictures on this phone is a speedy affair with quick, laser assisted autofocus and almost no lag between pressing the shutter and capturing a photo. Pictures taken in well-lit environments look beautiful, though the camera software tends to oversaturate these shots in my opinion. In low light situations, the pictures come out a bit noisy. The two-tone flash helps brighten the environment but doesn’t help much with the noise. It’s no Galaxy S7 or iPhone 7 but it will get the job done.
The front facing 13-megapixel camera is a little less capable. At its default setting tends to soften images in the name of beautifying them, leading to less desirable results, even with the flash. You can turn down the ‘beautifier’ to make your photos more natural though.
The camera app is straightforward to use with all the basic settings available onscreen. Swiping left or right brings up the settings and camera modes respectively. There’s also a ‘Pro’ button that allows you modify the camera’s ISO levels, exposure and white balance, which is a nice touch.
Video recording quality is very good at 1080p resolution and with optical image stabilization which means no more shaky, headache inducing home videos. Sound quality on these videos though isn’t as good. Most of the time audio sounded distant, and muted, like it was coming from far away source. Not exactly pro performance, but good enough.
The 4GB of RAM and Helio X20 processor make this phone fly!! App switching was effortless, animations were smooth. No hiccups whatsoever. Even playing demanding games was a pleasant experience. It handled Real Racing 3 with ease and only an occasional frameskip while Mortal Kombat X played perfectly. I was even able to switch between these two games without the phone having to reload either of them from the beginning. All this heavy-duty gaming did heat up the back of the phone but not to the point of being uncomfortable.
Battery life was beyond ridiculous!! The 4000mAh non-removable battery in this phone means that light use will see you go well over 24 hours before needing a recharge. After half a day of testing the phone while playing games, taking pictures, recording video and all sorts of other activities, I still had well over 60% battery by 5pm. When the battery drops to 15 %, you have the option of turning on Ultra Power mode which limits functionality of the device but extends the battery life for several more hours. And when you eventually do run out of juice, the included charger will have you back at 80% in less than an hour. With the kind of power problems we experience in these parts, features like this are very welcome.
The Infinix Zero 4 Plus is also a 4G phone, with band support for all the major Nigerian carriers. Simply put, you’ll be able to insert one of those new-fangled 4G SIMs into your device and connect to the supposedly faster 4G networks popping up around the country.
After all this long commentary, we go back to the question of whether this is a ‘Pro’ device or not. In my opinion, no it isn’t. For me to consider it so, it would have to excel at everything it does, which it doesn’t. It’s chunky and unwieldly and the camera is good but not great. It also lacks some of the killer features that most 2016 flagship device boast of. But one thing it does do well is provide a comparable user experience to these flagship devices at a fraction of their costs.
If you’re looking to get a new smartphone but unwilling to spend big bucks to get a device from the more recognized brand names, I’ll definitely recommend this phone.
Thank you for reading!