Earlier this week HiSense announced its rugged 5″ Infinity KO smartphone that is ‘life proof’. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an outdoors person or not, but having a phone that you drop often by accident, toss into the pool (kids!) or take on extreme outdoor sporting is hugely beneficial. Yes, this is what HiSense means when it says the Infinity KO is ‘life proof’ – it is water/shock/dust-proof, with a certified IP67 rating.
The handset, designed to withstand extreme conditions, still manages to look good. It is characterised by shock absorbing material around the edges at the top and bottom, has a waterproof seal between the phone and back cover, and the 5″ screen is protected by Gorilla glass 4. If you’re taking the phone to the pool, it will survive 1m underwater for up to 30 minutes – more than enough time to capture photos and videos.
The handset has the charging port and dual SIM slots on the left (micro SIM x2); a 3.5mm audio jack on the top, with a waterproof cover; and a power, volume, & camera buttons to the right. It has 32GB of built-in storage so need for microSD slots. It is powered by a Snapdragon 415 chip running on a 1.36GHz octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM; and has 3200mAh battery. The KO is 4G/LTE enabled.
The 5-inch handset doesn’t feel that huge, either because it’s slim enough and fits nicely in the hand, or I’ve just gotten used to handsets that are 4.7-inch and upwards. It’s only slight taller and marginally wider than my current iPhone 6S.
It ships with Android Lollipop 5.1 with the HiSense Vision UI overlay, which reminds of a Huawei handset. I like that when you want to kill apps running in the background, you can opt to free up all your memory, which closes all tasks running in the background. Just tap the broom icon when you want to switch between apps, instead of individually killing them.
There’s no app tray, but it comes with a lot of preinstalled apps. Aside from the regular Google suite (including Play Music), it comes with folders like “tools”, “hot app” and “desktop tools”. If I’m being honest, it’s not all necessary and you’re probably not gonna use more than half of them. I do like the stand-alone WiFi icon though, for obvious reasons – you want to connect to WiFi in as few taps as possible, right? 🙂
Thanks to a tip from @Arfness, I deleted the Facebook app from my other Android handsets as it drains your battery, so didn’t bother installing it on the KO either; just Twitter and Instagram. I don’t even have notifications turned on for FB on my iPhone, so don’t really miss it. The phone has been great for browsing or watching videos, which brings me to my next point. The built-in Dolby sound makes a huge difference; don’t turn it off, especially when watching videos. You may also find that because the speakers are at the back, you cannot leave the device on its back and watch anything, sound would be muffled. Just prop it up against something.
As someone who uses built-in keyboards on all handsets, I just don’t like the layout on the HiSense when it comes to numbers. It’s confusing because all my passwords have numbers in it and feels weird when I instinctively type a number and it’s not where I expect it to be. Certain things across all handsets should be universal.
The main camera on the KO is 13-megapixels; while the selfie cam is 5-megapixels. You can take pics in either 4:3 or 16:9 in 6/8/13MP. I didn’t find it to be very fast/snappy. It comes with various modes like beauty, macro, HDR, night, audio note (to record a note after taking a pic) and baby mode (don’t ask). It also has built-in effects which aren’t that great. Here’s a sample shot in HDR, images are not as sharp, which you’ll notice when you zoom in.
I found that while HDR does colour correct properly, it adds a level of brightness to the photo that isn’t necessary, which takes away from the real colours of what’s in front of you. Example the grass is greener when you take it the pic on another camera. Anyway, it’s not something photo editing app cannot fix.
Here’s an example of a macro shot:
The HiSense Infinity XO is currently available from The Foschini Group stores for R3999. It will be available at major retailers at the end of Feb like Makro, Game, Dion Wired. Currently none of the networks are carrying the handset because it’s dual SIM. However, it will be available on one of them soon, which hasn’t been announced.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 15 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com