Android with a hint of iPhone: Innjoo’s budget One 3G HD reviewed

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Innjoo is a new tech brand out of Dubai, and the first product in the company’s phone-and-tablet lineup has hit South Africa.

It’s an Android smartphone called the Innjoo One 3G HD, and it makes a memorable first impression: that of an Android phone doing its utmost to mimic the look and feel of one from another company based in Cupertino, California.

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That interface sure looks familiar…

But that’s by no means a bad thing; the One 3G HD’s emulation of the most successful phone in the world brings the best of Android and iOS together in a single package, and what a package it is, especially considering the price of just R2 499.

Yes, really – R2 499. This incredibly-engineered phone will cost barely more than the entry-level phones we’ve been going gaga over for months now. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

We were given early access to one ahead of its South African launch this week, and this is what we thought. For the sake of brevity, I’ll call the phone the One or the Innjoo from here on in.

Design

It’s hard to pick up the One and not think of the iPhone 4. That’s because the Innjoo feels quite a lot like Apple’s 2013 flagship, but a flatter, leaner version that takes that phone’s chamfered metal edges, metal body and overall feeling of quality and ramps everything up to 11.

Even its default home screen mimics Apple’s iOS operating system with its four drawer icons and flat, smooth app icons, made possible by InnUI, Innjoo’s own Android interface overlay.

The changes to vanilla Android, though subtle, are very well thought out, lending the Innjoo a unique yet strangely familiar look and feel that iOS and Android fans should both appreciate.

And that body…. wow!

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So thin.

The One’s metal body is a very slim 6.9mm thick, weighs just 123g and supports a five-inch, 720p screen that has dedicated interface buttons instead of buttons that use up screen real estate. The power and volume rocker buttons are found along the right edge, and both are very solid and feel like they will survive hundreds of thousands of presses. Everything about the phone feels like it was considered, refined, and finally implemented only when the designers were 100% happy.

The display is protected by Dragontrail glass, another super-hard, scratch-resistant glass similar to the Gorilla Glass found on other phones. According to Wikipedia Dragontrail isn’t technically quite as tough as GG as it has a slightly lower Vickers hardness testing score, but it’s still good at providing excellent resistance to the kind of scratches the average smartphone will be subjected to. Plus it’s cheaper.

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SIM and microSD card slots.

As a result of all this refinement in its design, the phone looks amazing and feels wonderful to hold, giving the likes of Huawei’s P8 a run for its money in the physical appeal stakes.

And then there’s the fact that it can take two SIM cards at a time, a feature that’s becoming ever-popular in phones at most price points, and that ridiculously low price becomes almost unbelievable.

So yes, the Innjoo One 3G HD makes a very good first impression indeed.

Hardware

Innjoo isn’t trying to be the very best on the hardware front, however, preferring to stick with mid-level internals. This serves to make the One fast enough that it feels responsive to your inputs – and it is – but not so fast that it delivers record-breaking performance figures.

In our testing, it scored just over 29 000 in the Antutu benchmark, landing it somewhere between the entry-level Antutu performance found in sub-R1 500 phones of around 16 000 and the upper reaches hit by the likes of the Galaxy S6 and its ilk, which score on the 40 000s but cost a lot more.

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Not shabby at all.

In other words, it’s a very sensible phone that’ll do what you need it to rather than a phone that’s out to break all of the records. This also helps to keep its price down, an important factor in a cost-sensitive market like South Africa’s.

Under the hood, the One is running an eight-core Mediatek processor, the MT6592, and its graphics are powered by the Mali 450MP graphics processing unit. 2GB of system RAM ensure the phone can multitask nicely, and 16GB of internal storage – expandable with microSD cards up to 128GB – is there to store your apps and media.

I did find that the One’s speaker distorts a bit at full volume, which was a bit disappointing. I watched a few YouTube videos, listening for anything untoward, and I heard several tiny crackles as the poor little speaker tried in vain to deliver volume. It’s by no means a reason not to buy the phone – who buys phones for their amazing speakers – but it’s there.

Listening with earphones produced no such crackle, and in fact sounded quite good. I’d highly recommend it as a portable music player.

On the communication side, this is the 3G version of the Innjoo One, so no LTE. There is an LTE version, but naturally it costs more.

In all, there’s nothing too fancy here, but also nothing particularly bottom-rung either. At no point did I feel like the phone was sluggish, and all the 3D games I ran, played beautifully smoothly. So definitely no complaints on the hardware/performance front, and especially not at this price.

Software

The Innjoo One doesn’t run the very latest version of Android, as it only runs version 4.4.2. This is actually a good thing: Android 4.4.2 is very stable, and version 5 (known as Lollipop) is still a work in progress that has seen two bug-fix releases since it hit the market earlier this year. So while it doesn’t have the latest numbers, it has the stability and that matters more.

Innjoo has added a bunch of its own apps to the phone that appear by default. InnUI is a handy little utility that lets you choose various themes for the phone, including the default one that had me thinking the One was trying its hardest to be an iPhone, and there’s an Innjoo Store that has its own selection of apps for the phone.

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The Iron Man theme is pretty cool.

There’s also a utility called InnCloud that lets you back up your contacts to the cloud, but that’s it. For actual cloud storage, you should still use services like OneDrive or DropBox.

The neatest feature I found on the Innjoo One is the option to set a video as the wallpaper background in addition to the usual live wallpapers. You can choose any video you have saved to your phone as well, which was quite cool. For obvious reasons a video background eats battery power, but I’m happy to file this under “nice to have”, even if it isn’t all that practical.

Innjoo’s handful of tweaks were most welcome – they were, to my mind, not too much and not too little.

Display

The Innjoo’s screen is gorgeous. Despite only being 720p, I couldn’t see any pixels and its colours were amazing. Those amazing colours didn’t wash out no matter the angle I was looking from; they did distort, though, but only when looking from angles no human would ever need to look at a phone from so that’s okay. Everything even managed to remain visible in direct sunlight.

Innjoo One 3G HD_00003

Only five points of touch registered on Antutu’s touch test, however. But then that’s not exactly a big issue as firstly who uses more than five touches to operate a five inch touchscreen, and secondly what apps make use of more than five points of touch? Nobody and none, that’s who, but if you’re looking for reasons to nitpick, this certainly counts as one.

Camera

Innjoo is really aiming to impress here with a 13MP shooter on the back and a 5MP one on the front.

Selfies come out really nicely in brightly-lit situations and only a touch noisy under low-light conditions, as do shots taken with the 13MP front-facing snapper. Both cameras focus quite quickly thanks to a decent autofocus implementation.

While pictures don’t come out quite as crisp or as intensely coloured as they do on Samsung and Apple’s flagship phones, you’ll be very impressed with the One’s efforts nonetheless, especially at this price.

In all, the cameras on the One are very good.

Battery

I found the One lasted me around one and a half days on average, and that’s with regular phone calls, WhatsApps, taking photos, surfing the web over WiFi and Facebooking during downtime. I’d typically charge the phone in the morning, and only hook it back up to the charger the following evening.

That’s to be expected for a phone with a 2 600mAh battery, but of course as always should you hit it particularly hard, expect to run out of juice earlier than I did.

Conclusion

The Innjoo One 3G HD performs like a very good mid-range phone, with perhaps the most gorgeous metal casing seen on a phone outside of one from Cupertino and internals that get the job done without being too flashy about it.

It’s not going to win any prizes for the fastest anything, and that five-point touch thing puts it behind the likes of the Huawei P8, but everything else it gets right is so good that you won’t mind.

And that price is nothing short of incredible. Considering how bad the rand is right now and how good the phone is, and that it can easily go head-to-head with any mid-range phone costing thousands more, makes it a very hard offer to refuse indeed. Just, wow.

So if you’re looking for a new phone, your budget is less than R3k and you want the very best Android phone you can get for that cash, picking up an Innjoo One 3G HD from Takealot when they become available for order late this month is a no brainer.

It’s such a good offer, even I’m considering grabbing one as a backup for those odd times I’m between review phones. That’s high praise indeed.

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Details

Price: R2 499
Display: 5-inch IPS screen @ 720 x 1 280
Operating System: Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat)
CPU: MT6592 Octa-Core @ 1.4GHz, Mali 450MP GPU
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB (expandable with microSD up to 128GB)
Front camera: 5.0 MP
Back camera 13.0 MP with Auto Focus
Battery: 2 600mAh Polymer Battery

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Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.

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