“The new affordable phone from Micromax comes with near-stock Android UI and a capable selfie camera”  

Micromax is still one of the first names that comes to mind while talking about Indian smartphone brands, despite the fact the company was missing in action the past few months. After a hiatus, it’s now back with two new handsets, called the Infinity N11 and Infinity N12 (first impressions), and I managed to use the latter as my daily driver for some time now. Without much ado, here are my thoughts about the new affordable phone from the brand.

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Design and display

The Infinity N12 is perhaps the most non-Micromax looking phone that we have seen. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. As other brands are constantly innovating and experimenting with the design elements, it is good to see that Micromax is now trying to make sure that the brand’s own phones don’t look cheap. Coming to the Infinity N12, the handset’s body is primarily made out of plastic but the phone still features a reflective back, which is an attractive look. Sadly, this attractive look is tarnished by scuffs as you use the phone for a few days. The phone’s reflective plastic back is also a fingerprint magnet and if you don’t carry around a cleaning cloth, just like me, the phone ends up looking not-so-attractive.

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Slap on a cover and these issues will be resolved, so no qualms there. The fingerprint sensor is present in the middle at the back, which isa convenient position for the index finger to rest upon. If the screen is on, the fingerprint sensor takes no time to unlock the phone, but if it is in sleep mode, the phone takes a couple of seconds to unlock, which isn’t flattering but something that doesn’t bother too much either.

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The power button can be found on right and the volume buttons are placed on the left spine, making it easy to capture a screenshot with just one hand. The microSD card slot is on the top, whereas the speaker grille and 3.5mm headphone jack grace the bottom, along with micro-USB charging slot. The conventional placement of keys makes it easy to get used to the phone from word go. As the phone does not have a large form factor, you should be able to use it with one hand easily, just like I did.

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The Infinity N11 and the N12 are the first two handsets from Micromax to come with a notch display design. As the brand has taken a long time to get on to the bandwagon, the novelty of this design has slightly worn off. However, at least in the budget segment, this is definitely one of the better implementations of the design and the cut-out does not feel obtrusive. Here’s a closer look at the N12 from all angles.

The 6.19-inch HD+ IPS LCD panel on the phone turned out to be a tricky customer. Although in casual usage, I did not notice any issues at first, the lack of sharpness was evident at a closer look. Having said that, the infinity N12 features a vibrant panel that can appeal to a lot of users.

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While playing games and watching videos, I had little to no problem with the screen quality. However, the maximum brightness is underwhelming, to say the least. As the peak brightness level is less than impressive, using the phone outside under bright sunlight could be an issue.

Cameras

The Infinity N12 comes with dual snappers at the back, comprising a 13MP primary sensor and a 5MP sensor, placed alongside an LED flash module. For selfies, the phone comes with a 16MP camera up front. I don’t get to say this for most phones that I review, but I can safely say that the front camera on the N12 is capable of capturing more detail and takes better pictures than the rear camera setup. Unfortunately, the pictures taken from the rear camera turned out to be grainy in low-light conditions, a problem that we have faced with many budget phones.

micromax_infinity_n12_review3Disappointingly, even the addition of AI does not help the handset’s case much. Although my expectations were in check, the AI mode is not able to enhance the picture quality to a point where one can claim that there is a significant improvement.

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In the default camera app, you get the option to click pictures in regular mode, portrait mode, and with beauty mode. There is a Pro mode as well, which allows users to tweak exposure, ISO level, and the white balance. There is a slow-mo video option too, which is more of a gimmick than anything else. Overall, I would say that some of the affordable Redmi phones, and even the Realme 2 (review), manage to give more consistent performance with optics than the Infinity N12. It should be noted that the bokeh mode is a huge letdown with the Infinity N12 as the phone is not able to detect edges well. But at the same time, the selfie camera on the N12 can give a tough competition to these handsets. At times, the amount of detail captured by the front camera did surprise me. Here are a few camera samples for you to get a better idea about the performance offered by the camera modules on the Infinity N12.

Software and hardware

The combination of both software and hardware is fundamental to the real-world performance offered by any handset. So let’s start by discussing the software first. Thankfully, just like many other Android players, even Micromax has understood that stock iteration of Android is the right direction to move forward. Here, you will find just a few pre-installed apps, including the Google apps suite, but the platform feels minimalistic. You can access the app drawer using a single swipe from the home screen, and as the UI is mostly stock, you will find all the features that you expect from Android 8.1 Oreo along with some of the little nifty additions from the company. Speaking of which, there is a DuraSpeed feature accessible via settings, which restricts background apps to enhance the performance of the app running in the foreground. You can also allow certain apps to run in the background while using DuraSpeed, if required.

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The only annoying pre-installed app comes in the form of Game Center, which is essentially a store to download games. Thankfully, this can be disabled from app settings as well. There is an M! browser as well, in case you don’t like using Chrome for some reason. There is a Mobile Assistant app to monitor your handset’s performance and clean up the cache for a quick boost. Apart from these, there is nothing much to talk about. The platform feels simple and efficient for the large part.

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Coming to the hardware, the performance on the Infinity N12 is driven by a MediaTek Helio P22 chipset, coupled with 3GB of RAM. Now, Helio P22 is a capable chipset that brings along AI capabilities. The Infinity N12 manages to tackle most day-to-day tasks with relative ease but I could notice that the app load times were a tad bit frustrating at times. If you like gaming, you should know that the phone managed to run PUBG Mobile at low graphics settings but there were noticeable frame drops in my gaming sessions. 

Battery

The N12 packs in a sizeable 4,000mAh battery to provide a good battery backup. In our HD video loop test, the phone managed to last around 16 hours, which is an impressive feat.

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In casual usage, you will be able to get around a day and a half from this phone. Needless to say, this is a decent battery life for most users. Despite packing in a large battery, the phone is not too thick, which is commendable too. 

Verdict

Overall, Micromax’s Infinity N12 is a respectable entry into the affordable price segment. There are some issues with the phone, such as lack of sharpness in the display and the camera performance in low-light conditions, but for Rs 9,999, the phone offers a good overall value. I am slightly hesitant to recommend it over the Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro (review) and the Realme 2 but would like to point out that this can be a good foundation for the brand’s upcoming phones, and definitely a step in the right direction. If Micromax stays consistent and launches more compelling options in the affordable segment, brands like Xiaomi and Realme might face stiff competition.

Pros 

  • Stock Android
  • Attractive design
  • Good battery backup

Cons 

  • Low-light camera performance
  • App load times can be frustrating

Photos by Raj Rout

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