InFocus has been very aggressive in the Indian smartphone market be it in launching highly affordable 4G phones or taking a dig at the competition by claiming their phones are non-Chinese. In being sensitive to the highly competitive affordable mid-range phone segment and sensing an opportunity as well, InFocus has launched a new “Epic” series and coming first in the family is the Epic 1. We had a chance to review the device for close to two weeks and here we are bringing you our detailed review as we let you know if the Epic 1 stands up to its name or not.
The look and feel of the phone are strikingly similar to most of those 5.5-inch screen soldiers out there, most of whom are soaked in gold. But on a close inspection, there are things that are different and perhaps unique to the Epic 1. To start with, the phone fits neatly into the palm thanks to the curved back profile (which Lenovo has gotten rid of in the latest generation of Moto phones) and even distribution of weight. The phone is neither light nor heavy which is good in some sense as it provides a feeling of “sturdiness”. The brushed metal back finish almost rejects fingerprints and smudges and is not as slippery as the ones we’ve seen on Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3. The front part of the phone sports the white color which is way better than the gold from the back continuing onto the front. The power button and a set of volume rockers above it occupy the right side of the phone and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t manage to get ourselves used to this implementation. We prefer the volume rockers on the other side where we now find a sim tray which is hybrid in nature. The buttons themselves are solid in terms of functionality and tactile feedback. Up top are the 3.5mm audio jack and an IR blaster while the bottom part houses a speaker grille and a USB Type-C port. On the back is the primary camera, dual tone LED flash and a fingerprint scanner. So overall, though there is nothing special with the design, there are tiny elements unique to the phone which are refreshing to see.
That body holds with it a 5.5-inch full HD OnCell display with Gorilla Glass protection on top of it. Also, it has good viewing angles and visibility under direct sunlight too was within acceptable levels. The phone can go plenty bright as well when needed. There is a dedicated blue light filter you can use that goes easy on the eyes and if this is not enough the display can be tweaked using the Color Temperature and Screen Mode options that let you turn the display cool or warm or natural or vivid, the way you prefer. One small gripe (you may call it nitpicking) however would be that fraction of a second lag in the phone picking up the touch input no matter where and what you’re trying to do. We tried to turn off vibrations for touch to see if it helps but that observation stayed intact.
Popping out all the content off that screen is the InLife UI 2 built off of Android Marshmallow and we see quite a lot of improvements and features making their way from what we had seen previously. The overall transitions are smooth, icons and imagery seem to have undergone an overhaul and tons of meaningful options are included. The UI is free of an app drawer and you can arrange the apps based on your preference or have the OS decide it for you based on newly installed or frequently used apps. There are tons of options to choose the kinds of screen transitions, some that we’ve never seen in other phones – Jag Horizontal and Binary Star for instance. The on-screen navigation keys are the only way to get around the OS and there are options to have it painted white or black and even swap the position of keys. It also includes a shortcut for bringing down the customizable toggle menu. Speaking of which, the toggle menu has a two-step fall implementation and has shortcuts for power saving and screenshot. We’d have loved to see the one for reading more here. In terms of the apps themselves, InFocus ships with Facebook, Amazon, Flipkart, and Opera Mini along with Xploree and BeautyPlusMe. So not too much of bloatware in there. With something close to 20GB being available to the user of the 32GB internal memory, the overall performance never had hiccups. This is made possible by the MediaTek Helio X20 Deca-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz coupled with Mali T880 GPU and 3GB of RAM. The tri-core implementation seems to help in providing a good overall performance.
While the overall performance is good even when heavy games are thrown at the Epic 1, the phone tends to go warm all across its body when you’re streaming videos or playing games for more than 10-15 minutes. This is not overheating issue in itself but the phone does get considerably warm and if you’re holding the phone for a long time, it does bother you. Something else that’d bother you is the fingerprint scanner. Though InFocus claims it unlocks the phone in less than a second, it takes a little more than that. And thanks to the rather smaller scanner size, it’s a tad too hard to get your fingers programmed to those exact positions it can unlock the phone, and in terms of the working, it’s not the best we’ve seen – 7 out of 10 times is what the success rate is, which means that you have to be real careful in placing your finger.
With a 3000 mAh non-removable battery packed in, the phone would ask for a top up by the end of the day. On heavy usage, we managed to get the screen on times of 3 to 3.5 hours and on an average day it would touch 4.5 hours upon careful usage. With the provided charger, the phone took nearly 2 hours to recharge though InFocus says it’s fast charge supported.
The Epic 1 sports a 16MP rear camera with AIS (Auto Image Stabilization) and PDAF with f/2.0 aperture and we were quite delighted with its performance and at times in low light as well. The processing speed and focus locking is very quick and the colors are true to life as well. In low light, however, it does struggle with handling exposure and if there is too much of light in the background, some portions of the output tend to get blown out. But otherwise, it did manage to take some good shots though on closer inspection you’d see some noise coming in! The front facing 8MP shooter comes with f/1.8 aperture and does a decent job as well. In simple words, Epic 1 has amongst the best cameras in this price range. Check out the sample pictures below. The camera app itself looks to be coming from the stone age when it comes to look and feel, but has tons of options within it – from changing ISO to using different modes – they are all there but the Epic 1 makes you dig them up.
Midway during our review we received an update that enables general VoLTE ability and it worked fine with Airtel and JIO networks here in India. There were no issues with WiFi and Bluetooth as well. Call quality and signal reception were excellent with the loudspeaker having us ask for some more volume.
The Epic 1 comes at a price of Rs 12,999 (~$200) and InFocus, like in many of the phones we’ve seen in the past, has made an honest effort to bring in values that are meaningful and basic rather than go for gimmicks. The IR blaster, the range of display options, gestures, many sensors, Image stabilization in camera with lots of shooting modes, something different in the design – all coming at an affordable price. But it has its own set of compromises in all departments – weird placement of buttons, average battery performance, slow charging, slight warming issues upon basic internet and gaming, not-so-loud speakers do pinch you somewhere. And an average performance in low light is expected anyway in this range. But where the Epic 1 makes up is providing a hassle free day-to-day performance with stable and options filled software, and improving post-sales support. Image Stabilization is not new in this range thanks to Zuk Z1 which has now gotten a price drop and is a good all-round performer as well.