Intex is one of the top Indian smartphone brands. It might not make as many headlines as some others, but it does launch a number of phones which often do well in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, and are easily available without the flash sale gimmicks. And one of its recent launches is the S9 Cloud budget phone. In a market filled with offerings from Chinese and one US smartphone maker (InFocus), how does the S9 Cloud compare? Here is what we discovered after over three weeks of usage.
A design that screams mediocrity
5.5-inch screen size is what the masses want and Intex is catering to it. As far as the design goes, the phone’s 162-gram weight is well distributed around the rounded rectangular slab design, which is 8.7 mm thick. The front sports a 5.0-megapixel camera with a flash, a tall forehead, and chin while the lower portion holds a mono speaker grille and microphone. On the right are the power and volume buttons, and both do not pop up to the same height making them tricky to use, as the power button is a tad shallow. On the top are the 3.5 mm audio jack and micro USB port (a rather strange positioning, we think).
The cross textured back of the phone sports an 8.0-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and a fingerprint scanner. From a distance, the S9 Cloud resembles the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, and well, most of the other Chinese mid-rangers out there. That back is removable and reveals the dual sim slots, a separate micro SD slot, and a 3650 mAh removable battery – all of which are a rarity these days. There is nothing really special about the design and build – it actually screams mediocrity. We expect the metallic frame around the phone to start withering as days pass by.
Marshmallow on a less than impressive display
That mediocrity is passed on to the 5.5-inch screen 720p (HD) display packing 267 pixels per inch and with no protection whatsoever. The inaccuracy of the colors popping off the screen is very obvious. There are MiraVision and LiveDisplay options that let you change the tone of the colors and also allow you to calibrate them but it is still a lot of work for an average user to try different combinations to see what works for them. The viewing angles are not the best and demand you max out the brightness to help you see the contents of the screen in outdoor conditions.
The S9 Cloud runs on a near stock version of Android Marshmallow and is loaded with tons of apps and adware out of the box, some of which you cannot uninstall and these can get very annoying as ads pop up out of nowhere in the middle of one’s work. The icons are not well designed with the aspect ratio of many of them out of whack as if someone squeezed few rectangles to turn them into squares. Thankfully, there are tons of gestures and smart motions that come in very handy. Double tap to wake or waving a hand to move on to the next picture in the gallery and so on are provided. While the double tap to wake works well, the rest of them require an additional attempt to get the desired result.
Not a spec monster… not a performer either
Speaking of performance, the phone gets sluggish and refuses to respond if more than 5-8 apps are open at times and simply crashes. There were three instances where the phone restarted on its own while on calls and on this one instance when we were gaming Asphalt 8, it rebooted and reset itself and we lost all the data! And it was not just the data we lost, the signal too was lost on many occasions – the phone’s reception ability is rather below average. But when the calls connected, the voice clarity was just fine.
By now, you would have probably guessed that the processor could be weak which indeed is true – powered by a MediaTek MT6737 quad-core SoC clocked at 1.3 GHz and accompanied by 2 GB RAM with an internal memory of 16 GB that can be bumped up to 32 GB, the S9 does not come with the sort of configuration to expect a fluid, smooth performance, especially for gaming. While Subway Surfer and Candy Crush worked well most of the times, heavier games such as Asphalt 8 and Nova had too many hiccups, including the phone rebooting and heating up. On the positive side, the loudspeaker gets real loud and holds its own but plug in the earphones, and all the goodness gets dampened.
The fingerprint scanner on the rear can add up to five prints but is too slow to react – and that is when it works. On most of the occasions, it just decides to be unresponsive and we had to use the pattern unlock to use the phone. The vibration motor has a bad lag that it fires up 2-3 seconds after the phone is unlocked – rather strange behavior to get used to.
Stone age camera app, good battery
Things do not get better with the cameras – the 8.0-megapixel camera comes with a stone age camera app with basic options such as panorama and HDR and a few options hidden in the settings to change the exposure and other things. The focusing speed is very (very) slow and the processing is even slower. In the beginning, we ended up getting many shaky shots due to this but eventually got a hang of it. Colors are inaccurate and most portions of the images are blown out, being over exposed. Still, if you are someone who only shares a few pictures on social networks, you won’t be utterly disappointed with the results (check the samples below). The front facing camera has a flash as a saving grace, but otherwise, there is nothing much to talk about.
Coming with a 3650 mAh battery, the phone can take you through a day even with heavy usage. We managed to get screen on times of 4-5 hours consistently even on 4G data all day – this is probably the only thing that you can rely on in this phone.
Not quite there?
Coming at a price of Rs 6,499, the Intex S9 Cloud tries, tries really hard to provide some features but most of them do not work as intended and are not reliable. We will cut to the chase in telling you that you are better off getting the Xiaomi’s Redmi 3S for Rs 500 more. Yes, it is still offered on flash sales but it is worth the effort. We really wish Intex had made a few better choices in terms of hardware or tested the phone’s features thoroughly, even if it had added a few bucks to the price. For now, the S9 Cloud is unlikely to deliver the sort of rain you expect.