A lot of smartphone companies are now designing phones with screens that occupy their entire front surfaces, and nearly no borders. This year's most premium smartphones, including the LG G6, Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8, have all featured these taller screens. Different brands have their own buzzwords, such as LG calling its screens FullVision while Samsung uses the term Infinity Display, but they all promise more screen and less body. Thankfully, these screens are already being featured on phones at more affordable prices, such as the LG Q6 and the recently unveiled Micromax Canvas Infinity.
LG's Q6 has been priced competitively to take on other phones at the Rs. 15,000 level. Micromax, on the other hand, has different aspirations, and has positioned its all-new Canvas Infinity in the sub-Rs. 10,000 segment. The company has already confirmed that there will be more models in the Canvas Infinity series.
The 18:9 screen is this phone's biggest talking point but is that enough to challenge the competition? At this price level, the Canvas Infinity will have to take on some popular models including the Xiaomi Redmi 4, Nokia 5, Moto G5, and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, all of which offer better hardware. We find out in our review.
Micromax Canvas Infinity design
In terms of design, the 18:9 screen is the first thing you'll notice about the Canvas Infinity, and we did feel that this made the phone seem premium. It has rounded corners matching the exterior of the phone. However, we're confused by the official images shared by Micromax at launch time, which show a nearly bezel-less design. In reality, the phone has much thicker borders than seen in its promotional shots, and you'll notice the difference immediately. While the sides are narrow, the top and bottom are quite thick, much more than what we've seen on the premium Galaxy S8 (Review) and LG G6 (Review). Micromax claims that the 83 percent screen-to-body ratio is equivalent to that of the Galaxy S8 series.
Rather than having a metal unibody, the back of this phone pops off. It has a removable battery, and dedicated slots for dual Micro-SIMs and a microSD card which is much preferable to having a hybrid dual-SIM slots like most other phones in this category. Micromax has used top-notch plastic on the Canvas Infinity, because it really doesn't feel cheap, and a lot of people around us thought it was metal at first glance. We had no problem using the phone with just one hand, and it fits well within a palm thanks to its size and rounded corners. The narrower screen and relatively thin borders make this feel like a 5.5-inch phone when it actually has a 5.7-inch screen.
Like several other phones, there are lines running across the top and bottom of the rear. The power and volume buttons are on the right and are easily accessible with a thumb or forefinger. The Micro-USB port is on the bottom while the 3.5mm audio jack is on top. Much like other phones with 18:9 screens, the Canvas Infinity also uses on-screen navigation keys. The fingerprint scanner is on the back, right below the camera, and there's a Micromax logo towards the bottom. It was easy to reach even when using the phone with one hand.
Despite its size and shape, this screen is also a let-down. It has a resolution of 720x1440 pixels and is an IPS panel, but its quality isn't up to the mark. In our opinion, the display on the Canvas Infinity is the least accurate in terms of colours that we have seen in the budget segment for a long time. During the review period, we noticed yellow and bluish tinges when looking at it from the sides, which was annoying. Sunlight legibility was weak as well despite the brightness being pushed up to its maximum. Considering that Micromax plans to launch more phones in the Canvas Infinity series, we hope that the company uses better quality displays. Overall, the Micromax Canvas Infinity keeps its promise of delivering an 18:9 aspect ratio screen in the budget segment, but there are severe tradeoffs.
Inside the box, the company bundles the standard documentation, a transparent back cover, earphones, a charger, a Micro-USB cable, and the phone itself. The Canvas Infinity will be an Amazon India exclusive at launch time but will be made available offline later. Micromax sates that consumers can expect a straight replacement if it is unable to repair any problem with the phone.
Micromax Canvas Infinity specifications and software
The Micromax Canvas Infinity is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC clocked at 1.4GHz, coupled with 3GB of RAM. This is the same processor that we've seen powering the entry-level Xiaomi Redmi 4A (Review). There's 32GB of storage which is expandable by up to 128GB using a microSD card. The phone also has a 2900mAh battery that is rated to offer talk time of 20 hours and standby time of 420 hours.
At the phone's launch event, Micromax heavily promoted the Canvas Infinity's cameras. This phone sports a 16-megapixel front camera with a soft flash, f/2.0 aperture and face beauty modes. The rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with an LED flash and f/2.0 aperture as well. Connectivity options include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS, AGPS, and OTG support. There's an accelerometer and proximity, light and magnetic sensors as well.
The Canvas Infinity runs on Android 7.1.2 Nougat with the company's My Launcher on top. This is the most current iteration of Nougat in the budget smartphone market right now, and Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma has confirmed that the Canvas Infinity will be upgraded to Android 8.0 Oreo soon. Unfortunately, my Launcher manages to bury almost all important Nougat features. There are no app shortcuts, quick toggles, or revamped notifications. Only some features, such as split-screen multitasking, direct replies and quick app switching are supported. The phone uses an icon pack that mimics iOS, and the Settings app is clearly inspired by it too. We prefer the custom UI of Micromax's own Yu Yureka Black, which we reviewed few months ago.
There is a plethora of bloatware including Apps Centre, Personalise, Videos, and Music, which cannot be deleted. Some of the third-party ones that can be uninstalled are the Narendra Modi, Amazon Shopping and Facebook. The Canvas Infinity is therefore a let-down in terms of software. Our recommendation would be to switch to the Pixel Launcher or use a third-party option like Nova Launcher or Yahoo Aviate.
The phone supports Smart Actions which let you do things like wake up or lock the phone by double tapping the screen, flipping it to mute calls and alarms, and automatically accepting calls when you lift the phone to your ear. There are also Smart Gestures which can help launch apps quickly. You use this feature by drawing an alphabet like "O" which launches the camera. We used the Smart Gesture feature and it worked flawlessly. Micromax has also added a one-handed mode which gets enabled when sliding left or right across the navigation bar.
Micromax Canvas Infinity cameras
The Micromax Canvas Infinity sports a 16-megapixel front-facing camera, which is being heavily promoted by the company. It has a soft flash, f/2.0 aperture, 5P lens, and comes with face beauty mode. The company is touting the camera's portrait mode which blurs the background similar to the bokeh effect that you can get on phones with dual cameras. Unfortunately, shots taken in portrait mode looked like they were had been Photoshopped with a heavy blur effect, and subjects seemed to have been auto-enhanced with unnatural colours. However, regular selfies were passable and showed good colours with decent amounts of detail in good light. In low-light, selfies were too dark without the soft flash.
There's also a 13-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash and f/2.0 aperture. It, too, supports portrait mode though it required some amount of adjustment to get the software to apply its enhancements. Shots taken with the Canvas Infinity came out with pleasant and natural colours under good light. We got some good macro shots, and landscapes were decent. However, we found that high-contrast scenes were often underexposed, which meant a loss of detail in the shadows.
When zooming in to 100 percent, the Micromax Canvas Infinity photo samples showed noise but were still passable for social media posts. Autofocus works accurately in good light though you will have to do it manually in low-light situations.
Unfortunately, the low-light performance of both cameras is below par. Both the front and rear cameras need some amount of direct light around to illuminate images or they end up looking too dark with heavy noise across the entire image and minimal details.
We liked the camera app on the Canvas Infinity, which had most options just one tap away. With the camera roll feature, you can take a look at the last photo you took without the need to close the main app. There's a feature called Super Pixel which takes multiple shots at the same time and combines them to give you a higher resolution and more detail. We noticed that images taken with Super Pixel were better than regular shots, though they looked a little artificial.
Micromax Canvas Infinity performance
We have reviewed several phones with the Snapdragon 425 SoC, and they have all performed decently. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Micromax Canvas Infinity which was sluggish right from the start. We encountered slow responses to our touch inputs which is something we don't expect from phones at this price anymore. We also faced app crashes on the Canvas Infinity which affected usability. We blame the My Launcher UI in part for the phone's sluggish performance. It's worth noting that the phone responded better when using a third-party launchers.
Thanks to the extended screen space, we found it easier to use GPS navigation and multitask with two apps simultaneously on the Canvas Infinity. No metal in the body meant that the phone didn't get too warm, which is a good thing. We used the phone extensively for watching videos and didn't feel it heating then either.
We can't recommend the Canvas Infinity for gaming enthusiasts, however, as the phone stutters while playing heavy games such as Marvel: Contest of Champions and Asphalt 8: Airborne. Lighter titles like Angry Birds, Temple Run 2, and Subway Surfers were playable without any issues.
The Micromax Canvas Infinity managed 36,753 in AnTuTu, 13fps in GFX Bench, 3,649 in 3D Mark Ice Storm Extreme, and 10,925 in Quadrant.
Calls were clear and the bundled earphones were relatively good. Unfortunately, the speaker wasn't loud or clear enough, and its placement at the back meant that you might not hear it at all if the phone is left on a soft surface. We were able to make VoLTE (voice over LTE) calls using a Jio SIM on the Canvas Infinity. The phone, however, doesn't support direct 4G video calling, a feature being offered by Reliance Jio. Both SIMs can work on 4G networks, though only one at a time.
Micromax Canvas Infinity battery life
The removable 2900mAh battery is claimed to deliver up to 420 hours of standby time and up to 20 hours of talk time. In reality, the phone did actually last for roughly 20 hours with heavy usage. During our review, we used the phone heavily for watching videos and streaming media, and the battery did well overall. In our standard HD video loop test, it lasted for 10 hours and 20 minutes, which is good enough for a battery of this size. There's no fast charging, and the Micromaxa Canvas Infinity took roughly two hours to charge fully.
Priced at Rs. 9,999, the Micromax Canvas Infinity tries to bring an 18:9 display to the budget market. While we have to commend Micromax for trying, this phone definitely falls short in many areas. Despite the display being this phone's highlight, it is also its biggest disappointment. The My Launcher skin is buggy and performance is sluggish. If you're in the market for a sub-Rs. 10,000 Android smartphone, you should look at other options such as the Xiaomi Redmi 4 (Review), Moto G5 (Review), Nokia 5, or Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Review), all of which have better hardware at around the same price. If you still want a smartphone with 18:9 display just because it's something new, then you should save up some money and go for the LG Q6 (Review) instead.