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iNew V8 Smartphone Review

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We’ve all seen and played with clones of popular devices. Most often than not, the inspiration comes from Apple’s iPhone, a device that has come to be the favourite of clone makers. However, these very manufacturers of cloned devices often surprise us. iNew is a maker from China that falls into that category; the OEM decided to clone the N1, made by its comrade in OPPO.

Thanks to OPPO’s extensive marketing and expansion worldwide, most would know about the OPPO N1. The smartphone was OPPO’s, and according to the company’s claim, the world’s first smartphone with a swivel camera. While many would argue upon that, we’re here to talk about a completely different subject — the iNew V8.

With a price tag of roughly US$200, the iNew V8 costs less than half of the OPPO N1. It’s a tradeoff between quality and cost, one that’s in contrast to OPPO’s model.

Having said that, how far does the iNew V8 go as a clone? Does it have it in itself to get noticed in the overcrowded smartphone market? Well, let’s find out!

Hardware

Since I’ve talked to lengths about the iNew V8’s obvious design inspiration, I’d expect a lot of you to already get an idea of how the phone looks. What text and pictures can’t say is how the phone feels; and that’s an art we’re here to master.

The iNew V8 has a surprisingly small footprint for a smartphone with a 5.5-inch display. I say that because the V8 is a clone, and clone makers don’t often put a lot into making the device as preciseful as the original to save on engineering costs. However, the V8 is a sort of a refreshment. The device is about exactly as big as the OnePlus One, which is quite an achievement considering the nature, and intention of the iNew V8.

The device is surprisingly well made. We said that in our initial hands-on post as well, and we say it again. In fact, the iNew V8 is so well made that it makes it hard for a an unassuming chap to believe its a clone. iNew has set a new standard for clone makers, if a thing like that exists…

Lets talk a bit about the design. The device features a rotatable camera module on top, which has a surprisingly robust mechanism in place. Given that the camera of the phone is its USP, everyone that you show the phone to is going to play with the cool rotating thing before anything else; and I’m happy to report that it works exceedingly well. It helps to have lower expectations though.

The plastic used to surround the internals is a bit of the tacky kind, but even with that it doesn’t feel like a cheapass clone. The rear is where it gets bad though; the material used to produce the rear cover of the phone does make us feel its a clone we’re holding in our hands. I don’t know if the rear touch panel called for that sort of material to be used or iNew just decided to cut costs, but it certainly could’ve been better plastic. The OPPO N1 uses a more natural-feeling ceramic sort of a material which really gives it a stand-out feeling. The rear is also where the V8 deviates from the OPPO N1 design. There’s a little textured pattern on the top side of the device, and of course the V8 logo that give away the otherwise well-executed plan of producing a clone.

The sides of the phone are reinforced by a strip which feels like metal. It does really reassure you about the build on the device, which (yes I’m saying it again) feels really good for a clone.

The rear also tapers towards the edges, and gives you a feeling of holding a device that is thinner than the V8 actually is. Besides that, it also makes the phone feel very much at home in your hands with the slight, very natural curve. Ports on the V8 are reinforced by the metal strip that we talked about, and should hold good till you get bored of the phone (or perhaps more, because people get bored of phones very quickly these days).

You can find more basic details about the iNew V8 in our initial hands-on post.

Display

Moving on to the display of the V8: like most of the hardware on the device, it is surprisingly good. So much so that I prefer it over a lot of ‘originals’ such as the Nexus 5, et al. That is despite the fact that the 5.5-inch panel gets only a 720p HD resolution; this is like going back in time. It is pretty much mid-range to have a 1080p panel these days, and 720p is certainly so very 2013. The display delivers crisp pictures leaving you wanting for more. It’s more of a general purpose ‘awesome’ than multimedia awesome, so if using a smartphone as a smartphone and not a multimedia device is your sort of a thing, the V8 is for you.

The natural tone of the display is very hard to define. It certainly isn’t warm, like many other phones out there. If anything, it’s got a cold tinge. Call it whatever you like, it does the job extremely well and that is what we care about!

The listing on CooliCool suggests the iNew V8 comes with Corning Gorilla Glass. While I can’t ascertain the authenticity of this claim, I can certainly say it does feel rock solid, and should live a few drops on the ground.

All in all, the display along with it’s toughened coating is definitely a win. If you’re one of those that are worried about scratching up your display, you’re covered because the V8 ships with a couple of screen protectors — one applied and one in the box.

Battery

The V8 ships with a standard battery rated 2400mAh. I don’t know for certain if this is the exact capacity or not (most specifications seem fairly accurate, so I think you can give the benefit of the doubt to iNew), but it does seem so. The smartphone does an average one day without much of a hassle, sometimes even with a little juice left for the next.

I usually charge my phones in the night if the remaining battery is less than 40-50%, which was usually the case with the iNew V8. Please keep in mind that I don’t play any games at all and usage is restricted to a lot of web (feedly, Chrome, etc.), social networks (Facebook, Quora) and IM (WhatsApp, Hangouts, Facebook Messenger) besides the usual suite of productivity apps.

Camera

Since the camera is the USP of the OPPO N1 (and therefore assumed likewise for the iNew V8), I was a little expectant about the picture quality. The sensor, however, failed me. It isn’t as good as the device flyers seem to suggest. It’s certainly not as good as the one on the OPPO N1. Give it a room full of light, and the V8 will do pretty well — but that’s something almost every light-sensing particle on the Earth does anyway. There’s no slow-shutter as the N1, as you’d expect. Also, contrary to what many listings seem to suggest, the V8 does not seem to have a Sony Exmor sensor. If that were the case, the image quality would’ve been closer to phones like the Xperia Z3.

That being said, the device does do quite a bit better than a lot of its competitors on one aspect — the rage called selfies. The 13 mega-pixel shooter isn’t the best when you’re talking about rear aka ‘main’ cameras, but it does pretty well as a front camera. Take a look at some shots here:

Software

Unfortunately, on the software front, the V8 doesn’t shine half as much as it does on the exterior. Not only is it inconvenient to have a device with buggy firmware, but in this case, it is a shame because the V8 is otherwise one of the most ‘perfect’ clones that I’ve ever laid my hands on.

UI, launching apps, etc on the V8 is fairly fast and zippy, and contradictory to what the previous statement might’ve made you feel. It’s the system services that suffer from improper implementation of software.

iNew V8 Interface

At one time, I was told that I had been called. This, when the V8 showed no signs of receiving a call — no ringtone, no vibration… even the screen didn’t light up. To make matters worst, the call did not register in the call log as well. This is what I call a severe problem; something that needs to be ironed out IMMEDIATELY.

That’s perhaps the biggest bud that I encountered with the V8. Otherwise, the device was quite OK in handling my daily, rather un-testing usage. One thing that the Android OS on the V8 certainly didn’t like was the rotating camera. While the native camera app estimated the orientation alright, apps like WhatsApp had no clue and returned an inverted picture when I tried to take one with the camera module rotated out of it’s position. There’s a middle ground missing — what developers call ‘APIs’. And it is none other than the factory who can fix this issue.

Look and feel wise, the UI is a ColorOS ripff; if you don’t know what ColorOS is, it is the forked version of Android that OPPO employs on its phones, very much like the much more popular Xiaomi MIUI. The 1.5GHz hexa-core system handles daily usage pretty well, and you hardly feel the need for more RAM until you start doing some desktop-esque multitasking on the V8.

Performance

The MediaTek MT6591T hexa-core chipset is a surprisingly able SoC. It might not beat the Snapdragon 801 in raw power, but you’ll hardly ask for more when you use the phone as a non-gaming device. The device transits through pages quickly, apps load up decently fast and multitasking isn’t as slow as other 1GB RAM devices. In all, I do give MediaTek the credit for making a more than decent SoC, at a cost that is affordable to manufacturers established and upcoming.

It is surprising to see very few manufacturers ship MT6591 powered devices. A couple of Indian makers including Karbonn outed some phones powered by this chipset, but I haven’t heard from owners of those devices ever since (if there are any).

Compared to the MT6582 (made popular by the Android One program), the MT6591 shines in general usage among many other aspects.

Summary

The iNew V8 is a sweet piece of kit, even with the so-not-subtle design inspirations. Although the device does exceedingly well to impress on the hardware front (minus the camera), it really isnt up to date with the latest Android phones on the software front. This doesn’t mean that the V8 doesn’t run a recent enough version of Android; it points to the fact that a lot of the Android OS that’s in use on the device isn’t fully optimized, leaving room for a lot of bugs. When you consider that it is a replica of another device, you’re faced with the fact that there aren’t going to be a lot of firmware updates to iron out the bugs, which is a bit of a concern.

If you can live with the multitude of software errors on the phone, you probably wouldn’t need to look for another smartphone for the next few months.

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