Itel Mobile is a relatively new player in the Indian smartphones space. The company has been largely concentrating on the offline space in India where players like Xiaomi, Honor and Motorola are yet to find a firm footing. Itel is one of the many brands owned by Shenzhen-based Transsion Holdings. In case you are unaware, Transsion Holdings also owns brands like Tecno and Infinix. The company also took over the Indian company Spice Mobility and could soon relaunch handsets under the ‘Spice Mobiles’ brand. As per IDC data for 2017, Transsion Holdings had a healthy 13.7 percent market share in the feature phones segment in India – falling only behind Samsung. The company aims to replicate the same success in the smartphones segment as well. In fact, a large chunk of Transsion Holdings’ sales happens in rural areas an Tier II cities where people are still wary of taking the online route when it comes to gadget purchases.
Anyway, the reason you’re reading this right now is because we have a new handset from Itel Mobile with us for review. Let us now take a detailed look at Itel’s new budget offering for the Indian consumer – the Itel S42. Modestly priced at around Rs. 8,500, the Itel S42 is only sold in the offline market in India. While you might not come across an Itel hoarding if you live in the bigger cities, their presence is pretty significant in smaller towns and villages.
Let us now delve into the more juicier bits of the S42.
Itel S42: Design, Display
The Itel S42 is a handsome device and thanks to the 18:9 aspect ratio display it sports, it is on the taller side. The phone that we had for review came in a glossy piano black finish. The rear panel also has a rather interesting pattern of concentric rings that add a dash of premiumness to the device. The build quality could have been better. The handset does not seem to have any form of scratch resistance and our unit did end up with a very noticeable scratch on the upper left corner of the display during the course of my usage. In case you plan to buy one, it would be advisable to get a screen protector along with the phone.
The Itel S42 features an LED flash at the front flanked by the 13-megapixel selfie camera. There is also a notification LED right next to the LED flash module. The display dominates the front fascia and happens to be a 5.65-inch IPS LCD panel in the tall 18:9 aspect ratio as mentioned earlier. The display itself had great viewing angles. Screen legibility in direct sunlight, however, wasn’t great. Upon booting up we noticed that the display had rounded edges – a trait observed in more expensive phones. We later figured out that it was the wallpaper used by Itel that had the rounded edges, and not the display itself. Full marks to Itel for the trick, though!
The rear panel houses the primary 13-megapixel camera module and the LED flash in a vertical arrangement. The fingerprint scanner and the Itel logo are the two other things you would see on this rear panel. At the top, there is a 3.5mm audio jack while the power button and the volume rocker keys are on the right side. The left side only houses the SIM tray which happens to be a trip slot. This means you can use two SIM cards and a microSD card together without having to compromise on either memory expansion or having dual SIM capability. The phone also gets a bottom firing speaker that is amply loud. The primary wired connectivity interface is a microUSB port.
The S42 is a relatively compact handset and happens to be quite lightweight as well. As such, most users should not encounter any issues playing around with the phone for extended periods of time. The company also includes a case with the handset inside the box. This is one of better cases that we have seen ship by any manufacturer in India. It is recommended that you use the phone with the case.
Itel S42: Specifications, software and performance
The Itel S42 is powered by the entry-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC. In case you aren’t aware, this is the same processor that the Xiaomi Redmi 5A uses. This chip houses an octa core processor and integrates the Adreno 308 GPU clocked at 600MHz to drive the graphics.
There is just 16GB of internal storage, though, which we felt was on the lower side. There is ample 3GB of RAM and you do get the option to expand the storage capacity further using a microSD card slot. You can, however, expect the handset to run out of internal storage very fast in case you use apps like WhatsApp and Facebook a lot. It would have been great of the S42 came with at least 32GB of internal storage which is more or less the standard in this price range as of now.
The Itel S42 runs a near-stock version of Android with minor customisations. I was glad to see the handset running Android 8.1 Oreo. The phone also came with a The phone does come preinstalled with a bunch of apps. However, a recent firmware update has removed most of this preinstalled software. As far as performance is concerned, the handset turned out to be quite zippy. There was never a moment when the phone showed signs of stress or slow down. One of the things I liked in particular about the handset was the frequent software updates it received. The phone already runs Android 8 Oreo, the newest stable version of Android. The handset apart from getting a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, also gets a face unlock feature. While the fingerprint scanner was reasonably fast, the face Unlock feature still seems to be work in progress. It was reasonably fast – but the overall experience could have been better. That said, it is a great thing that the company offers this feature on a handset priced under the Rs.10,000 mark.
With a 3000 mAh battery, the phone offers decent battery life and the review unit we had with us lasted for an entire day of usage with relative ease.
Itel S42 Review: Camera and Imaging
The Itel S42 gets a 13-megapixel primary camera at the rear and a similar 13-megapixel front-facing camera. There is an LED flash on both the sides to assist with low light imaging. Images captured using the primary camera were of decent quality. However, almost all the images lacked detail. Image quality took a plunge during low light situations. In well-lit conditions, images are good enough to be shared on social media. The front facing camera is decent too and as expected, features a beauty mode and a lot of options to play around with. Once again, the image quality is passable and you can use the images on social media which in fact would most likely be the primary use case for this smartphone. Here are a few sample images from the camera
As far as video recording is concerned, the Itel S42 can handle full HD videos at 1080p resolution – although by default – the phone is set to record 720p videos using the main camera. Video quality is not bad at all for a handset in this price segment.
Itel S42 Review: Verdict
The Itel S42 has been priced at Rs.8,499 in India. The device is exclusively sold in the offline market in the country. While the likes of the Redmi 5 and even the entry-level variant of the Redmi Note 5 might seem a more value for money product thanks to the faster hardware and the slicker MIUI interface, there is no denying that a handset like the S42 also has a space in the vast, crowded smartphones arena in the country. As mentioned already, for a little more, you do get the Redmi 5 which offers a slightly better Snapdragon 450 SoC, and more importantly, double the amount of internal storage. However, Itel is clearly not targeting the S42 as a rival to any of the offerings from Xiaomi as they are concentrating solely on Tier II cities where I must say they have a significant presence. To Itel’s credit, the S42 does run a newer, updated version of Android and more than 1.5 months into using the phone, it still receives regular updates. All things considered, the only reason that stops short of me recommending the Itel S42 is its low internal storage of just 16GB which I feel is a bit too low even for basic users. I am hopeful Itel comes up with an updated version with at least 32GB of storage in the not too distant future.