Welcome to the party Itel. So some housekeeping, in the first impressions video I released, quite a number of you seemed to have a beef with the naming of this Itel. S23+ is hitting too close to home with Samsung die-hards. You can purchase the Itel S23+ on Pindula Marketplace for US$164 or on credit by clicking here.
First impressions, it’s very light
If you missed my first impressions, I got you. Holding it in the hand, this phone is very light and very thin. It makes my Google Pixel 6 feel like a brick. It’s a more mature aesthetic now, with no vulgar design patterns on the back or obnoxious branding. I am not sure if this Super label needed to be there though.
You have a dual camera setup on the back and a dual LED flash. The SIM tray is on the bottom and this time it’s missing the usual memory card slot. It’s not just purely a dual sim tray full stop.
The star of the show is the front panel, Check this, a 6.78-inch FullHD AMOLED display, complete with curved edges. And remember this is a sub $200 phone. That stat alone I feel is worth a shout. And it does look premium, you would struggle to guess that it’s that cheap. Oh, and it still comes with a selfie flash on the top bezel.
So let’s talk features. It’s got the usual useful tricks for your social media, especially for WhatsApp. A whole menu in the settings called Social Turbo is dedicated to WhatsApp. It gives you some really useful features too.
There is Video Retouching which is a beatifying filter for your WhatsApp video calls. Peak mode allows you to read a message without the blue ticks reporting that you saw it and it also can allow you to read deleted messages.
Then there is the voice recorder which for me is my absolute favorite. It allows you to record WhatsApp voice calls. To this day I wonder why WhatsApp has not enabled this feature. I don’t care about being able to put voice notes on my status. I want to be able to record voice calls.
There is a video assistant that mutes all notifications when you are playing videos on certain apps. And you can add your own apps on top of the ones set there by default.
It also has memory fusion tech where the phone can borrow a bit of your internal storage to supplement the phone’s available RAM if you feel like the dedicated RAM doesn’t cut it.
Aivana, Itel’s ChatGPT-powered assistant
Okay, so this next one is probably the most genius use of AI I have seen so far. Back when I checked out the Tecno Phantom X, I went into Tecno’s device assistant called Ella. As a first attempt, it was alright I mean it worked. But it was a long way off Google Assistant, Siri, or even Amazon Alexa.
So what did they do with the Itel S23+? Well simple, they just put some custom tweaks to ChatGPT and they are calling it Aivana. This dramatically closes the gap to the likes of Google Assistant. It’s much more usable now and can actually sustain a conversation thanks to the impressive conversational chops already baked into ChatGPT that is powering it.
It’s competent as well and can fulfill commands to play a specific playlist in the default music player app Boomplay, you can ask it to call a saved contact, and you can ask it to set an alarm, or run a countdown timer. So it’s a really competent assistant no doubt. So competent in fact that I am asking myself why they did not make it the default assistant on the Itel.
Also, forgive me but this display just feels out of place on a sub 200 dollar phone. It’s just a really good display. It’s got an under-screen fingerprint reader, something that has so far only been possible on OLED screens. It also features a fully customizable always-on-display with some really good-looking default options too and a Dynamic Dot which is definitely heavily inspired by the Dynamic Island on the latest iPhones.
Alright so performance
This is where we start to see where Itel saved a couple of bucks off the S23+. This particular one I have has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. The CPU is the first part where they saved a few bucks. They went for a Unisoc T616 built on a 12nm process and released in 2021.
|Display||6.78″ 2400×1080 pixels
60Hz refresh rate
|Rear Camera||50MP main camera
1080p video recording
Sensor shift stabilization
|Storage||8GB RAM+8GB MemoryFusion
2G, 3G, 4G
18W Fast Charge
30% power drain after 3 hour endurance test
We also don’t have a hybrid SIM slot that we were so used to. Previously we had the option of a dual SIM and a memory card all on the same SIM tray but the option for a memory card is no longer here. So is the option for a headphone jack. That also got deleted on the S23+
Yeah, the second camera does nothing. They didn’t even bother to tell us anything on the spec sheet and only mentioned the 50MP main camera and the 32MP selfie camera. General use it’s as you’d expect. It is pretty much an entry-level smartphone so it’s absolutely perfect if you are using it for calls, social media, and very light gaming.
Once usage goes beyond this, it starts to struggle a bit. So heavy third-party customizations might affect performance like custom keyboards with swimming fish in the background or heavy capcut editing. The Unisoc T616 is just not built for that.
Battery performance is brilliant. It’s packing a 5000mAh battery with 18W charging and it walked through the endurance test without even breaking a sweat. It lost just 30% of its battery after an hour of video streaming, gaming, and video recording. It’s failed to dethrone the Tecno Pova 2 with its insane 7000mAh battery but it’s still an easy 2-day phone and if you give it to your granny she can probably go for close to a week without charging it. Battery life is an A+ easy. And this phone is ridiculously thin so I wonder how they were able to fit a battery this big in it.
Okay, so the cameras.
There is a 50MP main camera on the back and a 32MP selfie camera. By default, these cameras do a 4 to 1 bin so the actual size of the photos is 12.5MP for the rear camera and 8MP for the selfie camera. They do this to be able to extract a better-looking image from the camera. Information from 4 pixels is combined into 1 for the final image.
You can still capture full-resolution photos if you want. There is an option for it in the menu which I doubt many will bother with. But I am still happy that the option is there.
The image quality is alright. Remember it’s a sub 200 dollar phone so since the chipset and the camera are chosen with cost-cutting in mind it’s a mid-dier camera experience. In good lighting, you can have some good photos.
You have some good sharpness and detail in the images. The 50MP camera is working hard on dynamic range as well, it preserves some details in the darker parts of the image. I also love the lack of fringing on the edges of the images. Something that is usually seen when very poor-quality cameras are used. The S23+ produces pictures that are consistent all the way to the edges. Check out these camera samples.
Selfies are also brilliant. I actually think that the images from the selfie camera look just a bit better than the images from the main camera. It might be due to the added vibrance to selfies but they are really good. Sharp and detailed.
It also does a good job with the details and tone of my skin, It’s picking up the oiliness pretty accurately and so is it picking up the imperfections on the surface of my skin. It is having a hard time with the beard though primarily because it was taken indoors with artificial lighting.
Once the lighting becomes anything less than ideal you start to see it fall apart. Starting with the darker areas of the image like my black beard. It tends to compensate for the lack of detail with some oversharpening but this also introduces graining that again compromises image quality.
I will again make a reference to the price of this Itel S23+ and when I do, I see that for the price the cameras are doing probably the best job in this class of device. They are challenged in challenging conditions but in ideal conditions, they rise up to the occasion.
Thoughts on the Itel S23+
It’s just a really mature and well-rounded device. It looks more than what it’s worth, it’s very usable day to day with my personal highlight being that AMOLED display. It’s not like it’s the best display in any phone right now, but it’s still good enough to earn my approval. An absolute pleasure and marvel that it’s there at this price.
It is an important point on price because it’s now really close to the Samsung Galaxy M24 or better yet the A24 which also has a mature design and an AMOLED display with a higher 90Hz refresh rate. These Galaxies are in the US$220 to US$250 dollar range so for the Itel to compete it had to be under 200 bucks for it to be worth considering.
My thoughts on the Itel S23+? For the money? Get it, absolutely 10/10 recommend it. You can buy one starting at US$164 on Pindula Marketplace or on credit by clicking here.