Review: Xiaomi Mi A1 is the phone Google is betting big on
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Google hasn’t forgotten about the Android One platform, and has roped in Chinese company Xiaomi for the newest phone under that banner. It is called the Mi A1 and its nothing like any of the four smartphones launched under the Android One program thus far. It is a lot more powerful than the predecessor Android One phones, and has a very premium design. It is priced at Rs14,999 and will be available through both online (Flipkart, Mi.com) and offline stores (Mi Home, retail stores) from 12 September.
We take a look at the elements which make it tower over rivals such as LG Q6 (Rs14,999) and Moto G5s Plus (Rs15,999).
Pure Android experience, quick updates
One of the limitations of Android ecosystem is the time original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) take to roll out Google updates, while many never update them at all. One of the objectives of Android One program is to deliver Google updates for two years and sooner than others. The Mi A1 runs Android 7.1.2 (Nougat) and is expected to receive Android 8.0 (Oreo) update by the end of the year. It also offers the purest Android interface with hardly any customisation. The only app where Xioami has made some changes is the camera app as the Google camera doesn’t support dual cameras yet.
Both Moto G5s Plus and LG Q6 run Android 7.1, but when it comes to pure Android experience, the former comes closest. The LG UI is typical custom UI with plenty of customisation options.
Dual cameras give it an edge
The two 12-megapixel cameras are placed side by side. The first one offers wide-angel lens, while the second offers 2x optical zoom. The camera can take some good-looking shots if the lighting is good. Colours look accurate and the amount of detail it can muster, especially with 2x zoom, gives it an edge over the 13-megapixel camera of LG Q6. However, you need steady hands to get blur free shots using the optical zoom lens as there is no OIS on it. Shots in low light look noisy. The front camera is a 5-megapixel affair, but was able to capture clear and noise free selfies even in indoor conditions.
The MI A1’s camera app comes with a number of handy modes such as Bokeh (blurs background to enhance objects under focus), Straighten (image remain straight regardless of the phone’s orientation), and Beautify (removes spots and marks on the face).
Smooth performance, dependable battery
The Mi A1 is powered by 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor, which has been clubbed with 4GB RAM, making it one of the most powerful sub-Rs15,000 smartphones. Moto G5s Plus is one of the few affordable smartphones to use this chipset. LG Q6 is driven by an inferior Snapdragon 435 octa-core processor.
The absence of bloatware reduces the load on the hardware, delivering a buttery smooth experience. Apps open faster, switching between apps is smooth and even with 8 to 10 apps running in the background the smartphone was able to handle games such as PES 2017 and Asphalt 8 without any hiccups. The back warmed up a little during gaming, but the heat was evenly spread and no area felt particularly hot.
The smartphone packs in a 3,080mAh battery, which is not much on paper, but adequate enough to deliver a day’s back-up if you don’t stress it too much.
Internal storage is 64GB and one can add up to 128GB more via microSD cards. It is more than enough for most tasks. Also, like Pixel smartphones, you get unlimited cloud storage for high-quality photos and videos.
The 5.5-inch display on the Mi A1 has a resolution of 1,920x1,080p. It puts it at par with rivals such as Moto G5s Plus and LG Q6, which also come with the same screen size and resolution. It is not a very bright looking display but colours in games and videos look realistic. Text in ebooks and webpages look crisp. Unlike Moto G5s Plus or LG Q6, there are no colour customisation options, so you can’t really enhance colours or switch to warm mode here. Visibility in bright light and from wide angles is good. LG Q6 has a more impressive display. It has a more edge-to-edge screen, which also offers a more immersive 18:9 aspect ratio.
The look and feel of affordable smartphones has improved a lot in the last few months. Xiaomi is taking it to the next level by giving design touches to Mi A1, which are usually found in mid-range smartphones, such as discreet antennas which look more subtle than plastic antennas. Also, it comes in some stylish colour options such as rose gold, black and gold. The Android One imprint placed under the Mi logo on the back gives it a nice touch. At 165g, the Mi A1 is not as light as the LG Q6 (149g), but grips well. At 7.3mm, it is thinner than both LG Q6 (8.1mm) and Moto G5s Plus (8mm). The Mi A1 feels a bit heavy at the top, though. The metal finish and the matte finish gives it an edge over LG Q6 which has a glass back. Moto G5s Plus has a metal back and weighs 168g.
The fingerprint sensor is placed at the back. It is easily accessible, fast and accurate to use. The base looks a bit cluttered as Xiaomi has clubbed the USB Type-C, speaker and 3.5mm jack together.