The Xiaomi Mi A1 is the Android One version of the Mi 5X, which was limited to the Chinese market. The phone offers the new stock Android experience unlike the dozens of phones from the company coming with the MIUI experience. What does this mean, to begin with? Some might not like the fact that the phone has taken away the MIUI interface because even though it doesn’t resemble the actual Android OS, there is a lot offered to enhance the user experience. On the other side, this was a match that people were looking forward to, for a long time now. Xiaomi’s hardware with the pure Android software is a match made to perfectly blend into the mid-range segment.
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Is the Xiaomi Mi A1, priced at Rs. 14999 a perfect phone that you were looking for? Let’s find out in the review.
Easily, Xiaomi has one of the best phones till date in this price range when it comes to the build quality and the look of the phone. The Mi A1 has a design that can again be called an inspired one, to a bunch of phones in the market but as was the point when we talked about the OnePlus 5, the design of the phone shouldn’t really matter as long as they offer the comfort and feel that you wanted.
The phone doesn’t boast any wide display, bezel-less properties, or even a very slim profile but what is given here with the Mi A1 is a classy and neat design with the metal body having the antenna bands towards the top and bottom on the back of the device. This is the first Xiaomi phone in India to have a dual-lens camera setup on the back and there’s the Android One branding given to revive the plans that Google had a couple of years back but failed to execute it well.
What’s constant on most of the Xiaomi phones irrespective of their price is the presence of an IR blaster to offer the quick remote functionality through the Mi Remote app. The bottom of the device has a USB Type-C port, the solo speaker grill, and the 3.5mm headset jack just beside the microphone.
The front of the device houses the 5.5-inch Full HD display and above that is the set of sensors and the camera just beside to the earpiece grill, and the navigation buttons below the display are backlit but they are not interchangeable. As we talk about the hardware, the fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone is well regressed and it works well in quick recognition and unlocking the device.
Now, the display. Xiaomi’s flagship smartphones with the Sunlight display have been getting the accolades all the while but the mid-range phones have rarely got the same because of the fierce competition. Here, the Xiaomi Mi A1 has a Full HD display with the Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The display quality is actually good with the color output being great and there is enough brightness to have the content readable in most of the conditions. The protection on the top can help only to keep the scratches away, and the 2.5D curve on the sides gives it a good look to continue with the curves on the back of the phone.
Android One is something new, not just for Xiaomi but also for many users who might have not even heard of it. The campaign had begun with a bunch of budget phones and it never really picked up and the whole purpose of offering smooth experience and timely updates got lost due to the poor response and choice of brands to partner with. Google finally shook hands with Xiaomi and this could be the best thing to happen with both the companies, though Google might benefit a little more to get the best hardware in the market to run its software. MIUI is good but with it, there were always those doubts of software updates as the MIUI version saw the change but the Android version stayed the same. With stock Android, you don’t have to worry about that because the phone is going to see at least a couple of major OS updates and by the end of this year, even Android Oreo update will be on board.
The interface is simple, easy to use and there is no bloatware except for a couple of essential apps from Xiaomi. The other difference is that the camera app here is given by Xiaomi because it has to have the depth-sensing mode to take advantage of the dual-lens camera. There are a couple of gesture features available, including the double press of power button to launch the camera app, or swipe down the fingerprint sensor to drag the notification panel down.
Talking about the performance, the Mi A1 is an absolutely smooth device with the interface being very responsive and all the extremely heavy tasks like gaming or the camera usage are handled very well, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor that is supported by 4GB of RAM. There’s a layer of pyrolytic graphite sheet placed to keep the phone a little cooler than what it is while gaming or using 4G and browsing the web, and that somehow works here because, in comparison to the Moto G5S Plus having a similar build and the same chipset, the latter was easily hotter after similar time of gaming.
The camera combination is one of the highlights of the phone, thanks to this being the first from the company in India to have the dual-lens setup, where you find two 12-megapixel cameras with F/2.2 and F/2.6 aperture. There has been a good number of smartphones in the recent time to have a dual-lens setup to offer their own set of features and in this case, while one camera does the regular job of capturing wide-angle shots, the other one helps in up to 2x optical zoom and when both of them work together, you would see the portrait mode helping in blurring the background, which in this case has done a very fine job when compared to the others in this price range. If we are talking about the comparison, the two phones Moto G5S Plus and Lenovo K8 Note are nowhere close to the Mi A1 for the portrait captures.
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But, an area where we expected a little better was with the low light captures where a lot of noise is noticed, since the aperture is not large and thus the two cameras try to bring in more light, resulting in more noise even though some good details are retained. Also, with the video recording, the shakes were very much noticed even though the camera was quick enough to lock focus while the video is being recorded.
The front-facing camera doesn’t have a lot to talk about, a standard 5MP camera though the app has Beauty mode and the filters if you wanted to do some artificial edits and enhance the picture. Although 1080p videos can be captured with the phone, they too seem to be too shaky unless you mount the phone on a tripod to take a video.
A 3080 mAh battery might seem quite less these days when compared to the company’s own budget and mid-range devices, the Redmi 4 and the Redmi Note 4. But, Xiaomi has managed to keep things well with it as the phone could well last a day with ease and have an average of over 4 hours of screen-on time regularly, and this was while I used the Mi A1 as my primary phone. Mind you, it is about 60-80 apps on average that the phone has and most of the time, two SIM cards present in the device while I was using it for the past one week.
The battery life is not bad at all, but at the same time, it is only the 5V 2A charging that is supported at max, and thus the phone takes about 120 minutes to charge fully. This is not the fastest of the charging solutions out there, especially when we are talking about a 3080 mAh battery here and not about a 4000 mAh one.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 is a dual-SIM smartphone and the second SIM slot can have either a SIM or a MicroSD card, and there is a proper support to LTE and VoLTE. The speaker on the bottom is loud enough and there is no distortion noticed on the different genre of music that we played. The earpiece quality is good and the call quality can be rated excellent. The signal strength is not the best because, in comparison to this, the Mi Max 2 having the SIM of the same network could pull in more network.
Overall, the Xiaomi Mi A1 is a great phone. To simply put, this amalgamation of software from Google and the hardware from Xiaomi is the best one to have happened this year and the phone can easily be the table-topper for the ratings, the sales, and for the experience offered to the users. Liking the stock Android or MIUI is all dependent on the user and if you are someone who still wanted to see that flashy and feature-filled MIUI and don’t care about the updates, there’s Mi 5X that you should take a look at, but it isn’t available in the Indian market and even in contention, there are the Lenovo K8 Note, Moto G5S Plus, and the Nokia 6, all of them with the stock Android, so you know what we are heading towards.
As usual is the case with Xiaomi, the availability could be an issue but that is for a while and if you couldn’t grab the phone in the early sales, some patience should help in this case.
Xiaomi Mi A1 Pros and Cons
- Pros: Design, Performance, Dual-lens camera stereo mode, battery life
- Cons: Camera low-light performance, network reception, Hybrid SIM slot