I’m an iOS guy, truthfully. The following review is of an Android phone from an iOS user’s perspective, so expect it to be a little critical! (Or really? Read on.)
After losing my iPhone, I had to pick up a replacement phone that’d do all the same functions for a fraction of the cost. I wanted a phone that was priced under $200 and yet was good enough to live through the life of a techie.
Xiaomi is making a lot of noise in the Indian market. It is already an established brand in the Chinese smartphone market, and with its new manufacturing facility in India, it is growing very fast. Xiaomi’s advantage is its insanely cheap pricing - for the cost of a dinner party in a 5 star hotel, you get a full fledged phone capable of doing everything an average Android phone can do, in many ways, better.
Looking at the hype, I picked up my first Android. I chose the Redmi 2 Prime, a $100 phone that brags to be Xiaomi’s first ‘Made in India’ product.
And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
For $100, you can't ask for much. You can ask for a decent phone that works okay with apps from the Play Store, but you definitely can’t ask for good build quality, great specs and a quality display. When I received the Redmi, I felt the surprise.
First up, it doesn’t look bad. Although the entire phone is pretty much plastic, Xiaomi has done a great job with keeping the looks simple. The phone feels good in the hand. The button placement is a bit odd at first, but it is easy to get used to. Having used an iPhone 6 for many months, this phone does feel cheap, but at the same time doesn’t feel “bad” either.
That is not the point though. I didn’t buy the phone for its looks, I bought it for the specs. Very rarely do you find a phone that costs this less and houses 2 GB of RAM. The “Prime” in the name is actually just about that: this phone is exactly the same as the Redmi 2 just that this has 1 more gigabyte of RAM. How big of a deal is that? Its huge, as I’ll explain.
The phone spec sheet looks like this:
- 64 bit quad-core Snapdragon 410 @ 1.2 Ghz
- 2 GB RAM
- 16 GB internal memory, expandable
- 2200 mAh battery
- 8 MP (f 2.2 aperture) back/ 2 MP front cameras
- 4.7” 1280x720 IPS HD display at 312 ppi
So there is nothing to brag about… until you realise, as a package, this phone is outstanding for the price. And that's the reason I bought the Redmi.
On the benchmark side of things, the phone scored 20653 on the AnTuTu benchmark, that stands a few thousand points below the flagship Xiaomi phone, the Mi4. Its not great by any standard, but is definitely good for a $100 phone. Overall though, I’m happy with the phone’s performance. It plays well with productivity and utility apps and handles basic gaming (the stuff I like) with ease.
That brings me to the software side of things. And I must admit, I fell in love with MIUI faster than any Android ROM ever. MIUI 6 has, by far, the most iOS like Android UI ever. Xiaomi is a software company and its ROM shows that. The MIUI 6 is an absolute beauty - it utilises the 720p display to its best, displaying vivid colours in a simple design philosophy.
It looks like, on first sight, that a lot of the UI has been copied from iOS. And for an iOS fan, that’s exactly the best thing. The weather app has the same flat design from iOS. The Calendar app icon shows that day’s date, just as the iOS Calendar icon does on an iPhone. Even the size and shape of the icons and the existence of a 4 icon “dock” matches iOS. And what’s even more similar is that like iOS, all apps live on the home screen. No pathetically arranged Android app drawer here. Perfect for an iOS fanboy.
There are some exceptional features in MIUI that you won't see innately in any other Android phone. One such feature is the ability to record phone calls right as you speak to a person. Another feature is, surprisingly, the ability to AirPlay. This gave me quiet a shock: which Android phone supports streaming via Apple’s AirPlay, let alone the ability to directly stream movies from the phone to an Apple TV in full HD without buffering? I feel such features are what distinguishes Xiaomi from any other Android phone and ROM manufacturer. Xiaomi uses its MIUI forum to bring in ideas from fans and implement them continuously into the ROM, and send OTA updates every single Friday. Pretty amazing.
Coming back to the 2 gigs of RAM: MIUI itself uses about 800 MB of it, so the remaining 1.2 GB is at your disposal. That’s why the Prime is better that the regular model; the added RAM is what really allows the phone to multitask easily while still keeping the UI silky smooth.
And then the complains start. After using iOS for years, I feel Android is terrible in many ways. The Play Store is an absolute disaster when compared to the iOS AppStore. Google’s app recommendations based on what your friends use, the way the store looks and the terrible quality of apps makes me hate the Play store. Without searching for every app I wanted, I couldn’t make it to downloading them.
And then there is the data usage. My iPhone used significantly less 3G data for a particular period of time, comparatively. Somehow, it seems that Android has too many background processes that eat up cellular data. Yes, MIUI helps a bit here: there is a dedicated security + cleaning app that also allows for setting cellular data restrictions for every app separately. But then again, I’m wasting my Internet on unnecessary services or background tasks, it seems.
And finally, the Android File Transfer app on the Mac is bad in too many aspects. You cannot do more than one transfer at a time and the app itself looks terribly organised. Still, considering I never really bought this phone to make it extend my ecosystem, I have to accept that some of these problems might only affect a small bunch of people.
I’m still not hooked to Android. Although I’m a critic, I must say Xiaomi has done an amazing job with this phone. Its not about being 'the best phone' in the lot here. Its about delivering a great package at an affordable price. Concluding, I’d give this phone a healthy 7 out of 10.
Xiaomi has shown me how a small Chinese brand can take over the country. Its one brand I’ve began to respect, and I hope this trust continues. If it weren’t for MIUI, this review would not have been so positive. Sure, Xiaomi is a winner.
Learn more about the phone: http://www.mi.com/in/redmi2/