The first phone by the Chinese manufacturer in India has created a buzz among tech aficionados, and understandably so. But are great specs enough to make a great phone?
Specs: 5-inch IPS FullHD touchscreen (1920×1080 pixels, 441ppi) with Gorilla Glass 3 | 2.3GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 | 2GB RAM | 16GB internal memory, no microSD card | 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, NFC, GPS | 13MP rear camera with dual LED flash, 2MP front camera, 1080p video recording | 3050mAh battery | Android 4.4 Kit Kat with MIUI v5
Price: Rs. 13,999
The Xiaomi Mi3 looks like a premium device. It’s got a magnesium alloy frame that protects the insides, and a sleek black front with a small “Mi” logo at the top—much less in-your-face than most brands.
While Xiaomi wants to fool you into thinking the back is metal, you know it’s plastic; that said, it’s good quality plastic. The buttons have a resounding click, but we aren’t quite sure how long they will last; even in a week of use, we already felt their response had deteriorated. The speaker grill is located at the bottom, so you can keep your phone face or back down on the bed and still hear it ring clearly.
Packing a sharp 5-inch FullHD screen with vibrant colours, there are no complaints with the display. It’s as good as what you’ll get on any device.
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, the Mi3 easily handles any task you ask it to do. The 2GB of RAM means that you can also safely multi-task. Everything is buttery smooth and you won’t feel a lack of power at any point. It should be noted that the Mi3 is the first Snapdragon 800 device I’ve used that doesn’t heat up easily.
Have you ever seen an LG and a Samsung TV next to each other in a showroom? Notice how colours on the LG looks duller but sharper, while the Samsung looks more vibrant but has noise around the edges. The Mi3’s 13MP camera is akin to the LG—your images won’t have vibrant, luscious colours and that can be a disappointment. But they’ll be sharp and capture detail exceptionally well.
With videos, the Mi3 has one issue: the microphone. It picks up too much ambient noise while shooting, so you often don’t get the audio you want.
The only major concern with this smartphone is storage. It comes with 16GB of built-in memory, of which 13GB is available to the user. If you take a lot of photos and videos, load up some music, and install some graphics-intensive games, you’ll quickly run out of space. You can rely on cloud services and make do though, which is not too bad a sacrifice.
Xiaomi’s custom Android interface, called MIUI, is fantastic to use. It has already got Android 4.4 Kit Kat, but only improves upon it. There are small tweaks and additions, like lovely little transition effects which make your device feel smoother. Connect a set of earphones and Xiaomi will offer presets depending on the type of headphones you are using. It’s also quite customisable, letting you decide the layout of the notification shade, the notification LED lights, and more. Sure, it doesn’t seem like plain Android, but it’s a nice customisation that you’ll be happy to use instead.
The non-removable 3050mAh battery is a good counterfoil for the power-hungry Snapdragon 800 processor. For most people, the Mi3 will easily last a day, maybe even a little more. Power users can expect about 16 hours of battery life on a single charge. The Xiaomi Mi3 played 10 hours of video on continuous playback.
While the price is great, the Mi3’s box does not include headphones, a screen guard, or any different types of covers. You just get a phone, the USB cable and a plug. So you will have to spend extra for all those accessories you would typically want with a high-end device, and that can raise the price of the phone quickly.
Also, the phone is currently available only through Flipkart, and has a sort of lottery system. Xiaomi and Flipkart sell a short number of stock for a limited amount of time, and you have to be lucky to grab one when they do. The process also involves pre-registering for that sale, being online for a few hours before the sale starts, and a trip to a praying room to seek blessings that you will be among the few chosen ones to buy this phone.
It is clear that the Xiaomi Mi3 is a winner and worth far more than the Rs. 13,999 it asks for. It reminds me of that old Nirma ad: “Jab wohi safedi, wohi jhaag, kam daam mien miley, to koi yeh kyun le, woh na le?” That sums up the Xiaomi Mi3.
It is a steal at that price, and frankly, it no longer makes sense to buy anything more expensive. If you can afford a budget of around Rs. 15,000 or anything more, then buy the Xiaomi Mi3 and forget about other options. The question, though, is whether you are lucky enough to be able to buy it.