Xiaomi Mi A1 review: Dual-rear cameras shine on this ‘Android One’ phone

Xiaomi Mi A1 review: The dual-rear cameras work quite well on this smartphone, and the promise of updates on Android is another advantage.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Shruti Dhapola | New Delhi | Updated: October 5, 2017 1:19 pm
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Xiaomi’s Mi A1 is unlike any other phone they’ve launched in India in the last couple of months. For one, this has no MIUI and the reason for that is the Android One branding. Also this is one of their first phones in the Indian market to sport dual cameras on the back. When Xiaomi has announced it was launching this phone, the expectation was this would be the Mi 5X, but the Mi A1 is supposed to be a completely different device.

Xiaomi and Google insist this is a global launch, and the phone will be making an appearance in other markets like Russia, Indonesia, etc. Of course, India is getting the Mi A1 smartphone first, given how well Xiaomi has done here and is now the number two smartphone brand. On other side, Google will be hoping to cash in on Xiaomi’s popularity and hope the Android One project finally takes off in a market, which is one of the most important for the company. We’ve used the Xiaomi Mi A1 Android One smartphone for sometime now and here’s our review.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Specifications: 5.5-inch display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor | 4GB RAM and 64GB storage (expandable) | 12MP+ 12MP rear camera and 5MP front camera | 3080 mAh battery | Android Nougat 7.1

Xiaomi Mi A1 price in India: Rs 14,999

Xiaomi Mi A1 Design, Display review

Mi A1 will remind users of many other Xiaomi smartphones they would have used in the past. In fact from the front, it reminds me a lot of the Google Pixel design given the glass on the front. Mi A1 is launching in three colours: Gold with a white panel on the front, the Black version and a Rose gold version, which will be made available for sale.

The metal unibody design is something that we’ve seen Xiaomi use in many of its others devices and Mi A1 doesn’t feel any different. It is solid to hold and has the look and feel of a premium device, even though it is priced at Rs 14,999. On the back, the dual rear cameras are placed horizontally and the lens set does tend to jut out. The round fingerprint scanner is at the back of the device. The antenna bands at the back of the device are placed quite prominently. The back has the Mi logo and well below that is the ‘Android One’ logo.

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Additionally Mi A1 uses a Type-C USB charger with the port situated at the bottom. There is single speaker grille and headphone jack at the bottom. From a design perspective this is similar to the Mi 5X. In fact, remove the Android One branding and you won’t be able to tell the phones apart. But Xiaomi insists this phone has subtle differences. Also these are ‘Made in India’ and not imported from China.

Coming to the Mi A1’s display, this one sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1080p) resolution. This has become standard on Xiaomi phones like Redmi Note series and this is one area where the player continues to deliver. The viewing angles are quite good, perhaps better than what some other players offer in the price range, and the big display size is ideal for video consumption. No, this is not a bezel-less display, but Xiaomi is not compromising on the resolution either.

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Xiaomi Mi A1 Performance review

With the Mi A1, Xiaomi sticks with just one SKU: 4GB RAM on board with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor and 64GB storage. The processor is the same as the one on the Redmi Note 4, which is an equally capable phone. Could Xiaomi has used a newer series? Perhaps, but clearly the company loves the 625 series. Even Mi Max 2 has the same processor.

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On the performance front, Mi A1 is as capable as any other mid-range smartphone from the company. Be it multi-tasking for apps, browsing through social media, video consumption, or even gaming Mi A1 does not face any problems. The phone didn’t heat up too noticeably even during charging or playing games like Asphalt 8, etc. The fingerprint scanner is accurate and unlocks the device quickly.

In benchmark tests, Mi A1 scores 62651 for us on Antutu, which similar to what something like Redmi Note 4, etc have score for me in the past. One thing that I didn’t enjoy on the Xiaomi Mi A1 so much was the sound. Yes, the sound is loud, in fact the speakers on this smartphone are much louder compared to other Xiaomi phones I’ve used in the past. But if you put the volume at full, it does tend to jar a bit, and can be a disconcerting experience.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Software review

Xiaomi Mi A1 doesn’t come with any of the features you might be used to in the regular MIUI. There’s no option for dual apps, no segregation of all those annoying service messages in your SMS app into notifications. Instead what you get is stock Android out. This Android One phone might seem plain and rather boring, but the advantage here is that Android Oreo update is promised by end of 2017. Also this phone is supposed to get Android P as well. Again we’ll have to wait and see if both Xiaomi and Google actually deliver on this.

Overall, though I don’t mind stock Android. I am not a fan of confusing skins, UI, and while MIUI is certainly better compared to what other players tend to offer, the lesser the bloatware, the better. For those who are fond of themes, tinkering with launchers, etc this might not be the Xiaomi phone for you.

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The one thing that is Xiaomi on this phone is the Mi camera app given the dual rear cameras. There’s also a Mi feedback app. The Mi remote app was also supposed to be pre-loaded on the Mi A1, but I didn’t see when I setup this phone.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Camera review

Xiaomi Mi A1 sports a dual-rear camera with 12MP+ 12MP setup with a telephoto and a wide angle lens setup. At the launch, Xiaomi went all out, comparing this to the iPhone 7 Plus dual rear camera, which is a tall claim to make and follow up. Is the iPhone 7 Plus dual camera the best? Perhaps not, but that camera does offer something that mid-range phones can’t match.

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With the Mi A1, Xiaomi actually delivers on the camera front. I was quite surprised by some of the portrait mode shots, I got from this phone, provided the lighting was fine. The overall composition of the pictures in the Mi A1 is impressive, though lighting plays a major role in determining the quality of the image.

Yes, like all other dual rear cameras, this one requires patience. Make sure the subject is standing in a place where you can create some depth, and this is not ideal for low-lighting. Also the smaller the object, the easier it is to confuse the camera. But if the setting is right, you will get pictures which are exceptional. For Rs 14,999, this is not bad. Does it mean you should throw out your DSLR? No, please don’t.

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Overall the Mi A1 has a pretty good camera, even in the regular mode. Perhaps not the best in low-light at times, but then this is a mid-range camera. Also I wish Xiaomi had switched it up with the front camera a little. There’s no marked improvement in what I’ve tried with other Redmi phones. On the plus side though, you can deploy someone to take portraits, rather than just relying on selfies.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Battery review

Xiaomi Mi A1 battery is 3080 mAh and it easily lasts a day, even with with moderate to heavy usage. The smartphone scored around 7 hours on the PC Mark battery test. The fast charging is an impressive feature on the Mi A1.

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Xiaomi Mi A1 Verdict

Mi A1 is not just a Xiaomi device. This is the revival of the Android One project in India. and the world we are told. Of course for many people, the buying point might be the Xiaomi brand name, and not because stock Android is available on this phone. The rear camera though is on point and delivers quite well. The performance of the phone is also up to the mark and the promise of updates is always a good lure.

If you’re looking for a dual camera option in the under Rs 15,000 price mark, my pick would be the Xiaomi Mi A1. For those who don’t really care for the stock Android and want to spend less, Redmi Note 4, Moto G5 Plus, etc are all options to consider.

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