Pocophone, a new sub-brand from Xiaomi, has launched its first phone in India called the Poco F1. Questions of why does Xiaomi need a sub-brand aside, Poco F1 has all the tick marks of a flagship phone, at least in terms of specifications. Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, an 8GB RAM and 256GB version, it even comes with a 4000mAh battery. It also has liquid cooling on board to make sure you can really push the boundaries when playing games like PUBG.
Poco F1 is playing in the Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 price band and even the top of the line Kevlar Armoured edition costs Rs 29,999. This also makes it cheaper than the OnePlus 6, which remains a best-seller in the above Rs 30,000 category. It also helps that the Poco F1 comes in three variants: 6GB RAM and 64GB storage, 6GB RAM and 128GB storage and finally 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.
We’ve had the chance to use Poco F1 a couple of days ahead of the launch and here’s our first impression.
Poco F1 first impressions: Design, Display
The first thing that might strike you about the Poco F1’s design is the overall body. It’s not metal or glass. Instead, Poco F1 has gone for a polycarbonate body. There’s a Kevlar body variant as well, which obviously looks much nicer. Still a plastic body at this price point will invite criticism. The expectation is that above Rs 20,000, a metal body is a must given that there’s a lot of negative perception around a plastic body. Of course, not all potential users will be so bothered by this.
However, there is an advantage with plastic. One is not worried about damage to the metal or glass, which is a risk on phones like OnePlus 6, etc.
The Kevlar version we got for review has a pattern at the back, and the overall look and feel is much more premium than the plastic variants. This is a sturdy device to hold. I prefer the Kevlar over the polycarbonate variants.
The first time I saw this phone in a plastic cover, it reminded me of the OnePlus 6. When the cover is off, the difference is clear, but the similarity in design is hard to ignore, especially given the rear camera module.
Poco F1 has a 6-inch Full HD+ resolution display, which has a rather prominent notch on top. Users may love this or hate it, but it does not bother me as such. Overall the display is nice, and vivid, and should keep most users happy.
Poco F1: Performance, Specifications and Battery
Poco F1 is all about ‘speed’, according to the brand. This one comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 version, and we have the 8GB RAM and 256GB variant for review. One advantage with Poco F1 is that right now this is the most affordable flagship in the market with Qualcomm’s latest chipset. It is also the only phone with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, which is priced under Rs 30,000.
Poco and Xiaomi have played it right with the pricing and specifications, especially in India where specs often dominate the conversation to the point of annoyance. Poco appears to be drawing on Xiaomi’s learnings: give Indian consumers a good processor at an affordable price, and that’s where Poco F1 has a slight edge.
Poco F1 also comes with liquid cooling technology and is supposed to cool down quickly, even after an intense session of gaming. This is something we will have to wait and see once we have fully tested the device. But so far performance is zippy, and there’s no cause for concern.
The new phone comes with another big USP: a 4000mAh battery. This has become standard on the Redmi Note series, and it looks like Xiaomi’s Poco wants to make this the benchmark for this higher price band as well. A 4000mAh battery should easily last a day with heavy-duty usage, and this comes with a 5V/2A charger and Qualcomm’s QuickCharge3.0.
Poco F1 first impressions: Camera
Poco F1 has a 12MP+5MP rear camera and a 20MP front camera. There’s an AI mode as well, which can automatically recognise the scene and adjust photos accordingly. Poco is relying on Xiaomi’s camera expertise to power the experience.
I’ve only had the chance to take some photos with this and so far it looks promising, far better than what I have experienced on other Xiaomi phones. Some of the close-up shots are visually appealing with ample details, and colour reproduction is mostly accurate. I will have more on the camera in the review, but for now, the phone’s camera has surprised me.
Poco F1: Software
Poco F1 is running MIUI 9.6 and will be upgraded to MIUI 10 soon. The phone is on Android Oreo 8.1 with Poco promising Android Pie by the fourth quarter of 2018. Poco F1 does have its own Poco launcher, which does not have a traditional app tray as seen on the other Xiaomi phones. Instead, one has to swipe up from anywhere on the home screen to access the apps.
In Poco launcher, the apps are organised according to categories like Entertainment, communications, etc. It’s not accurate, since Google Maps has been put under Lifestyle, but it is an interesting UI format nonetheless. Poco launcher also has the option of accessing apps according to the colour of their icons, though I’m yet to try this out.
The phone also comes with Face Unlock which is supposed to work in completely dark environments as well. So far, this is an accurate claim as I have found in my early testing.
Poco F1 first impressions: Early thoughts
Poco F1 is Xiaomi’s big attempt to enter the Rs 20,000 and above market where it has not been so successful in India. This is also a global flagship and will launch in Europe, Asia, etc, with similar aggressive pricing from the company. Poco F1 will not be sold in China. It appears to the global flagship that has been created for the market beyond China where it might want to push the Mi Mix more.
But the India launch made it very clear that Poco F1 will try and take on the OnePlus, which managed to establish itself as the affordable, yet premium brand. It will also try and build a space for Xiaomi in a price band, where the company has never really played seriously, at least not in India. And given the price and the overall package, Poco F1 certainly has a good shot at achieving both these tasks.