When Android One phones first launched in India back in September 2014, three Indian brands were hand-picked by Google to showcase what stock Android would look like on budget phones. Micromax, Spice and Karbonn launched three Android One phones all with the same specifications. But Android One in its first phase was not the roaring success that Google had hoped it would be and it looked like the project was all almost dead in India, till Xiaomi was roped in.
The Mi A1 launched back in September 2017 and came with dual-cameras and an impressive performance. Mi A2 followed in August 2018. Since then we have seen plenty of Android One phones hit the market. These no longer have the specifications restriction that we saw back in 2014. HMD Global’s entire Nokia series is Android One certified, Motorola’s One series carries the Android One branding as well.
Now, Xiaomi is getting ready to launch the Mi A3 in India, which it has already introduced in markets like Spain. The company’s India head Manu Kumar Jain posted on Twitter about the next product launch o August 21, an Android One phone with a 48MP camera. The image shared also shows three cameras hinting at triple cameras at the back. There is plenty to indicate that this is the Mi A3, taking forward the Android One series from Xiaomi.
The Mi A3 comes at a time when the brand is facing tough competition in the mid-budget segment, one which it has come to dominate for the last two years in India. One serious new competitor is newcomer Realme, which is launching phones nearly as fast as Xiaomi. Then there’s Samsung, which revamped its product lineup with the M series and the A series as well.
But Mi A3’s biggest competition will perhaps be Xiaomi’s own Redmi phones. In the past, Xiaomi’s Mi A series has played in the under Rs 20,000 price point, and if this strategy continues, it will be close to the very capable Redmi Note 7 Pro in terms of price.
The Mi A1 launched at Rs 14,999, while the Mi A2 was priced at Rs 16,999 though it had a costlier variant at Rs 18,999 as well. A similar price as Mi A2 would make the Mi A3 cheaper than the newly-launched Redmi K20, a capable phone from Xiaomi that has faced some heat on social media over the price of Rs 21,999.
But Mi A3 will also have to overcome some of the shortcomings of Xiaomi’s previous Mi A2. One would be the battery. As we noted in our review, Mi A2’s 3000 mAh battery seemed like a compromise given it did not last a day. Mi A2 also did away with the headphone jack and microSD slot, which was a major mistake for a phone priced under Rs 20,000 in India. Yes, Bluetooth wireless headphones are very popular now, but those looking for a phone under Rs 20,000 might not always have these or would just want to use their old wired headphones.
The Mi A3 is basically the Mi CC9e being relaunched as an Android One phone for global and India markets. Mi A3’s specifications are known given the global launch, though Xiaomi has not yet clarified how much RAM and storage will be present on the Indian variants. The India price is also not known.
Based on the global page for Mi A3, it looks like Xiaomi is fixing the major issues that were highlighted on the Mi A2. The battery is bigger compared to Mi A2 at 4030 mAh, and the phone also has a headphone jack. Given the known specifications, it would appear that Mi A3 is an upgrade over the previous phone.
But Mi A3 will have to do a lot more than just get the specifications sheet right. One area where Mi A3 will have to really work in my opinion is the camera. I say this not because the Mi A2 had a terrible camera, but because I still think Mi A1 was one of the best camera phones from Xiaomi.
Yes, it had none of the fancy frills of a 48MP sensor at the back as has become common now. But it had a wide-angle and telephoto lens combination, which made it stand out in that particular budget. The Portrait mode and regular performance were what impressed me back then. With the Mi A2, I didn’t quite feel the same, and the Night mode felt like it needed work.
That’s really where the challenge will like for Mi A3. Stock Android as we know is no longer the USP for the Mi A series. This is also not the first phone to offer a triple camera. For Mi A3, offering something completely unique in an overcrowded segment won’t be easy, especially when compared to all the Redmis and Realmes floating in the market.