Xiaomi has had quite an impressive run in the last 3 years in the Indian market. They have changed the game with their aggressive pricing and have taken the value proposition for entry-level to mid-range smartphones to a whole new level with a choice of hardware components and features that one wouldn’t expect at that price point previously. More importantly, there has always been something exciting to look forward to with their every new release.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about their newly launched Redmi Y series. Whatever I have seen so far about the Redmi Y1 and Y1 Lite doesn’t excite me. Here’s why I felt a little let down:
1) Redmi Y series is just marketing mumbo-jumbo than product innovation
Almost every series that Xiaomi has launched till date has a definite characteristic and purpose. The Y series though is shrouded in ambiguity. What does it stand for really – youth-centric phones, selfie-centric phones? What does that mean? Aren’t their other phones meant for a young crowd?
If the Redmi Y series is supposed to be about selfie-centric phones, then what is the Y1 Lite doing there? Even their cheapest phone currently – Redmi 4A has a 5MP camera similar to the one on the Y1 Lite. So it has no real business being a part of this series. I don’t see any innovation there. That brings me to my next point.
2) Redmi Y1 and Y1 Lite are rebranded phones rather than category defining models
The lack of innovation going into the Y series can be gauged from the fact that both, Y1 and Y1 Lite, are just rebranded variants of Redmi Note 5A. Neither are category defining models that can lend a character to the Y series. The specifications and feature set are entry level at best. No issues with that but it is not something that we haven’t seen before in that price bracket. When you launch a new series, it is only fair for us to expect something unique from it. Maybe I am just a victim of high expectations that Xiaomi has set prior to this.
3) Opportunity lost
As I mentioned at the start, Xiaomi has been either setting the bar or raising it in various price brackets over the past few years. That’s the game that suits them better than chasing the competition. Also, the specifications of most phones till date have been very practical and ones that addressed the needs of a much broader audience. With the Y series, Xiaomi seems to have fallen for the fad of selfie phones. It (Redmi Y1) supposedly caters to those who need a higher megapixel camera to click selfies.
Wait! How can clicking your own face 20 times a day in higher resolution be termed as a need? So let’s just call it a fad; hopefully a passing one. That aside, Xiaomi had ample time and scope to innovate even in that category. The top model in the Y series should have been one that showcased something far better than just a few extra megapixels in the front camera and an app to play around with the selfies. Hopefully, they will do that in the future releases in the Y series. But for now, it’s a lost opportunity.
4) Higher megapixels do not necessarily translate into better images
I learnt very early in life that more does not always mean better. There is a similar saying in the world of digital cameras too that more pixels do not mean better image quality. The selfie camera on the Y1 is another example of that. Though it boasts of a 16 Megapixel selfie camera, the image quality isn’t anything great. Yes, it’s a sub-10k (Rupees) device and I shouldn’t be too harsh on it, I know.
The point I am trying to drive here is that the details in photos clicked using the 16MP front camera on the Redmi Y1 aren’t noticeably better than those captured using a 5MP front snapper on a Redmi Note 4 (Review) or a Redmi 4 for that matter. So 16 Megapixels is just a number that looks good on the spec-sheet but one that doesn’t translate into real-world performance.
5) There are better options in the same price bracket, even from Xiaomi
If pricing was supposed to be the USP of the Y series phones, then there are better options available if you are willing to spend just a little more. With the recently announced price drop, Redmi Note 4 smartphones sell for just a thousand Rupees more than their Redmi Y1 counterparts with the same amount of storage and RAM. For the extra Rs 1000 you pay, you stand to get a full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution) 5.5-inch screen over an HD (1280 x 720) screen that you get in the Redmi Y1. Add to that much better and faster Snapdragon 625 SoC (versus Snapdragon 435), a bigger battery and a better primary camera at the back, to name a few. That would be money well spent if you aren’t too obsessed with clicking yourself.
All said and done, I can’t find a compelling reason to buy either of the current Redmi Y series phones. Hopefully, this is just a small blip in their otherwise impressive portfolio, and Xiaomi will be back to doing what they do best, even with the next iteration of the Y series.