With lots of Chinese OEMs releasing smartphones every now and then, the market has already gotten to its saturation point. One company that still manages to keep its shoulders above the competition is Xiaomi, a company keeps using the same strategy that made it a success– churning out great devices at competitive price points.
Partnering with Google to create it’s first Android One phone, Xiaomi Mi A1 is a mid-range device that should win over skeptics. For the first time in a long while, I was excited to actually use a mid-range smartphone.
|Model||Xiaomi Mi A1|
|Display||5.5-inch, FHD, LTPS IPS LCD|
|Processor||2.0GHz octa-core (Snapdragon 625)|
|Internal Storage||32GB / 64GB (expandable up to 128GB via MicroSD)|
|Software||Android 7.0 Nougat (Upgradeable to Android 8.0)|
|Rear Camera||Dual 12MPwith LED flash and 1080p Videos|
|Features||4G VoLTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, USB type-C, 3.5mm Audio Jack, USB OTG support|
Pros & Cons
As good as this phone looks, it has a couple of weaknesses that should be mentioned.
Like I mentioned in the unboxing video, this device looks very much like the iPhone 7 Plus. Xiaomi replicates the design down to the antennae lines placement.
A 2.5D curved glass covers the front. The IPS LCD screen has a set of backlit navigation keys just below it. At the top bezel are the earpiece at it’s usual place and the 5MP camera just to the left.
Despite this being an Android One phone, Xiaomi still puts the IR blaster found on most of their devices at the top of the Mi A1. The noise-canceling mic is also placed in this position. The bottom as a USB type-C port with a mono speaker and 3.5mm audio port on each side.
The right side has the volume rocker and power button while the left holds the SIM tray. There are two slots that allow the use of two nano-SIM cards, or a nano-SIM card and a microSD card.
At the back, there’s are two 12MP camera with a dual-tone LED flash at the left corner. The fingerprint sensor is at its usual place.
The metallic unibody design looks good, and this phone feels pretty nice to hold. It’s thin and very light, but it’s a design we’ve all seen before. Unlike the iPhone 7 Plus though, you have your 3.5mm audio port, a fingerprint sensor at the back, and a set of backlit soft keys just below the screen.
The phone packs the standard LCD display you would expect from to see on a $200 smartphone. So far you’re not comparing it with an OLED display from Samsung, it looks alright. The 5.5-inch LTPS IPS LCD display has a 1080p resolution and colors looks vivid. Saturation is just about the right level and sunlight legibility is good.
But if you’re being extra-picky, you may notice that colors looked a little bit washed out in bright sunlight. A regular user would probably not notice this. There’s a blue-light filter feature called Night Light, its standard with Android Oreo and you can adjust the intensity from the settings. Pretty cool, especially if you’re aversive to blue light on a phone.
One feature I love most about the display is the fact that you can make the font extra-tiny. When I pick up a new phone, one of the first things I do is go to the display settings and set the font size to the smallest. This phone lets me go farther than I usually do. With this, the phone tends to fit more characters on the screen that other devices sporting the same screen size.
Unlike the Mi Max 2 though, Xiaomi Mi A1 seems to have a better display.
Battery life on the Mi A1 is surprisingly good. I was expecting a crappy battery life with the 3,080mAh battery. Thanks to the stock Android operating system, optimization is on point. The battery gets me through the day and that’s what matters most. You could get up 7-8 hours on-screen time depending on what you’re doing with the phone. I’m mostly on WiFi so I wouldn’t say what the battery life looks like on 4G.
It takes about 1 hour 40 minutes to fully charge if you’ve already updated to Android Oreo. On Android Nougat, it’s about 2 hours. The battery loop test I did saw the phone running for over 11 hours. Although it’s not a battery beast like the Mi Max 2, Xiaomi Mi A2 delivers where it matters.
The battery life is satisfactory, it’s a lot better than I assumed.
Like other Android One phones, this phone runs pure Android OS: No customizations, no bloatware, nothing. It’s just Android the way it should be. While some people would prefer to have MIUI due to all the extra features and better aesthetics, stock Android OS on Android One devices sure has its own perks. You get timely updates even before flagship phones from bigger brands.
And if you’ve been holding back from picking a Xiaomi device because of MiUI, this is the phone you’ve been looking for. Initially, it came with Android Nougat, but I got an OTA update and it’s now on Android Oreo With January security. February security patch is already available for download to a lot of users.
Like other Android One phones, you should expect software updates for at least 2 years, and you can be sure that Xiaomi Mi A1 will get Android P update whenever it’s released.
Performance is quite good; it’s not the flagship level performance, but it’s quite great. The combination of a decent hardware plus great software gives an impressive result. Xiaomi Mi A1 has Snapdragon 625 processor, the same one on XIaomi Mi Max 2 and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4x. It’s got 4GB of RAM, making multitasking very smooth.
The unit I have comes with the base 32GB storage, but you should go or the 64GB version or you may have to give up using the second SIM slot for a microSD card.
I’m not really heavy on mobile gamin these days but I did try out a couple of games and they run just fine. The phone will practically run whatever you throw at it.
The global version of Xiaomi Mi A1 supports quite a lot of 4G bands, and I was able to use 4G network on MTN and 9Mobile. But unfortunately, I couldn’t get Ntel and Smile to work even though the phone supports their network bands. I had this same issue on the Mi Max 2.
Xiaomi Mi A1 has a dual-camera setup, a feature hard to come by on devices in this price range. The rear camera has two 12MP cameras, an OmniVision OV12A10 sensor (wide-angle, f/2.2) and an OmniVision OV13880 sensor (telephoto, f/2.6). In good light conditions, the camera takes great pictures. Images taken are well detailed and color reproduction is close to natural. I really like the camera.
However, low-light photography is not just good. Detail is lost and images have lots of noise. The selfie camera too isn’t impressive. I’ve come to accept this when it comes to mid-range phones.
On the other hand, Portrait mode on Xiaomi Mi A1 is awesome. Edges are well defined most of the time and images look stunning.
One thing worth mentioning is the camera bump. I personally don’t mind having this on a phone; as a matter of fact, I don’t care. But I think if you’re going to leave the bump there, make sure the lens cover is extra hard. I’ve got a scratch on the lens already, an indication that this phone must be put it in a case.
The phone has just a mono speaker at the bottom which, in my opinion, is not good enough. The sound quality isn’t one of the best I’ve heard.
Even with its flaws, Xiaomi Mi A1 doesn’t have any major dealbreaker. It’s an almost perfect mid-range phone I would definitely recommend. Of course, you can’t get it all at just $200; you still have to deal with poor low light photography and a not-so-good selfie camera. These are just some of the imperfections that come with this price tag.
But the performance is good, battery life is very acceptable, it’s got a great dual camera at the back, and you get stock Android OS with timely updates. Xiomi Mi A1 is definitely a phone that gives its best where it matters.