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Xiaomi Mi A1: Undercutting the dual-camera competition
By Ian Chee - 19 Oct 2017
Launch SRP: RM1099

Introduction, Design and Features

The name Xiaomi has always been associated with affordable smartphones running on Android OS. That said, after having a fair share of experience with their phones, you’ll know that it has its own MIUI overlay that makes the UI more iOS-esque than your typical Android device. This is set to change with the company’s first Android One device, the Xiaomi Mi A1.

Design and features

As with most other Android phones in the market today, the Xiaomi Mi A1 offers a familiar placement and configuration. You have the 5.5-inch Full HD display up front, the capacitive buttons at the bottom of that, and front-facing camera on the other end. The left is where you’ll find the hybrid SIM tray, and the right is where the power button and volume rocker are located. At the bottom is where you’ll find the 3.5mm audio port, the mono speaker, and the USB Type-C port, which is good to have seeing as most other devices are moving towards using this.

The 3.5mm port has been moved to the bottom, making the top inhabited by only the IR blaster.

Round the back, things get a little more interesting. You get a fingerprint sensor and, as is getting more common now, a dual camera setup. The setup here consists of both 12MP wide-angle and 12MP telephoto lenses that deliver 2x optical zoom. This is great, as it means that dual camera setups, like fingerprint sensors, are making their way into phones outside of the high-end spectrum. That said, there is one issue to be found with this setup, and it's the fact that it leaves a bump at the back of the phone. Unlike many other phones today that provide a soft cover if there’s a camera bump at the back of the phone, there’s nothing of the sort in the box of the Mi A1. This, as we mentioned countless times before in reviews of other phones with this exact problem, means that you’ll have to be very careful when putting the phone down.

This bump here pretty much means a case is necessary, and unfortunately, there wasn't one in the box.

On the flip side, it sits quite comfortably in your hands. There’s a very nice curve round the edges of the metal body. The edges aren’t as smooth where the metal meets the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 up front, but they are chamfered so that the difference in the way it feels in your hands isn’t too great.

Xiaomi is not the first to work the antenna lines this way, but it does make it look different compared to most others. Android One is also printed clearly here, the benefits of which we'll see in the UI.

User interface

The Xiaomi Mi A1 is the first phone from the company that uses Android in its purest form, as is indicated by the Android One print on the back. As with all other Android One phones, this means that the phone in question runs Android without any of the brand-unique overlays that you’ve come to expect. While it’s not entirely true as there are still some traces of the brand’s DNA left, it still means a very clean interface, and undoubtedly familiar to all other Android devices, instead of just the brand.

So, we mentioned that there’s still some Xiaomi DNA on the company’s first Android One device. This is in the form of the pre-installed Mi Remote app, which uses the infrared (IR) blaster to help it double as a remote controller for just about any device that uses one. Next is the default camera app, which is Xiaomi’s own, but quick access to the gallery leads you to Google Photos directly. These two elements aside, you do indeed have pure Android. This also means having an app drawer, which in turn means your home screen is a lot tidier, and has space for widgets.

Having this means you can have a minimalist home screen, or one with multiple pages of widgets.

8.5
  • Design 7.5
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 9
The Good
Android One means early updates and a clean UI
Dual camera in this price bracket
More affordable than the similarly-performing competition
The Bad
Snapdragon 625 is a bit dated
Dual camera performance doesn't quite meet expectations
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