Xiaomi’s Redmi 1S comes with great expectations and it represents a big moment for the company’s India plans. The super affordable mid-range phone goes on sale tomorrow and is expected to outpace the Mi 3 in terms of selling out on Flipkart. With a price tag of Rs 5,999, it also promises to shake up this market segment which is reserved for the very basic smartphones. The Moto E changed that to a certain extent, but Xiaomi takes it a step beyond. Is it successful?
Design and build
The Redmi 1S is no lightweight in terms of specs or in terms of its weight. The smartphone feels a little too chunky in the hand and the heft is quite palpable. In comparison, the Mi 3 is much lighter and also is a better fit in the hands.
We got the dark grey version of the phone and the plastic on the back is only slightly glossy, but it picks up fingerprints easily. Fingerprint smudges were also a problem when it came to the front of the phone, which features three red capacitive buttons and the LED notification light placed under the home button.
The back of the phone is removable and underneath a flashy orange battery grabs your eye. Above it are the two SIM slots and the microSD card slot. These can’t be properly accessed unless you pop the cover off. The power button and volume rocker are affixed to the case, so you will be changing them if you decide to pop another cover on.
The rear camera sits bang in the middle, with a flash underneath, while the single slit for the speaker grille is closer to the right edge. This position doesn’t really help as much of the time we found our hands muffling the sound.
We are not entirely happy with the type of plastic used on the Redmi 1S, but it does feel better than the Moto E’s material. In comparison to the Motorola phone, the Redmi 1S feels a little too chunky, but it does have an edge in terms of performance.
Display and performance
This is the biggest disappointment when it comes to the Redmi 1S. Performance is sorely behind what we expected with that chipset on board. The Moto E with a dual-core processor feels a lot snappier in comparison to the Redmi 1S even though the latter is packing a quad-core 1.6GHz CPU.
Unlike on the Mi 3, MIUI on the Redmi 1S feels a lot more sluggish. It booted very fast and for the most part operation is trouble free, but the Redmi 1S is a terrible choice for those juggling too many apps. MIUI on this one just doesn’t feel fleet-footed enough to handle multi-tasking well. It must be noted that the drop in performance only happens when there are too many apps running. I found myself using MIUI’s kill-all-apps button more often than I wanted to; it was a bit like going back to Gingerbread.
Of course it must be considered that most buyers of the Redmi 1S will not be pulling down too many apps. It is after all priced for the first-time buyers.
When it comes to the display too the phone is a let-down. At full brightness colours are perky, but turn it lower and the image turns insipid very quickly. It was quite finicky when used in sunlight too, jumping up and down in brightness quite erratically.
You will not find a better camera than this one at this price range and it really is spoiling users as earlier they would have had to shell out a lot more for such a camera. It’s not as fast as the Mi 3 camera, but more than adequate for casual shooting. Let’s face it you are not going to be doing any serious photography on the Redmi 1S. For other use cases such as Instagram and social networks, it’s more than enough. Here are some sample shots.
Xiaomi has added a new Lite Mode to the Redmi 1S which makes things even more simpler than the standard MIUI interface. Lite Mode gives users access to large buttons on the home screen, with the most basic apps added as default and others packed away. Users can choose the ones to be displayed on the home screen. It doesn’t seem to have a notification drawer, which makes things very complicated if you have experienced Android, and it’s really very plain to look at. But we imagine it would be just what someone moving from a basic feature phone would want to see at first before exploring the world of smartphone apps and customisation.
The Redmi 1S has all of the same MIUI features that we saw on the Mi 3, and many of the pre-installed apps can be uninstalled by the user without needing root. This is something we want more manufacturers to emulate. However, as we described above, MIUI on the Redmi 1S is not the most fluid experience.
This one is a mixed bag. Not because the Redmi 1S has a terrible battery. It just takes too long to charge even when used with the supplied charging unit. It took over 3 hours for us to go from 10 to 100, but once it was fully charged, we could easily use the phone for over 14 hours on the single charge. This was with just one SIM card inserted, pulling down 3G data and with Wi-Fi on for most part.
While battery life is great, we can’t say the same for the heating issues of the phone. It gets quite hot even when you simply have multiple tabs open in Chrome or are chomping through the unread pile on Reddit. It’s mildly annoying but certainly not a cause for concern.
There’s little doubt that Xiaomi another winner on its hands, but it needs a lot more polish on the performance side of things. In terms of appearance, we don’t have many complaints. We only wish the paint job had been slightly less glossy, but it’s a minor nit-pick.
It needs to roll out fixes for the Indian firmware in the weeks to come and improve the experience. We received a minor firmware update while using the phone, so the company is definitely making the changes required. Sluggish UI is not the best way to make an entry into the market, and the phone has enough firepower to actually utilise it better. In fact, with a dual-core processor the Moto E feels sprightlier. So yes, that’s a definite area for improvement.
That’s the only hiccup in our minds in the smartphone to beat in the entry-level segment. Once again, Xiaomi has managed to make much of the competition irrelevant with its cunning pricing strategy.
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