Xiaomi has had a great run since it launched in India last June. While its entry level Redmi 1S was well received in India, it was discontinued towards the end of last year to help concentrate on Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G. The Redmi Note 3G was stopped from being sold in India after Ericsson filed a patent infringement suit against Xiaomi.
So since the start of this year, the cheapest Xiaomi phone has been the Redmi Note 4G at Rs 9,999. Considering Lenovo had already announced the A6000 at CES (and released it in India in February) and the Moto E (2015), it was a matter of time before we saw Xiaomi Redmi 2.
Build and Design: 7/10
The Xiaomi Redmi 2 is an upgrage to last year’s Redmi 1S and in terms of looks, not much has changed. For all practical purposes, the Redmi 2 looks like a smaller sibling of the Redmi Note 4G. Xiaomi has employed a matte-finish plastic back on the Redmi 2. The rear cover is made of flimsy plastic, but it is comparatively sturdier than that seen on the Lenovo A6000. The rear cover opens up to reveal the removable battery section and the dual SIM card slot along with a microSD card slot.
On the right hand side, you have a volume rocker and power/standby button whereas the left hand side edge is clean. On top, you have the 3.5mm audio jack and at the base you have the microUSB charging and data transfer port.
The front-face is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 2 protection and you have the red-coloured capacitive touch buttons located at the base of the Redmi 2. Bezels could certainly have been thinner. There is the audio-speaker section on the top beside which you have the proximity sensor and the 2MP front camera. On the rear side there is an 8MP camera with the LED flash unit on the left hand side and a speaker section on the right hand side. It measures 9.4mm thick and weighs around 133g. The overall build quality is quite good and the matte finish on the rear cover gives a good grip.
Xiaomi Redmi 2 features a slight upgrade from its predecessor. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC which has a 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex A53 processor along with Adreno 306GPU. This is paired with 1GB of RAM and has 8GB of internal storage. Xiaomi plans to release a 16GB internal storage and 2GB RAM variant of the Redmi 2 later this year. It sports a 4.7-inch HD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 protection.
The Redmi 2 comes with a dual SIM configuration with dual 4G SIM standby. This gives it an edge over the Lenovo A6000 where you can only use one 4G SIM at a time. Other connectivity features include Wi-fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-fi Direct, Bluetooth v4.0 LE and GPS with A-GPS / GLONASS and Beidou. Sensors such as accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor and compass are also present on board.
On the OS front, you get Android 4.4.4 KitKat OS with the MIUI 6.0 skin on top, just like Xiaomi Mi 4. An 8MP camera is present on the rear side along with a 2MP front-facing camera. The camera claims to have a 1.4micrometer pixel size. We will see if that helps with the image quality in the camera section below.
The phone has a 2,200mAh Li-Polymer battery which is removable. Sensors such as accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor and compass are present on the Redmi 2.
The Xiaomi Redmi 2 launched with the MIUI 6 OS atop the Android 4.4.4 KitKat OS. Now this skin is Xiaomi’s latest update and brings in a lot of design changes along with some improved experience as well. But for someone familiar with the iOS design philosophy, the MIUI 6 skin seems to have take a lot of ‘inspiration’.
The overall look of the MIUI 6 hasn’t changed drastically, but Xiaomi has refined the app design, made apps more simpler and flatter in appearance. For instance, the music and video apps are neatly divided into local and cloud sections; the clock app has a new design which is again divided into alarm, stopwatch, timer and clock; weather app has beautiful data visualisation; the Security app is neatly divided into different sections such as cleaner, data usage, blocklist and so on. There is a nice toggle button to switch a setting on or off.
In terms of features, Xiaomi has added on some good touches. You now get floating notifications so that you are not interrupted (while making that decisive photograph or while playing your favourite game) when you get a message or a call, as it will show up as a floating notification at the top. Even with notifications, MIUI 6 divides them into important and unimportant notifications.
Notifications can show up on the lock screen as well as when you pull down the notification tray. The notification tray when pulled down will show two pages – one showing the quick settings menu and the other page showing the unattended notifications. The quick notifications screen with its transparent backdrop looks inspired by iOS’s pull up control centre. Instead of getting a notification icon from the app, you can now get three dots which is common for all the unimportant notifications. You can control which notifications should show up as important by going into Settings > Notifications > Manage Notifications.
The Mail app has also been redesigned. One of the key features includes the layout of threaded email conversations which actually appears like chat messages. Other proprietary apps include the Mi Account, Security, Themes, Music and so on.
MIUI 6 allows you to easily switch apps between screens. You can actually hold onto an app by one finger while swiping the screen by the other finger. You add on widgets, change transition effects and so on. The camera app has also under gone a redesign, but we will take a look at it under the camera section. The browser has also got a new look.
The Redmi 2 comes with the MIUI 6 skin atop the Android 4.4.4 OS but I did not notice any lag/stutter while using the phone. Switching between apps, swiping and scrolling operations are smooth. With image heavy sites, there will be a mild stutter as the image is loading. Call quality is good and earpiece speaker is loud enough.
Since it houses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC, its immediate competitors include the Lenovo A6000 and the Huawei Honor 4X. The benchmark scores are at par with the Lenovo A6000 and Honor 4X in the balanced mode and slightly higher in the Performance mode.
Audio quality is good and you can easily listen to audio on the speaker section in your living room. Gaming on the phone is fun and there was barely any stutter while playing games such as Fruit Ninja, Riptide GP2 as well as high end games such as Frontline Commando 2 and Asphalt 8 as well. The phone does get warm on the rear side while you are playing games.
As a result of a 4.7-inch IPS display with an HD resolution, you get a high pixel density 312PPI. Text appears sharp and even on close distance I did not notice any pixellation. Colours are vibrant, but there is a mild warm tinge on the Redmi 2. The auto-brightness feature works well in when you are outdoors. It gives great viewing angles and only the reflective surface is distracting when viewed from angles. While watching movies, the dark scenes make the reflective surface of the display quite evident as it acts as a mirror then. Bright scenes did not post any issue.
Xiaomi Redmi 2 comes with an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera, with the rear camera having a sensor with pixel size of 1.4 micrometer. Having seen a lot of entry level phones with high megapixel count, I didn’t really expect much from the Redmi 2’s camera. But it is quite decent for an entry level phone. It comes with the same minimal user interface that was there on the Mi 4. Swiping right brings up the various filters and swiping left throws up options such as Panorama mode, HDR mode, Manual mode and so on.
Autofocus speed is not the fastest, but the option to manipulate the exposure by just tapping on the frame and circling the slider around the focus circle is quite helpful. Daylight shots are detailed, although there is a slight warm tinge to the photographs. Sharpness around the edges was better than that seen on the Huawei Honor 4X and Lenovo A6000. Indoor shots had better control over noise when compared with competition.
Low light shots is where the camera performance starts to suffer. Although, the images are certainly usable if you’re just sharing online, one does notice the dithering around edges when you shoot in low light situations. You will notice a mild barrel distortion in images, but the chromatic aberrations are well controlled. On the whole, between its competitors such as the Lenovo A6000, Huawei Honor 4X and the Moto E, the Redmi 2 certainly has an edge when it comes to image quality and camera performance.
Battery life: 7/10
Battery capacity has been bumped up from 2,000mAh on the Redmi 1S to 2,200mAh on the Redmi 2. In the 8-hour loop test which includes two hours each of calling, video streaming, video playback and audio playback simulating an 8 hour work day, the Redmi 2 was left with 33 per cent battery remaining in the Performance mode. This means that the phone will easily last you for a day on regular usage and maybe even more. In the Balanced mode, you can extract even more life out of the phone.
Verdict and Price in India
Xiaomi Redmi 2’s major improvement over its predecessor is the addition of the dual SIM 4G slots, higher capacity battery and a new user interface. While this may make sense for someone living in a city which is blessed with a 4G connectivity, for majority of buyers 4G is not such an important buying decision at the moment since many parts of India are yet to get 4G networks. Existing Redmi 1S users have no need to upgrade to the the Redmi 2, as barring 4G there isn’t much that’s changed.
The Redmi 2 is priced at Rs 6,999, where it competes with the Lenovo A6000 (which also offers 4G connectivity) and the Motorola Moto E. Redmi 2 certainly has en edge over the other competitors and is definitely a good option for first time buyers. The only issue is the flash sale model which can put off many prospective customers, who will prefer the convenient option of going for the Android 5.0 sporting Moto E. Xiaomi had recently announced that it will start selling phones offline in certain metros, but the Redmi 2 isn't on the list of phones that'll be sold in the first wave.
Ultimately it all boils down to your needs. If you want to future-proof your investment, then it is a battle between the Lenovo A6000 and the Xiaomi Redmi 2. If the latest Android updates are what you are after, then the Motorola Moto E is the one for you, although read up about its flaws before placing your money on it. Hopefully, A6000 and Redmi 2 should also get the Android 5.0 update, but with no word out on that, the Moto E certainly has the first mover advantage in that department. Not to mention the battery life of Moto E is better than both the Redmi 2 and the A6000.
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