Xiaomi has been a popular brand in India, and according to a recent report, has also become the most preferred brand in the country, over Samsung and Apple. Ever since the launch of the Xiaomi Mi 3 back in mid-2014, Xiaomi has been consistently releasing smartphones while offering a good to unbelievable value proposition.
Other smartphone players have also caught on to Xiaomi’s strategy, and there has definitely been stiff competition in the last one year, but Xiaomi still has a star product in most of the under Rs 30,000 price segments. The only annoying aspect is actually buying a Xiaomi handset. Its flash sales or open sales are notorious for making you wait weeks before you finally get one handset. After these many years, it is high time Xiaomi got this aspect right. It is a pain for mobile phone buyers to wait for weeks before they get lucky in purchasing one handset off the sales.
Recently, Xiaomi released its entry level Redmi device — the Xiaomi Redmi 4A, which is priced at Rs 5,999. Will this be the phone to go for someone thinking of making the switch from a feature phone? Let us find out
Build and Design: 7/10
Xiaomi’s mid-range devices have started to sport metallic builds. The Xiaomi Redmi 4A being an entry level device, comes with a polycarbonate finish. It weighs in at 131 grams and feels quite light, but sturdy to hold.
The volume rocker and power/standby button on the right hand side give good feedback. The SIM card tray is located on the left hand edge. The phone measures around 8.5 mm thick.
Xiaomi Redmi 4A ensures that there are no sharp edges on the phone, thanks to bevelled edges. This also helps in giving a good grip to the phone. On the rear of the phone there are fine grooves at the top and bottom, but it’s just a design element and it is not meant for antenna bands. The 13 MP rear camera is housed inside a metallic ring and is located on the top left hand corner with an LED flash unit beside it. The Mi branding is prominent on the lower half of the rear side. Towards the base there is a speaker grille section, with a minor chin just below it.
The phone comes with an infrared blaster on the top edge, which also houses the 3.5 mm audio jack. At the base, you have a microUSB port for charging and data transfer. On the front there is a 5-inch HD display with thick bezels on the top and bottom.
Overall, the build quality at this price point isn’t bad at all. The design is nothing out of the ordinary. The one-hand fit element will certainly attract a lot of buyers.
Xiaomi Redmi 4A comes with a 5-inch HD display and houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC with a quad-core Cortex A53 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz. The graphics portion is taken care of by an Adreno 308 GPU. The chipset is paired with 2 GB RAM. It comes in 16 GB and 32 GB storage variants. We got the 16 GB model to test, which gives around 10.3 GB of usable space. You can expand the storage using a microSD card by up to 256 GB.
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A comes in a hybrid dual SIM configuration (micro SIM + nano SIM), supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS. It comes with a micro USB port for charging and data transfer, and there is no support for fast charging.
Thankfully it bundles in an FM radio as well. On the camera front, you get a 13 MP rear camera, along with a 5 MP selfie camera. All this is powered by a non-removable 3,120 mAh Li-ion battery.
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display with a 1280x720 pixel resolution. While the colours look good and the viewing angles are fine, you do notice dithering on the text when you are using WhatsApp and other apps. This is particularly noticeable when the text size is selected as 'Small' from the settings menu.
While watching videos, the sharpness and colour reproduction is quite good. Changing viewing angles only affects the brightness to an extent, but I didn’t notice any colour shifting. Sunlight legibility could have been better; you have no option but to boost up the brightness. Overall, the display is quite good for this segment of phones.
The phone comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow with MIUI 8 skin atop it. This was the same combination seen on the recently launched Redmi Note 4. The MIUI 8 skin has some minor additions over the MIUI 7, such as a smaller clock widget on the home screen, a redesigned notification and status bar (the status bar looks a lot more artistic on the MIUI 8), redesigned weather app and more.
There aren’t many changes at a functional level, but just a minor revamp on the design front. One thing that stood out was the way the screenshot thumbnail floats on the top right hand corner of the screen after you take a screenshot. Taking a screenshot (holding down on the volume down and power button) would take a wee bit longer than usual. There is a definite lag one notices with the animations and when launching apps.
It features an app called Second Space which has been out since last year. The app basically lets you create separate profiles for different use cases. For instance, you can have one mode for work and one mode for office — with different wallpapers, app icon arrangement, et al. It replicates another instance for you.
This is an entry level phone, so as far as the regular tasks are concerned, it does not falter. The Snapdragon 425 SoC paired with 2 GB RAM fulfills all the needs of an entry level user. But the software glitches are noticeable on quite a few occasions. For instance, there were many instances when after getting done with a call, despite hitting the red coloured end call button, it would require two-three presses for the call to end. The response tends to be a bit delayed at times. I'm sure it's nothing that a future update cannot resolve.
There is lag when switching between apps and while opening some heavy apps. Gaming is fine for casual games, don’t bother with heavy titles such as Asphalt 8: Airborne. Apart from the lag, it will also take up a lot of space on your phone — remember, you have only 10.3 GB usable. You can add a microSD card, thankfully.
The phone does not heat much, unless you are running heavy apps onboard. At no instance during the testing did we notice any app shutting down due to overheating.
In terms of benchmarks, there are no surprises here. The call quality is excellent and I faced absolutely no issues with that. The loudspeaker is quite poor though, you will be better off with a pair of good earphones.
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A comes with a 13 MP rear camera with an f/2.2 aperture and a 5 MP front-facing camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The camera interface is similar to what we have come to expect from Xiaomi phones. There are a lot more filters to choose from, with some interesting ones such as Tunnel and Mirror. The manual mode only lets you adjust white balance and ISO. In the video mode, you only get the time-lapse mode (no slow motion recording).
In terms of image quality, there is definitely a loss of sharpness when you are pixel peeping, and it is prominent around the edges. But for sharing on social media websites, the images are good enough. The HDR mode is not on by default, as it is with higher end Xiaomi phones. HDR mode when on, takes a couple of seconds to process the image.
Also, over processing of images is noticeable in low light conditions, thereby giving them a waxy feel. Shooting post sundown is a challenge and the Redmi 4A is not really able to handle it well. But then again, this is an entry level smartphone, and for this price, you are getting quite a decent shooter, one that can put phones priced at twice the MRP to shame.
There was a time when entry-level phones had not so impressive batteries, but not so anymore. Large capacity battery phones are coming in at increasingly affordable prices. The Xiaomi Redmi 4A for instance, packs in a 3,120 mAh battery, which is quite some capacity. The iPhone 7 Plus in comparison packs a smaller battery. Add in the fact that the 4A is powered by a low-power Snapdragon 425 SoC and the fact that is has an HD resolution screen.
Together, this means that you can easily extract a work-day's worth of battery life out of the Redmi 4A. A battery charged around 12:30 AM lasted me till 6.30 PM on the next day, which is quite impressive. PCMark for Android gives around 12 hours 32 mins, which is again impressive.
In fact on a light day I was even able to extract over a day and half worth of battery from the Redmi 4A.
Verdict and Price in India
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A is priced at Rs 5,999. At this price point, you are getting a lot of value for your money. The only challenge, rather, an irritant, with Xiaomi phones is their online-only open sale model where phones get sold out in seconds. It is quite annoying that Xiaomi hasn’t yet made the process of buying a smartphone online any easier. That seems to be a major roadblock and could easily put off many potential buyers. Xiaomi should understand that this isn't 2013 and that the competition has evolved.
In terms of build quality, display, battery life, etc., the Xiaomi Redmi 4A is quite impressive. Yes, there is a noticeable lag in the user interface, but for someone who is moving from feature phone to a smartphone, that should not be as great an issue. The camera is great for daylight photographs, but low light shots leave a lot to be desired.
In terms of competition at this price point, you have nothing that offers anything comparable. Sure, there are lots of devices under the Rs 6k price point, but they pale in comparison with the Redmi 4A. So if this is your first smartphone purchase, the 4A is definitely recommended.
You'll just need to get lucky in the sales.
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