Technophile

Xiaomi Mi A2 - Another One for Android

Mala Bhargava | Updated on August 15, 2018 Published on August 15, 2018

No over-stuffing with features and apps and no gimmicks, but this Google-centric phone has some misses

All Android smartphones aren’t born equal. Some are stuffed to the brim with features and tricks, both to offer value and to enhance the brand. And then some Android phones are just Android, sticking to what Google offers. In fact, Google has a line-up of phones it supports as part of its ‘AndroidOne’ project, partnering with phone companies to bring them about. Xiaomi’s Mi A2 is the newest, following of course from last year’s Mi A1, a device that was quite popular being a great affordable all-rounder.

Android One phones were supposed to be affordable and simple, easy to use for newbies intimidated by overly complex settings and options. So, for its Mi A series, Xiaomi has omitted its MIUI customisations and given a full-flavoured Android phone with just a scattering of additions here and there. At ₹16,999, it’s certainly affordable for those who want a mid-ranger.

Slim at a cost

The Mi A2 is very slim. It has tapered and rounded edges that blend seamlessly with the glass in front giving it a further impression of slimness. But this is one of the most slippery phones I’ve come across. If you hold it in one hand from the sides and loosen your grip very slightly, it’ll start to slide smooth as silk from your fingers. The metal matte finish back helps it glide along. Luckily, for instant safety, there’s a transparent back cover in the box and it’s strongly advisable to snap that on immediately. The case has another purpose beyond making the phone less likely to slip — it counteracts the big camera bulge from being as exposed as it is. The opening for the camera lens in fact has a bit of a lip all around so that it doesn’t damage the lens when placed on a hard surface. That’s a relief.

Everything else is neat and minimalistic, especially on my black review unit. There are three other colours — the usual, plus an interesting looking blue, which is the one I would head straight for. The back does take on faint fingerprint smudges but they go away with a quick wipe and won’t trouble users who are planning to be sensible and use that case.

This is a big phone with its 5.99-inch display, but doesn’t feel that large because it’s thin. It’s certainly not heavy, so you won’t feel its weight either. Xiaomi has made a bit of a compromise to keep it slim — there’s no 3.5 mm headphone jack. There’s also no USB-C-to-stereo jack provided in the box, so you’ll have to go find one. That’s a little unfair as Xiaomi gets lauded for releasing a nicely affordable phone but omits to put in something essential. There are no earphones either. While we’re on the subject of what’s missing, there’s no slot for a MicroSD card. Now why go and do that? It does take two SIMs, but they could have given users the hybrid option. The A2 supports fast charging, but the adapter needed isn’t provided in the box. That’s another way to look affordable, one supposes.

One other thing that’s missing and I think rather mercifully, is the notch on the display. The edges on the top and bottom of the A2 are slim enough and symmetrical, giving the phone an 18:9 screen ratio, which is more than enough. It’s a Full-HD LCD display but I find it a little wanting in the depth of colours area. You can’t change the colour settings either, expect for a night mode to warm up the blue light. Viewing angles are adequate but not stellar. It’s a screen that does the job. Sunlight friendliness is so-so.

Better snaps

Compared with the previous A1 and several other Xiaomi and other budget phones, the primary camera set (20 MP + 12 MP dual camera with large 1.25 m pixels) takes quite decent photos. I like the option of using live filters and there are lots of modes to choose from as well. Even in low light, photos are not bad unless you dip below a certain level beyond which you’ll get all the expected noise. The 20 MP front camera has all the expected beautification and group selfie options.

Currently, the A2 is running on Android 8.1 Oreo. It’s meant to get regular updates for security and the next upgrade to Android 9 Pie. The processor is a Snapdragon 660 with an Adreno 512 GPU. Our unit has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB storage. It’s overall a dependable performer. The battery is a 3,010 mAh and its performance is just okay. You’ll need to get that fast charger.

Xiaomi has had a great run with almost all its smartphones ascending to the top in a short time. But this time, the Android One phone launches in the face of greatly increased competition. Nokia, Huawei and Honor, Motorola, Oppo and others all now have alternatives.

Price: ₹16,999 onwards

Pros: Slim and light, clean and simple Android, no notch on screen, improved photography, loud speaker

Cons: No headphone jack or adapter, no fast-charging adapter, no MicroSD slot, screen could be more vivid and bright

Published on August 15, 2018
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