In late July, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi entered India with a bang. It announced its flagship phone the Mi 3 with a price of relatively affordable Rs 13,999 and then sold out six lots of it in a matter of seconds. In total, Xiaomi sold around 95,000 units of the Mi 3.
But now the phone is gone from the market. Xiaomi has stopped selling it! Reason: The company wants to focus on the RedMi 1S, an entry-level phone that will go on sale from today. At least this is the official version of the story.
But then this piece is not about the Mi 3. It is about the RedMi 1S. Despite the tag of entry-level, Xiaomi has high hopes from it. Are they grounded in some reality? We will give you a detailed answer in a while. The short answer is a resounding yes. Everything that you have heard about RedMi 1S is accurate. It is one hell of a phone. And an incredible value. As for why, read on.
The Redmi 1S is an unassuming phone in terms of looks. It's a rectangular block, built out of thick plastic, with subtle curves on the back. It's on the chubbier side of things at 9.9mm and weighs 158 grams, which also is a tad heavy. However, it is built well and its tough plastic feels reassuring sturdy.
The back cover of the phone is removable so one can replace the battery, if required. Under the back cover you can find the 2,000mAh battery, dual-SIM slots and the microSD card slot. There is an 8-megapixel rear camera accompanied by a flash.
The device has a 4.7-inch screen. Above the screen, there is a 1.6-megapixel camera, a suite of sensors and a three capacitive backlit buttons. The power and volume rockers are on the right, the 3.5mm jack is on the top and a microUSB port is on the bottom.
Most of this is basic stuff, but the way it has been put together is incredibly impressive. The fit and finish of the phone is astounding considering its price of Rs 5,999.
It's worth noting that the phone comes with two microSIM to mini SIM converters as the dual-SIM slots are meant for miniSIMs. Additionally, like the Mi 3 there are no earphones in the retail package.
The 4.7-inch IPS screen on the RedMi 1S has a 720P resolution. Usually, budget phones have low-resolution screens. A 720P screen at this price is nothing sort of magical. And that reflects in the experience a user gets with the Redmi 1S. With a pixel density of 312 pixels per inch, the screen shows sharp text. We found the colour temperature of the screen to be a tad warm for our tastes, but nonetheless it is impressive. It has good viewing angles, good levels of brightness and is legible under sunlight. All of this is a rarity in a low-cost phone. However, the Moto E, which has a lower resolution screen shows deeper blacks and slightly better viewing angles.
The real star of the RedMi 1S is its camera. In most cases it clicks better images than phones that cost more than Rs 20,000. Yes, it is that good. In good light, the rear camera locks focus quickly and captures images that have lots of details. The macros are captured well. Its HDR mode is superb and helps in low-light conditions. When it comes to the camera, similarly-priced phones like the Moto E, which has a fixed focus camera, are not even close.
The stock camera app allows for a number nifty features like a sweep panorama mode. How many phones at this price can click a great panorama? Not many, but the Redmi 1S does it easily without any fuss.
Even for videos, the Redmi 1S is very good. It can shoot video at 1080P full-HD which is a first for a low-priced phone. In videos shot with the device we found that focus was well maintained and footage was stable. Unfortunately, the low internal storage -- 8GB "“ means you cannot shoot long videos in FullHD resolution with the 1S.
Running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, the Redmi 1S runs MiUI V5. It is Xiaomi's unique take on Android, which, according to us, is simpler to use than stock Android because it presents a springboard of apps on the home-screen like iOS, where apps and widgets share space.
It is also very customisable. Using the theme store one can change the entire look of the user interface including icons, ring tones, wallpapers, system UI elements and the lock screen. It's a tinkerers dream.
Other features include an easy mode, which presents a grid of tiles like Windows Phone offering a simpler experience to people used to feature phones. Subjectively, the stock browser feels faster than Google Chrome and the stock music player is easier to use and more useful than Google Play music app.
The only drawback is that Android updates don't come as quickly on the Redmi 1S compared to a device like Moto E, which runs Android 4.4. Xiaomi is yet to clarify whether the Redmi 1S will be updated to Android 4.4.2 KitKat or not. This means, the device may also not get updated to MiUI V6.
Hardware and Performance
The Redmi 1S is powered by the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz. It has 1GB RAM. On paper, the Redmi 1S has slightly faster core hardware compared to the Moto G.
In some synthetic benchmarks, the RedMi fares well against the Moto G and comes out ahead. But it loses out to Intel Atom-powered Asus ZenFone 4.
Fortunately, in actual use the Redmi 1S is as fast as mid-range Android phones like Zenfone 5 that cost around Rs 10,000. It is also a good multitasker as we managed to open 15-20 apps simultaneously without any problem. Occasionally, there are a few hiccups and the phone shows the low memory warnings but it doesn't slow down or lag significantly.
In gaming, the phone handles games like RipTide GP with ease and renders graphics effects like water splashes accurately.
Battery life and network performance
The 2,000mAh battery on the Redmi 1S lasts a day. On a single charge, we clocked on an average of 14 to 15 hours of usage. This was with two email accounts and two social media accounts configured with push mail functionality. We made around 2 hours of calls, streamed music for around 45 minutes, clicked around 15-20 photos browsed the web and watched the odd YouTube video.
In terms of battery performance, the Redmi 1S is comparable to the Moto e and is much better than the Zenfone 4 and the Zenfone 5.
The quality of sound during calls is good. Using two Vodafone SIM cards we faced zero dropped calls. Xiaomi's customisations for the dual-SIM functionality made switching between numbers a seamless experience.
Should you buy it?
Like the Mi 3, the Redmi 1S is another freak of nature from the house of Xiaomi. It reinvents the wheel for the entry-level smartphone. It offers good hardware with software that is well optimised and is useful. If you are looking for a phone for less than Rs 10,000, we can wholeheartedly recommend the Redmi 1S. That is if you can find it on sale because we think Xiaomi is going to have a hard time meeting the demand for this phone.
Battery life- 8/10
Call quality- 8/10
IndiaToday.in rating "“ 8.1/10
Price - Rs 5,999