A few critical shortcomings and a possible pricing blunder on the 64 GB (Rs 23,999) capacity model might just take the wind out of the sales of Xiaomi's latest offering, says Himanshu Juneja
Photograph: Courtesy, Xiaomi
Xiaomi has enjoyed an enviable rise in the Indian market. One half of the reason being the cost effective, feature-rich smartphones the company had to offer, and the other half being the flash sales which worked for its marketing.
The latter trick brought good amount of publicity, but also left many possible customers high and dry.
Having tasted success with its earlier models, Xiaomi released the much anticipated Mi 4 smartphone, but seems like few critical shortcomings
and a possible pricing blunder on the 64 GB (Rs 23,999) capacity model might just take the wind out of the sales of Xiaomi's latest offering.
Xiaomi this time opted for a metal built with a plastic rear panel. The Mi4 consists of a stainless steel body, and sports chamfered edges and rounded corners.
The construction looks elegant, but quite frankly looks to be inspired heavily from Apple's iPhone 5S. To any lingering doubts, the bottom panel has the speaker grille much the same way as is seen on the iPhone 5S.
The metal frame has been given a matte finish feel, but the edges are glossy. This contrast looks good.
The top part of the phone consists of the 3.5mm jack, and the IR blaster. The left side of the phone carries the micro SIM slot. Coming over to the right side of the phone, one finds the metallic buttons for the volume rocker as well as the power/stand by key.
Finally, the bottom part of the phone carries the microUSB port and the speaker grille, as mentioned before.
The Xiaomi Mi4 comes with a 5-inch full HD display. The resolution being 1080 x 1920 meant that the pixel density stands at a very impressive 441 ppi.
Not surprisingly, the IPS LCD display turned out to be pretty sharp, but the colours were pretty oversaturated, leading to rendition of non-natural colours of the subjects.
Overall the display wasn't disappointing. Display angles for the screen were good, so was the sunlight readability. Xiaomi imparted a Corning One Glass solution for added protection.
Xiaomi decided to supply the Mi4 with a 2.5Ghz quad core Snapdragon 801 processor. Giving the processor company is the Adreno 330 GPU, which
is clocked at 587MHz. The phone also comes with 3GB of RAM which is definitely a big plus point.
The two models of the Xiaomi Mi4 offer 16 GB (Rs 19,999) and 64 GB of storage capacity. The fact that the phone doesn't come with a microSD card slot may
well go against the lesser capacity model since out of the 16 GB, only 12.17 GB is available for the user. With a deluge of HD content and plethora of apps, this surely will get consumed in no time.
The Xiaomi Mi4 comes with Android 4.4.4 Kitkat with MIUI 6, the latest version of the custom skin, on top.
The new improved MIUI brings about tons of changes, as it looks more flatter and more feature loaded in general. There are some cosmetic changes as well as organisational tweaks.
One of the feature to look forward to is the ability to customise the skin with themes, each coming with its own set of wallpapers, icons, font style, sounds etc to make the change reflect in nearly every aspect.
Apart from Google's usual apps, it comes with Mi Account, Mi Remote, Security etc. The browser has got a new look as well here.
SwiftKey as well as Flesky keyboards are bundled as well, giving the user the option to choose the preferred one.
Then there are the built-in security features too. For instance, virus scan and permission for apps has been included. Users get to choose which apps they want to connect with the type of internet connection (3G/Wi-Fi) to preserve the unnecessary data billing or prevent speed throttling.
The messaging app has some tricks as well, allowing the user to be notified via hide messages, or pin the ones which are important.
The notification mechanism now provide floating bits and can be marked into important and unimportant ones.
To complete the picture, the mail app has been revamped. The mail can now be viewed as chat messages. Going by the trend, this style of viewing certainly will be more acceptable and convenient.
Mi4 is providing 10GB of Mi cloud free storage. One cannot help but think that this is still not going to cover up for the missing microSD card slot.
The phone features a 13 Megapixel rear camera with flash, and an 8 megapixel front facing camera.
Xiaomi didn't include a proper Image Stabilisation feature, but did squeeze in an anti-shake technology which does a decent job while dealing with mild aberrations.
Much like the OS, the camera app has been redone. The user deals with three screens, the first of which brings up the live filters, second one is about the stock camera inteface, and the third screen offers tinkering options for Panorama, HDR, burst, manual or a refocus mode.
The manual is specially designed for pro users, offering options for white balance, exposure time, focus etc.
The photography during well lit conditions came out pretty good. Images were clear and had good amount of details, but the low light photography wasn't up to the mark as noise clearly made an appearance.
Panorama mode did its job to satisfaction. It might take time to complete its job in certain cases though.
As for videos, the rear camera is capable of capturing 4k videos as well. The sample videos during the test phase came out pretty good, with colours being impressive and with good amount of details here as well.
Connectivity and Sensors
Xiaomi made sure that the phone offers ample options for connectivity.
The phone supports Bluetooth 4.0, GPS/A-GPS and GLONASS. It also supports Wi-Fi with flavours of 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac along with the support for dual-band Wi-Fi. Another mentionable feature is the Wi-Fi direct option which has been included in the Mi4.
The phone is not 4G compatible. A trick definitely missed here.
In the sensor department, the phone comes with accelerometer, proximity sensor, gyroscope and a compass.
The phone is stacked up with quite a decent hardware, and 3GB of RAM more or less assured of a smooth performance. There were hardly any surprises when the phone was put to test.
The phone performs admirably well, and showed no signs of lags or stuttering with the transition effects. The phone does tend to get hot while performing CPU intensive tasks like playing HD games/movies or even while taking a video.
The change in temperature was felt across the entire metal body which can be unsettling for some.
The somewhat curved back panel helped in holding the phone. The patterned panel provided decent grip as well.
The phone comes with a 3,080 mAh battery, which is non-removable.
The battery easily lasts more than a day while being on normal to heavy mode usage. This is pretty good showing since Mi4 is sporting a pretty good display unit.
The battery life can be further extended by using the supplied power saving mode.
The phone has this area covered quite nicely.
Xiaomi has come up with quite a capable phone, but seems to have launched it a bit too late. With 4G and dual SIM devices flooding the segment, there are few good competitors out there in the market for the Mi4 already.
For instance, One Plus One and even the new Samsung Galaxy A3 are ready to take the sheen off Mi 4's launch already. One Plus One especially trumps the 64GB model of the Mi4 and costing two thousand less while offering same specs as well.
The fact that Mi4 doesnt supports microSD card, the metallic Samsung Galaxy A3 becomes a good option immediately. Xiaomi has done well with its devices till now, but slashing the prices of the Mi 4 seems imminent if the phone is to survive in the Indian market.