Saturday, July 19, 2014

Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Raising the bar for the mid-range smartphone segment

Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Xiaomi Mi 3 first look: Raising the bar for the mid-range smartphone segment
Mi 3 smartphone is seen at the launch event. Image: Tech2

Chinese smartphone Xiaomi (pronounced Shaomi) held a special event in Delhi on Tuesday where they formally announced their entry into the India market. Given that Xiaomi, which started in 2010, is now one of the top three smartphone vendors in China, the India launch which starts with the Mi 3 device, is a big step for the company.

As China’s smartphone market matures with 2014 seeing a rare drop in shipments, it is natural that Chinese companies will now look at India (the third largest smartphone market according to data from 2013) for expansion.  Like Motorola, the company has partnered exclusively with Flipkart for the initial launch phase, although later on we could see Xiaomi products appearing in stores and other e-commerce websites.

The company announced three smartphones would be hitting the Indian market soon. These are the Mi 3 smartphone, the Redmi 1S and the Redmi Note. The Redmi 1S is the low-end entry level model and has been priced at Rs 6,999, while the Redmi Note phablet has been priced at Rs 9,999. These two smartphones will be out in India later, though the company refused to say when.

For now, the company is launching the Xiaomi Mi 3 smartphone in India at a price point of Rs 13,999. It will hit stores on 22 July, though customers can pre-order on Flipkart now.

During the launch event, we did get to spend some time with Mi 3 smartphone and here’s our quick first impression of the device.
Mi 3 has a 5-inch full HD screen with a 441 ppi density.
Mi 3 has a 5-inch full HD screen with a 441 ppi density.

Design, style and screen: The Mi 3 might be priced at Rs 13,999 but don’t be fooled by this to assume that this is a cheap looking device. The smartphone doesn’t have a polycarbonate back, which is pretty common on budget smartphones such as those from Micromax and Karbonn or even Samsung.

The device has a 5-inch full HD screen with a pixel density of 441 ppi. This means it comes with a great screen and is cheaper than other such devices likes Micromax’s Canvas Knight which was priced at Rs 19,999 along with an Octa-core processor or the Karbonn Titanium X which was launched with similar specs as the Mi 3 but at a price of Rs 18,490.

We should point out though that smudge stains and fingerprint marks tend to stick quickly on this device’s screen and if too many people are handling this device, you’ll have to keep the screen clean to make it shine.
MIUI is the custom software on the Mi 3 smartphone, Image: Tech2
MIUI is the custom software on the Mi 3 smartphone, Image: Tech2

The Mi 3′s dimensions are 144 x 73.6 x 8.1 mm. While it’s not the thinnest device, the design of the phone is sleek and the fact that Xiaomi hasn’t tried to do much to the outer body (like adding random patterns to the back body) means it looks good.  The rectangular design might look similar to Sony Xperia smartphones, which isn’t too bad a design to mirror.

Processor, Space, Connectivity: So what is Xiaomi offering for the Rs 13,999 price tag? It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. The Mi 3 comes with 16GB internal storage, but does not support storage expansion via microSD card, which can be a turn off for users who are looking for more space with their smartphones.

Most budget smartphones do have a microSD slot which support a 32 to 64 GB limit and that does determine the choice for many users. But it should also be noted that unlike other budget smartphones from the more popular Indian brands, Xiaomi is offering a Snapdragon 800 processor while the others have usually have the MediaTek processor chip.
Mi 3 smartphone's camera. Image: Tech2
Mi 3 smartphone’s camera. Image: Tech2

It’s also got 2G, 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, which is pretty standard for most smartphones in this budget range.

Camera: The camera is a 13 megapixel one and there’s also a 2 megapixel front camera. During their presentation Xiaomi was quick to emphasis that when it comes to camera, their device has parts from the best manufacturers.

Xiaomi’s co-founder Bin Lin pointed out that the Mi 3 has a Sony Exmor sensor, which is one of the best in the industry. Another budget device that uses this sensor in its camera is the Xolo Q1200 which is also priced in the same range. The Mi 3 has dual LED flash, f/2.2 aperture and 28mm wide angle lens. Both cameras support 1080p support for video recording.
Mi 3 smartphone has this option for themes which will transform the UI on your device. Image: Tech2
Mi 3 smartphone has this option for themes which will transform the UI on your device. Image: Tech2

Vice-Chairman of Xiaomi Hugo Barra also spoke about how the MIUI software has ensured that the Mi 3 smartphone camera clicks some of the best HDR mode pictures. Some of the pictures he showed during the event did look good. But then again, we can talk more about the camera, only once we’ve used the smartphone for a longer time.
From the pictures, we clicked on the smartphone, they weren’t too bad, given that the light was pretty low inside the event hall.
For users, who don’t have too big a budget and want a solid camera on their smartphone, the Mi 3 should definitely be considered as a contender on their list.

Battery: The device has 3050mAh lithium-ion battery that promises 25 hours of talktime on 2G, 21 hours of Internet use on 3G, 50 hours of playback music and 500 hours of standby time. Xiaomi says they’ve integrated power management from operating system all the way down to the CPU, allowing users to stretch every last drop out of the 3050mAh battery.

If Xiaomi does deliver this kind of battery, it will be a big plus for the users, who want to buy a budget smartphone without compromising on battery life.

Software features: Where the Mi 3 is concerned, it runs Android 4.4.2. KitKat. While the company didn’t give any word on future software updates, they did talk a lot about their own UI: the MIUI. Mi 3 comes loaded with all Google apps, the Google Play Store, Facebook and the Flipkart app in India.

Where the MIUI is concerned, it does have its fair share of gimmicky features. For instance Themes allows users to download a theme that they can install across the app and it will transform the UI, the icons, the messages, the dialler according to the chosen theme. There was even an India based theme with the Taj Mahal as the main image.

Cliches and gimmicks aside MIUI does seem to offer some strong features. For example, it allows users to choose multiple apps, bring them down and the add them into one folder, which is pretty convenient.

In conclusion: From Xiaomi’s presentation, it was evident that the company has done its homework in India.  Both Bin and Barra spoke about the fact that Xiaomi was going to take after sales service quite seriously in the country and would launch close to 36 service centres.

In addition to this, the fact they had kept pricing in mind in when launching new products in India is another indicator that they know the pulse of this market: that it is price-driven.
Mi 3 smartphone's drop-down menu for settings. Image: Tech2
Mi 3 smartphone’s drop-down menu for settings. Image: Tech2

But it should also be noted that Mi 3 is currently the outdated smartphone as Xiaomi which is getting ready to launch the Mi 4 in China very soon. The Mi 4 will have 3G RAM, a faster processor and a bigger 5.2 inch-screen. Thus the latest products from the Chinese company aren’t coming to India first.

Xiaomi is just testing waters in India with the Mi 3 launch. Hopefully this scenario (of older devices)  will change soon as the Indian smartphone market continues to grow bigger.

About Dilips Techno Blog

A Daily Blog for Latest Reviews on Technology | Gadgets | Mobile | Laptop | Software and Hardware Reviews | Social Media | Games | Hacking and security | Tips and Tricks | Many more....

Dilips Techno Blog

Dilips Techno Blog