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Hot Shots, Part Deux

Does the successor to Mi A1 do enough to be worthy of an Android purist’s consideration? The answer is slightly complex, says Tushar Kanwar

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Last year's Xiaoimi A1 took everything consumers love about Xiaomi phones – excellent hardware at a price that’s right – and offered it with the vanilla Android OS instead of the MIUI Android skin you  would normally find on Xiaomi phones. The phone also rebooted Google’s Android One initiative, which has since then seen the likes of HMD/Nokia joining the party with a lineup of Android One devices and inspired others to release phones with little or no Android customisations and third-party bloatware. Does the recently launched successor, the Mi A2, do enough to be worthy of an Android purist’s consideration and earn an unqualified recommendation?

The answer is slightly complex. There is a lot that the A2 gets right, right from the price to the hardware to that gem of a camera (more on that later). It is slim in the hands and easy to hold, and there’s that tall 18:9 display, albeit with somewhat sizeable bezels at the top and bottom, to offer more screen real estate without going down the path of adding a notch. The design is generic Xiaomi, and with the competition offering a refreshed aesthetic across price points, you are not picking up the A2 for its looks. The display itself rocks natural colours and uses Gorilla Glass 5 for protection, but it doesn't get very bright. The ambient display mode that wakes the screen whenever you receive a notification is handy.

Xiaomi’s always packed in good hardware for the money, and the A2 packs in a Snapdragon 660 with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, making it one of the most capable performers in its category and a reliable workhorse for everyday use. The phone comes with Android 8.1 out of the box, with an expected update to the latest Android Pie by the year end, and the experience is smooth save for the occasional glitches, many of which were resolved with the latest software update. What muddies the waters is that while the 64GB storage will be enough for most, the phone lacks a microSD card slot and the 3.5mm jack and if either is a deal breaker for you, there are plenty of options, including the stellar Note 5 Pro, if you are willing to forego the fast platform updates that are inherent to the Android One programme. For what it’s worth, there is a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle included in the box to use your wired audio gear, and the built-in single speaker is surprisingly loud. Battery life is average – the capacity is lower than others, including the Redmi Note 5, and while the phone supports the Quick Charge 4+ fast charging standard, you only get a standard 5V/2A charger that’s included with the other budget models.

Onto the cameras, which deserve a special mention not only for how good they are, but how much Xiaomi’s improved in this department over the last year. With the twin f/1.75 aperture lens on the rear, the Mi A2 does a stellar job in both daylight and low-light scenarios, with images that exhibit excellent detail levels, accurate colors and dynamic range that is spot on more often than not. The Mi A2’s camera are a revelation and they will continue to surprise you, they are just that good.

And so it is with the Mi A2 – an excellent phone in most regards with a stellar camera, clean software and powerful internals, one that competes (on price) more against its own siblings than with the pricier Nokia 7 Plus. If you can look past its omissions, the A2 is a great option, particularly for Android purists.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 18 August 2018 gadgets Mi A1

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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