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BW Businessworld

With An I On India

Xiaomi's india ambi-tions are no secret. In a short period of time, the Chinese phone maker has become a bit of a household name and no doubt given dominant players a whole lot to worry about. The company couldn’t have made a bolder India statement than they did with the launch of their Mi 4i, with the i standing for India and the global launch being held in New Delhi and not Xiaomi’s home turf. Xiaomi is interested in manufacturing in India.

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Xiaomi's india ambi-tions are no secret. In a short period of time, the Chinese phone maker has become a bit of a household name and no doubt given dominant players a whole lot to worry about. The company couldn’t have made a bolder India statement than they did with the launch of their Mi 4i, with the i standing for India and the global launch being held in New Delhi and not Xiaomi’s home turf. Xiaomi is interested in manufacturing in India.
 
The phone itself, available through the usual flash sales online, has caused quite a stir, helped by a gathering of several thousand “fans” invited to the launch. But make no mistake, it’s also a sensation because of the design and specs offered at just Rs 12,999.
 
Well, of course it’s a good looking phone. Everything from Xiaomi so far has been. The Mi 4i is probably like a lot of other phones including the iPhone 5C with which it also shares a single piece form factor with no openable back panel and no memory card slot. It’s smooth polycarbonate, rather egg-shell-like and clean. In fact, Xiaomi demonstrates how you can mark it with a perma marker and still clean it up. Fingerprints, etc., then obviously aren’t a problem. You can pick up a large number of back and smart flip cases for this phone to get some added colour —though the available colours are really irresistible other than being made of very good material.
 
Xiaomi has chosen a nice size for the Mi 4i. It’s got a 5-inch display and it’s in that not-too-big and not-too-small zone. You can definitely use it one-handed and holding the phone is very comfortable because it’s got rounded edges. The screen is very pleasant to use. The brightness can go down low as well as high and it adapts to sunlight.
 
On top of the newest version of Android, the Mi 4i has its own interface, MiUi 6. Many users like Xiaomi phones for the interface, which is also actually available as launchers for other Android phones. MiUi is a clean and minimalistic interface with bells and whistles added at your choice. It’s got no app drawer and you’ll find apps on your home screens. Themes and icon packs etc., are a big thing with MiUi. Once you set up your Mi account you can pick up different looks for your phone. Theme collections are updated often with some centring around festivals and other events. The interface has lots of features not found elsewhere easily. For one, you get a menu when you’re on a call which includes a call record ability. And it works quite well too. Going through the settings, you’ll find lots of other features that are particular to a Mi phone. There are also a sprinkling of annoyances such as the swipe to unlock, which called for a specific movement. Also the battery is disappointing.
 
The Mi 4i cameras are 13 and 5MPs and quite good with low light conditions, ideal for fun photography. The camera app is filled with options including self beautification for use with the front camera. The sound on this phone isn’t great and the speaker at the back tends to get muffled if you put the phone down. I also encountered a problem with the sound on phone calls and had the review unit replaced. The second was just fine.  
 
For those who are impatient with flash sales, units will be available eventually in stores.  
 
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Check Out | Xiaomi's MI Band
 
Fitness bands are now getting to be a dime a dozen, but with their Mi Band, Xiaomi has again thrown in a monkey wrench for other players by offering a basic tracker at just Rs 999. The rest cost many times more. The Mi Band is a little dongle-like capsule which fits into a rubber strap and on to your wrist. There’s nothing much to it on the surface except a metal piece with three LED dot-lights. You don’t see any readings or interact much with the device itself. It’s just a repository for what it records using its sensors — again, just basic ones really.
 
The Mi Band works with any Lollipop Android phone and the iPhone. All you need is the companion Mi Fit app. The device connects to the phone via Bluetooth and all controls are in the app. What it does primarily is to count your steps, and this it does pretty well. It does measure some exercise, but of course, I found that things like slow steady dumbbell intervals and Pilates didn’t add to my workout, making it seem like I’d just done a whole lot less exercise than I really had. That takes away half the fun as you want to feel self-righteous about working out each day.
 
The other thing the Mi Band does well is to work as an alarm. It vibrates in short bursts, getting more insistent after a gap until you swipe the surface of the device and silence it. This is about the only interaction you have with the Mi Band itself. The band also lets you know how much you’ve slept. Unfortunately the app doesn’t give proper long-term stats. What particularly has users delighted is the fact that the battery lasts a whole month or more. 
 
(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 15-06-2015)


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