For the last couple of years there has been a status quo in the smartphone pricing. We had come to expect a certain price-tag for a smartphone with certain specifications but that has changed now. The recent launches from Motorola, Asus and now, Xiaomi have disrupted the market. With their aggressively priced smartphones, these companies have broken the barriers of pricing and now consumers can grab a high-end smartphone in under INR 15,000 or a good mid-range phone under INR 10,000.
Xiaomi’s Mi 3 has particularly been talk of the town. The phone brings a set of impressive specifications for a pricing that had never been associated with a smartphone of this calibre, not even by the India smartphone vendors, who regularly sell re-branded sub-standard smartphones for cheap. Now, the question arises whether Mi 3 is really worthy of all the hype or is it just another smartphone? Find out in my detailed review below.
Xiaomi has used a minimalistic design in Mi 3. The phone doesn’t stand out as a design-breakthrough but still looks quite decent. The build quality is good but the phone feels slightly plasticky in hand, however that has no bearing on the sturdiness of the phone as the company has used aluminium-magnesium alloy frame inside.
In terms of the specifics, the front of the phone is largely taken by the display, which is covered by Gorilla Glass 3, and accompanied by capacitive Android buttons, front camera, sensors, ear-piece and an Mi logo. The sides are pretty much clean apart from the presence of volume rocker and power button on the right. The 3.5mm audio jack, SIM card slot and a secondary microphone have been placed on the top of the phone, while the microUSB port, speaker and primary microphone are present on the bottom. Coming to the back of the phone, the metallic grey panel houses the rear camera, double-LED flash, and another microphone.
Xiaomi has included a 5-inch 1080p IPS display on the smartphone, which offers great colours and nice viewing angles. You can also tweak the colour output by adjusting the saturation and colour temperature to your liking.
Under-sun visibility is decent and the touch response is the best in its class. The company also offers a glove mode for extra sensitivity. Overall, the display and build quality of the Mi 3 are impressive and you won’t be disappointed.
Despite being a generation old smartphone, Xiaomi Mi 3 doesn’t lack on the performance front. Thanks to the presence of a tried-and-tested Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, the smartphone handles everything that you throw at it with ease. The presence of 2GB RAM is an added advantage.
During my testing, the phone showed no sign of any lag during daily usage. Even with high-performance tasks like playing graphic-intensive games or full-HD video files, the smartphone worked as expected. The phone also works flawlessly in basic tasks like calling, browsing, and texting, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and location lock using GPS.
On the software front, Mi 3 comes with Android 4.4 based MIUI 5.0 in India. As MIUI is slightly different from stock Android interface and even most of the other manufacturer interfaces, existing Android users will have a slight learning period however the new Android users will find the interface easier to use.
As MIUI uses no app drawer, all the installed applications are placed on the home-screen, which makes it slightly crowded especially when you add several widgets. You can always add a third-party launcher with an app drawer to get a cleaner UI.
MIUI also comes with several tools, which can be very useful like full back-up support, Mi Cloud sync, built-in security measures, themes support, and pre-loaded Office suite. In addition, full Google suite of applications is available and you can also get more Android applications from Google Play.
Camera/ Battery Life
The Xiaomi Mi 3 comes with a 13MP rear camera and 2MP front camera, which are quite capable and offer good results. The outdoor and natural light images are impressive and best in Mi 3’s pricing-bracket but not comparable to high-end smartphones like Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5s. The rear camera also gives decent results in indoor and low-light conditions. In addition, the front camera is decent and captures nice selfies.
Like other native applications on the smartphone, Xiaomi has also added a custom camera app on the phone, which offers the full set of features including panorama mode, HDR mode, filters, and more. The camera app also comes with face recognition, which tries to detect the age and gender of the person from the front camera input but fails miserably almost every time.
Coming to the battery, the 3050 mAh battery present in the Mi 3 is a good performer. For the average usage with over 15 hours of Wi-Fi usage, 1-2hours of 3G, 1 hour of gaming, 1-2 hours of browsing and 1 hour of voice-calling/ texting and occasional use of other services on auto-brightness, the phone will be able to last around 20-24 hours. Heavy users should also be able to pass their work day (10-12 hours) without the need for charging.
For the given set of features and a very aggressive pricing at INR 13,999, Xiaomi’s Mi 3 is simply a no-brainer for anyone looking to buy a smartphone under INR 15,000 or (even INR 20,000). The phone offers a great display, impressive performance, capable camera and decent battery life. On the downside, there is no microSD card slot for expandable storage, which can be an issue for the consumers, who want more storage on their smartphone.
On the after-sales service front, Xiaomi has set-up over 30 service centres in the country and plans to expand the number in the coming months. The company has already stated that it is very serious about the Indian market, so as a consumer, one needs not to worry about the company dumping them or leaving the market abruptly.