The writer has posted comments on this articleAnupam SaxenaAnupam Saxena,TOI Tech | Sep 2, 2014, 09.20 AM IST
After disrupting the budget segment, Xiaomi now has its eyes set on the entry-level smartphone market in India with its Redmi 1S smartphone. The Xiaomi Mi 3 boasted high-end hardware at a budget price, and now the Redmi 1S features mid-range hardware for the price of an entry-level phone.
At a price of Rs 5,999, is the Redmi 1S a game changer, redefining price segments? We try to find out in our review...
Xiaomi Redmi 1S plays safe when it comes to design. The phone retains the rectangular slab form factor we've seen on the Mi 3 but looks like its compact version. Its corners are more rounded and the red coloured navigation keys on the front (true to the 'Redmi' monicker) give it a distinct look. The front panel also features a 4.7-inch display and a 1.6MP front-facing camera.
Redmi 1S has a removable back cover that wraps around the edges. The black coloured cover has a matte finish and doesn't look frail. It is a bit susceptible to smudges, though. There were no creaks and wobbles and the cover fits snugly with the phone. It is also easy to take the cover off thanks to the small opening at the right hand side.
The back of the phone features an 8MP camera lens, LED flash and a speaker outlet in addition to some Mi branding. Removing the back cover reveals the 2,000mAh battery, two slots for regular sim cards (Xiaomi will offer a sim adapter in the box) and a microSD card slot. Xiaomi will also offer back covers in different colours giving consumers the ability to customize their phones.
The power and volume rocker keys (metallic) are conveniently located at the right edge, while the micro-USB port is at the bottom edge. The 3.5mm headset jack sits at the top. The metallic keys offer good tactile feedback.
Overall, the Redmi 1S does not look and feel like a Rs 6,000 phone. It feels much more durable and well-built compared to phones in the same price bracket.
The phone sports a 4.7-inch 720p IPS display that has Asahi Dragontrail glass protection.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, the display is certainly the best we've seen at this price. Colours look vivid and brightness levels were optimum. Sunlight legibility was above average though the display is a little reflective. Viewing angles were really wide and there was no distortion.
Thanks to the higher display resolution, images and text appeared to be crisp and sharp. We also found the capacitive buttons and the touch screen to be extremely responsive.
Xiaomi Redmi 1S runs MIUI, a heavily customized version of Android. You would be familiar with the MIUI ROM if you're an Android enthusiast and like flashing different ROMs on your device. The ROM is available for a large number of Android phones and tablets.
While the MIUI software is based on Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), the interface looks totally different.
In fact, people used to draw parallels between MIUI and iOS as the former follows a similar navigation structure.
The UI is devoid of an app drawer and app icons and widgets are spread across the home screens. The unified home screen-app launcher style may come across as user-friendly to people who have not used an Android phone before. But it will take some time to get used to if you have already been using an Android smartphone. You can of course download and install an alternate launcher.
Xiaomi has promised that it will update the software to Android 4.4 KitKat, later this year. The phone will also be updated to MIUI 6, the next iteration of MIUI.
Unlike the MIUI ROM and the phone's Chinese variant, the Indian version of the phone comes preloaded with Google Play Store and all Google apps including Maps, Gmail, YouTube and Hangouts.
One of the highlight features of MIUI is the ability to customize the user interface with themes, downloadable wallpapers and clocks. The Themes app offers a large number of free themes, each of which comes with a different set of icons, wallpapers, app switcher, font style, sounds, lock screen styles and even system apps.
The Redmi 1S offers a Lite Mode that features a simplified Home screen and menus. One can switch to the Lite Mode by going to the Settings and enabling the mode under the General Settings tab. The phone reboots to the Lite mode which looks a bit like Windows Phone with its big tiles for most core apps, large fonts and simplified versions of phone and messages apps.
The Lite Mode is good for first time smartphone users and the elderly since it doesn't overwhelm with the hundreds of options, settings and apps part of the Android smartphone experience. One can reboot to the full-fledged UI mode by going to the Settings app and disabling Lite Mode via the system settings.
Xiaomi Redmi 1S sports an 8MP rear camera accompanied by an LED flash. According to Xiaomi, the phone's 5-piece lens has an ƒ/2.2 aperture to capture more light, and 28mm wide-angle lens to cover a wider area. The camera hardware of the phone is the best in the segment with similarly priced rivals lagging behind it by leaps.
The camera app is similar to the one on the Mi 3, offering 'Simple' as well as an 'Advanced' mode with the latter offering granular settings for contrast, saturation, sharpness, anti banding, and exposure, among others.It also offers HDR, Panorama, Burst modes in addition to filters. The video mode offers standard and fast motion recording options.
Images captured by the camera in day light turned out well with decent level of detail, accurate colour reproduction and good contrast. Images shot in low-light were grainy but comparitively better than other phones available in the same segment.
We did face some issues trying to focus, especially while shooting close-ups but the end result made up for these small niggles.
The front camera is also good for clicking selfies and for video calls. Unlike the Mi 3, it doesn't try to predict your gender and age!
The phone is capable of shooting 1080p video (in addition to 720p and 480p) and the results were surprisingly good for a phone that costs less than Rs 6,000. Overall, the Redmi 1S comes with a capable camera that won't disappoint you.
Xiaomi Redmi 1S is powered by a 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor with 1GB RAM. It comes with 8GB internal storage out of which 6.1GB is available to the user. It also features a microSD card slot that supports storage cards of up to 64GB.
We did not notice major lag while navigating through the phone's menu, browsing the web and multimedia and scrolling inside apps. Having said that, the transition effects tend to slow down things a bit and unfortunately, there's no way to turn these off. These effects are visible while opening and closing apps and expanding folders.
In synthetic benchmarks, Redmi 1S beats higher priced phones like the Moto G by a margin. The phone scored 19,562 in Antutu, 10,775 in Quadrant and 56.6 in Nenamark 2 benchmark tests.
Connectivity features of the device are 2G, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB 2.0. It also supports USB On-the-Go, so you can use an adapter (or a micro-USB equipped drive) to connect USB storage devices.
Redmi 1S offers good call quality and signal reception and we did not encounter issues while making calls even in areas where cell signal is relatively weaker. The phone was able to lock to GPS without any hiccups.
It offers FM radio with recording capability and the app works even without plugging in headphones. We were able to play most popular video and audio file formats. The phone offers customized audio settings for different kinds of headphones and offers excellent quality sound output with headphones on.
The external speaker also offers loud sound output though the quality deteriorates at higher levels. Although the outlet is located at the back, the sound does't get muffled due to the phone's slightly rounded back.
It packs a 2,000mAh battery (removable) and will last you a full working day (14-15 hours) if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use 3G data all the time. You'll be able to make about 1-2 hours of phone calls, play some casual games and browse the web in this time period. It lasted more than 20 hours with light to medium usage.
Your mileage may vary with different usage patterns. The phone offers three power modes and you can choose the economy mode to save some juice.
We really feel that the phone redefines the entry-level segment with its mid-range specifications and good performance.
We were able to play games like Temple Run 2, and Subway Surfers, without encountering frame drops or freezes. We were also able to play Real Racing and Riptide GP 2 without encountering any lag or stutter. However, we observed that the phone got warm after a few minutes of gaming. Also, there are some compatibility issues with Asphalt 8. The game started crashing after we finished the first round, till we rebooted the phone.
At a price of Rs 5,999, it won't be wrong to say that Xiaomi Redmi 1S is a game changer. It redefines the entry-level smartphone segment and creates a new benchmark. The phone is not just good on paper but is also an all-round performer with solid build quality, superior performance and a great camera.
Of course, Xiaomi achieves this price by following an unconventional sales model which the other players may find difficult to replicate. The company has been panned for the flash sales system and for keeping the phone exclusive to one online retailer but that is how it chooses to operate and sell all its phones.
Xiaomi has promised that it will offer more units every week, learning from past mistakes. It also plans to offer accessories for the phone from day one. Mind you, Redmi 1s doesn't come with earphones, protective cover or screen guard so you'll need to spend extra for acquiring these.
Even after these additional overheads, Xiaomi Redmi 1S is still the best entry-level smartphone available in the Indian market when it comes to delivering bang for your buck. If you're not able to get your hands on the phone, the Asus ZenFone 4 is the next best option.