Xiaomi Mi 3 Review: If Apple ever made an Android smartphone…

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Four years ago Xiaomi didn’t exist and until earlier this year, the brand did not sell outside of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. So it isn’t surprising when people ask Xiaomi, who? Yet, the Chinese sensation that is often called the Apple of the East, has its fan base all over the world, including India where over 100,000 consumers pre-registered to buy the Xiaomi Mi 3 smartphone, which goes on sale today.

Xiaomi (pronounced as shao-me) sells high quality smartphones almost at cost. It makes money over the life cycle of the product as component costs come down as well as selling accessories that have higher margins. Consumers benefit by getting high quality hardware at a fraction of the cost of what a typical tier one brand would sell the same hardware specifications.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is no different. Priced at just Rs 13,999, the Mi 3 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset with a quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz, 2GB of RAM, a 5-inch 1080p IPS display with Gorilla Glass protection, a 13-megapixel camera and 16GB of internal storage. A similarly specced smartphone like the Sony Xperia Z1 costs nearly Rs 35,000!

xiaomi-mi-3-review-4Xiaomi has launched just the metallic gray version of the Mi 3 in India. The device looks and feels premium and the matte finish plastic initially fooled me as being metal. The tall design with curves on the edges reminded me of the short-lived Nokia N9, which in my opinion has to be one of the best designed smartphones ever made. The front is dominated by the 5-inch display with capacitive menu buttons at the bottom. The bezels are not as thin as one finds in smartphones these days, but then the Mi 3 was launched last year and this can be expected. Overall, the Xiaomi Mi 3 feels great to hold and doesn’t come across like the plasticky toys that many brands churn out these days.

Like many high-end premium smartphones, the Xiaomi Mi3 also boasts a magnesium alloy frame for extra sturdiness and comes with precision grilled holes at the bottom for the speaker. The top houses the 3.5mm audio port as well as the SIM card tray – the Xiaomi Mi 3 uses a full size (mini SIM) card, which is a rarity these days. The right spine sports the power and volume rocker keys while the micro-USB port is at the bottom.

But the secret sauce of Xiaomi’s success is only partly due to its hardware and pricing strategy. That anyone with the right resources and intent can replicate. What cannot be replicated is the software, which the company calls MIUI. It is based on the AOSP version of Android (which both Nokia and Amazon also use in their Android devices) but comes with the complete Google suite of services including the Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps and the works. The Xiaomi Mi 3 runs on Android 4.4.2 in India.

xiaomi-mi-3-review-3The user interface, however, has been reworked to mimic a very iOS like interface with no application drawer like most Android smartphones. It reminded me somewhat of Gionee’s Amigo UI but with MIUI you can also add widgets on the home screens. The part I like the most is you can uninstall all the pre-loaded apps including Xiaomi’s own browser. This is something I have never seen before and users are typically stuck with a number of pre-installed bloatware that is never used.

Also, while setting up the phone for the first time, users can choose between Swipe or Google keyboard – two of the best keyboard solutions on Android – rather than having its own keyboard, which users are most likely to replace with either of the two.

Xiaomi also provides users with a number of themes that can change the look and feel of the device completely. Many of these themes have been created by Xiaomi’s fans and the list is updated regularly. Presently, all of the themes are free to download in India.

My favorite part of MIUI, however, is the security feature Xiaomi has added. One major problem with Android is that most app seek access to features that they have no business with and most of the times we don’t read the permissions while installing them.
A security feature in the Mi 3 allows users to see exactly what permissions individual apps seek and you can allow or deny the app to get access to it. While not foolproof, but it limits the chances of rogue apps sending text messages to premium numbers, for instance.

Another feature in the same app lets users see which apps are consuming how much data and limit individual apps from accessing costly cellular data and enabling them to connect over a Wi-Fi connection only.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 doesn’t disappoint  in performance either. I have been using the Mi 3 for a week now and not once did I feel it struggling to perform day to day tasks. With about two hours of Internet surfing, three hours of WhatsApp, an hour of calls and two Gmail accounts, the Mi 3 was easily able to last me an entire day.

The 13-megapixel camera churns out great results in adequately lit conditions with proper color reproduction and sharpness. However, photos turn out to be soft, grainy and slightly washed out in low light conditions.

xiaomi-mi-3-review-2With the Mi 3, Xiaomi unravels the real power of Android. Rather than using customization solely to differentiate itself from others, Xiaomi has created MIUI keeping user needs first and foremost. Xiaomi listens to its fans for features and adds them in subsequent builds that are pushed out to users regularly.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 brings great hardware at an unheard of price and doesn’t skim on performance either. At Rs 13,999, I won’t hesitate to recommend it in a heartbeat.



  • Ram

    Did u face any heating issues?

    • D-JAY

      Hi Ram,
      every phone with mettle body have moderate heating while charging or playing games (heavy graphic games). it’s not a issue.

      • rgv

        THIS IS NOT METAL BODY

        • manja

          IT HAS METAL FRAME

  • http://aman-mobile.blogspot.com/view/snapshot Aman

    Thx for the review. There have been talks regarding phone-heating-up issues. Have you faced such problems during your usage?

    • Adithya Gota

      every smartphone tends to heat…its not an issue…

      • shreshth bhagat

        we r using 5 different lenovo smartfone models and none of them has heating problem

    • RGV

      no heats at all…. its an iphone nexus 5 killer

    • Abhilash Chandran

      Better avoid using case cover while playing game if u r using .. and every smart phone will heat if u play highly graphic intensive game … dont worry even high end phone will get heated up ..

    • Amit Upadhyay

      it is not a big issue,go into the power setting,den battery saving mode,ur problem will solved.
      every android phone get heat after k along tym use so y not xiomi mi3, after oll its a great smartphone .

  • Ashay

    does it hang….sir….and also how its touch is , in comparison to moto g

    • RGV

      BUTTERY SMOOTH…..

    • Abhilash Chandran

      Ultimate smooth .. display is far far better than Moto G

  • Ramani

    nice review. have one question. Is it having the gorilla glass protection 3 or 2? i dont see this detail in flipkart.

    • Sonam Kumar

      3. They had posted on FB.

  • kaushik

    compare to Nexus 5, how much would you rate Xiaomi camera??

    • RGV

      10 on 10

  • Kiran Kumar A

    MIUI custom ROMs were buggy. Would be nice if you can throw some light on that.

  • yaydude

    Are you writing a review or trying to sell me the product?
    SHEESH!

    • Abhilash Chandran

      Fantastic product in this price range .. u wont regret ..

  • Arvi

    Can we use office email ?

  • Shankar Mandavilli

    To,

    The FlipKart Team & Xiaomi Mobile team

    India

    From ,

    Frustated Custumer of FlipKart

    Hyderabad, India

    Subject : Xiaomi Mi3 phone

    @Flipkart and Xiaomi

    I am composing this letter, to make you understand the feelings of a Indian customer . I request you, not to play with the Indian customers by playing the

    cheap market gimmicks. i want to remind you the proverb ” keep your customers happy and grow your business ” .

    In Indian market, if you want to survive and want to become a Number one online retailer , you need to deal with a company which is capable of supplying the required

    number of mobiles .If you are unable to supply the mobiles with the required quantity and making the people bizarre about your product. Kindly stop it.

    As per my experience in purchasing the Xiaomi Mi3 phone ,It is impossible to buy a mobile using FlipKart – ” Mi3 can be renamed as Mission Impossible 3 ”

    All my three attempts to purchase Mi3 mobile vain

    * Why you are opening the registrations again to book the mobile – if you fail to fulfill the commitment to all the registered users ?

    * Your First come first serve policy is good- but the way you are applying with customers is bad .

    * What kind of benefit i got from ” Flipkart First ” services, unable to book three times as per your instructions .

    * I request both of you to not apply ” marketing strategy ” on Indians.

    what i did after realising the truth behind the Flipkart and Xiaomi Mobile :

    1 : I purchased Motorola moto G phone from the same website Flipkart .It’s my last purchase in Flipkart.

    2 : i dropped an email to the flipkart team to remove my account .

    3 : I blocked the Flipkart website in my office .

    4 : I promised myself not to refer Flipkart & Xiaomi to any friend now onwards .

    @Hugo Burra

    I dont know, whether you are going to read this message or not , i want to present you two books and a gift box .

    two books are about ” How to deal with customers and ” How to run business at start up ” by well known authors .

    and the gift box item for you is : ” Motorola moto g ” phone . If possible i will try to purchase oneplusone too and send it as a gift for you .

    Xiaomi failed to show themselves as transparent and indirectly Flipkart too lost his Brand name behind the scenes.

    Final words ,

    Good Bye Xiaomi phone … Good Bye Flipkart ….

    Thank you.

    M Shankar

    m.shankargupta@yahoo.com

    • Swapnil

      Mila nahi lag raha hai…..ha ha ha

    • ankit kumar

      bhai same to u me ese esa share kar rha hu ke kar f.b or whatap se ek ek ke phone me jaega ye sandes i am with u and my page tem and my all compuert eng,with u dont ware we are start a wor for flipkart

  • vinay habib

    sir anyone let me know about the camera clarity & does this mobile hangs?

  • Imran I H Khan

    I got my Mi3 on 20th Aug 2014.
    only one word for it…….

    ~~~awesome~~~

    • Dlip Vignesh

      Sir… i have a doubt… its best for use or not..?? when comparing to Xperia L..

  • Parthasarathy Narasimhan

    One more problem faced on this is, front camera captures the mirror image. Not sure if this is the problem with model or particular phone

  • sidd

    what about redmi 1s…..