Smartphones come in all shapes, sizes and prices, and indeed increasing smartphone adoption is making the budget segment more and more attractive. With rural buyers getting into the smartphone game in huge numbers, the budget smartphone segment seems to be where all the action will be going forward. And while you can’t expect too much from a budget device, the most successful options are those that get the basics right.
You can’t speak about budgeting and pricing in the smartphone field without mentioning Xiaomi. The Chinese smartphone maker has regularly got its pricing right, and products in the Redmi range regularly set new benchmarks on how much you can offer for as little as possible. Whether it’s the Redmi 3S Prime or Redmi Note 4, Xiaomi has managed to outprice the competition significantly.
The latest launch from Xiaomi brings the company back to the sub-Rs 6,000 price segment. The Xiaomi Redmi 4A is priced at Rs 5,999 and offers a lot for the amount, including great specifications, and a shape and look that has the phone feel more premium than the price tag would suggest. I’ve put the Redmi 4A through the paces, and here’s what I think of it.
Xiaomi Redmi 4A Look and Feel
Indeed, one of the key selling points of the Xiaomi Redmi 4A is its design. Expecting a full metal body at this price point is a bit much, and Xiaomi has gone with polycarbonate for the Redmi 4A. It is still a unibody design, and doesn’t give you access to the battery. What does work for the phone is the matte finish at the back, which lends an air of sophistication to the device, making it feel more expensive than Rs 6,000. Additionally, its small and light profile makes this an extremely easy phone to handle, and will suit buyers that are looking for a compact device.
Additionally, the phone also has a boxy shape, which coupled with the matte-finish polycarbonate back makes for good grip. The phone’s only branding can be found at the back, with a shining silver Mi logo sitting just above some regulatory text and the phone’s speaker. The camera is near the top left corner, and has a single-tone LED flash as well.
The rest of the phone’s layout is standard, with the power and volume buttons on the right, hybrid dual-SIM tray on the left, micro-USB port at the bottom and 3.5mm jack and IR blaster at the top. The last part is noteworthy; Mi is one of the few brands to persist with the IR blaster, and including it at this price point is interesting to say the least.
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A has a 5-inch 720×1280 pixels IPS LCD screen, which occupies a little more than 70 percent of the front of the phone. Above the screen alongside the earpiece is the front camera, while the bottom of the phone has the capacitive Android keys. These aren’t backlit, so you might have some trouble with find the precise spot to tap when you’re using the phone in the dark. Just below the home button is the phone’s notification light, which flashes when you have unread notifications or remains illuminated when the phone is charging. This is an odd position for a notification light, but one that definitely ensures it’s noticed when it needs to be.
Xiaomi Redmi 4A Specifications and Software
While Rs 5,999 isn’t expected to get you anything out of the ordinary, what you can expect is capable entry-level specifications. The Xiaomi Redmi 4A does come through in this department, with power being provided by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC. It’s a relative new chipset from Qualcomm, featuring four A53 cores clocked at 1.4GHz, and fabricated using the 28nm process. This is a fairly basic entry-level option, with budget-grade performance on offer.
There’s also 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage on the device, along with the possibility of adding more storage using a microSD card. The phone additionally has a 3,120mAh battery, and supports Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi b/g/n connectivity. Interestingly, the phone also has a gyroscopic sensor alongside an accelerometer and proximity sensor, which is another interesting addition considering the price point.
The phone runs Xiaomi’s MIUI 8 on top of Android Marshmallow 6.0. Ordinarily, I’d have been concerned about the lack of Nougat, but adoption of the latest version of Android has been slow across the board by manufacturers. Marshmallow and MIUI 8 are known to work effectively together, and at Rs 5,999, expecting Nougat might be a bit much.
MIUI 8 follows its standard look and feel, with a single-layered user interface that realistically isn’t any different from what we’ve seen on the recently launched Redmi Note 4. Although some might call it confusingly laid out, it’s fairly well designed and receives regular bug fixes and updates, which is more than can be said of many smartphone makers. Basic apps for most functions exist, along with certain apps that take advantage of the phone’s sensors and hardware. There’s also the excellent Mi Remote app to operate the IR blaster, letting you use the Redmi 4A as a replacement remote for your electronics. Although I didn’t like MIUI in its early days, version 8 is a lot more likeable and easy to use as well.
Xiaomi Redmi 4A Performance
Budget smartphones are usually budget devices that tend to compromise on specifications and power, and the lack of the latter in the Xiaomi Redmi 4A is fairly evident. Under the hood is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC, which counts among the chipset maker’s most affordable options. The Redmi 4A also features 2GB of RAM, which while sufficient for a Rs 5,999 device, isn’t much to go with unless your usage is strictly basic.
We ran a few benchmark tests, with the Redmi 4A returning scores of 36,174 in AnTuTu and 16,137 in Quadrant. These are relatively low scores, in line with what we’d expect to see on a device running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SoC. It’s safe to say that performance is as expected from a budget device, and if you use your smartphone heavily, you’ll be better off with a slightly more capable mid-range device.
What this actually means is that while most apps will work fine, more graphic intensive apps and multitasking may show a bit of lag and stutter. Indeed, running too many apps and exhausting the available RAM had a slowdown effect on the Redmi 4A. Starting up apps also generally takes a split second longer than on capable mid-range phones such as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, and heavy games such as Sonic Dash and Hitman Sniper usually took a longer-than-usual time to load, along with having lag issues. If you keep your usage limited to instant messaging, social media, streaming video and the occasional light game, the Xiaomi Redmi 4A is unlikely to give you any real trouble.
Xiaomi Redmi 4A Battery
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A has a 3,120mAh battery providing power to the phone, and the budget-grade specifications help you get the most out of it. Although it isn’t a large battery, the Snapdragon 425’s low power usage and the 720p screen ensure that you get up to two full days of use on a single charge, depending on your use.
Charging the phone is unfortunately a bit slow, but this is once again something that can’t be complained about when you consider the price. The 5W charger bundled with the phone tops up the device is just under three hours, which is acceptable enough, although a 7.5W charger is an achievable target at this price point in my opinion.
Xiaomi Redmi 4A Camera
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A has a 13-megapixel primary camera capable of recording video at full HD resolution, along with a 5-megapixel front camera. Although it’s a bigger sensor than what we’re used to seeing on budget devices such as this, it does have some shortcomings, including the lack of slow-motion video recording and manual controls that only let you adjust the white balance and ISO levels. You do get flash with the rear camera, although this is just a single-tone LED flash that is naturally not quite as powerful or illuminating as on typical mid-range devices such as the Redmi Note 4.
The camera app is Xiaomi’s typical affair, which aims to simplify the process of taking pictures at the cost of settings and controls. At this price point, simplicity might well be appreciated, and it’s easy and quick to take good pictures. Focusing, while not particularly quick, isn’t too slow either. This helps to compose images that are decent enough at a basic level, and certainly good enough for a phone that costs under Rs 6,000.
(Camera samples taken on the Xiaomi Redmi 4A. Click/tap to see full-resolution images)
At first glance, images look decent enough in good light, although zooming in does show a bit of grain and lack of detail. However, color reproduction is as good as you can expect at this price, although there are some visible issues with washing out of brighter colors, particularly the whites. A lot of the shortcomings in the camera can be put down to the low processing power of the phone, although I am fairly impressed with the quality of the photography considering that you’re only paying Rs 5,999 for this.
Low-light photography and video recording are both primitive and barely acceptable, although they would suit most basic purposes for the average buyer in this category. Shots taken at night were quite the mess, thanks to washing out of white light, while video appeared shaky and not too pleasant to watch. Nonetheless, these options are nice to have, and may come in handy at certain times, particularly the good focusing and ability to shoot at full-HD.
The Xiaomi Redmi 4A may not be the most capable phone when it comes to performance and camera quality, but it does go above and beyond the expectations when it comes to everything else. It’s a compact, well-built and easy-to-use smartphone that has a good screen, decent battery life and acceptable specifications for its asking price of Rs 5,999. If you’re looking for a reliable affordable smartphone or just need a decent secondary device, the Xiaomi Redmi 4A is something you should seriously look at.
There aren’t a lot of noteworthy phones that can compare to the Redmi 4A, thanks to Xiaomi’s typical approach of giving you more than you expect for the price. The Redmi 4A is one such phone, and you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with it. However, if you’re looking at more capable performance, battery life or features, you would do better to up your budget a bit and get the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, which starts at Rs 9,999.