When Google announced the Nexus line-up many years ago, it was an instant hit. Although the early goals of the program were to offer affordable devices to increase adoption of Android phones in the early days of smartphones, Google’s operating system is now firmly established as the favoured smartphone OS the world over. Nexus devices gradually stopped being affordable, gave way to the Pixel brand name, and eventually became a showcase of just what is possible with clean, unadulterated and up-to-date software.
However, the quality and assurances that come with a Google Pixel cost a lot of money; the Pixel and Pixel XL are anything but affordable. Of course, stock Android or near-stock Android are not a concept limited to the high-end. Brands such as Nokia, Motorola and Lenovo have been developing devices that feature the near-stock Android experience, while other brands such as HTC and OnePlus have stuck to light customizations that make it easy to quickly roll out software updates and offer as many OS-based features as possible. But the promise of Google’s assured support is a powerful one indeed.
That’s exactly where Android One steps in. This once widely-touted program was promising and offered assured Google support to even affordable devices, but the program turned out to be a dud for various reasons, including a lack of interest by budget manufacturers. This is what makes the return of Android One with the Rs 14,999 Xiaomi Mi A1 a bit of a surprise and revelation; the combined brand power of Xiaomi and stock Android supported by Google is a promising combination indeed. ALSO READ: Well done Xiaomi, you just reminded us that Android One exists
It represents not only a big change in the thinking of one of the world’s most exciting smartphone makers, but also proves that brands must constantly adapt and offer variety if they are to succeed in growing and winning over new customers. For Xiaomi, which has always stuck to its tried and tested MIUI operating system, this is a massive change. While MIUI certainly isn’t going away, it shows that Xiaomi recognizes the need to offer buyers the option to not have to deal with it at all, therefore acknowledging that its precious and carefully nurtured and grown MIUI is neither perfect nor suited to everyone.
And this is something that would potentially appeal to someone like me. I’ve reviewed and used a growing list of Xiaomi devices, I’ve recommended Xiaomi phones to dozens of buyers, and my own earlier dislike of MIUI slowly grew to respect, as MIUI improved and I grew used to it. But while MIUI might be a decent custom interface in its own right, I’ve tended to prefer interfaces that are a bit closer to stock Android. I wouldn’t personally ditch my OnePlus 5 for anything (except maybe a Pixel 2 or OnePlus 5T, both of which do not exist for now), and I’d always recommend a Moto G5S Plus over a Redmi Note 4 to anyone who can afford the price difference. However, a Xiaomi smartphone with stock Android is a game-changer. ALSO READ: Xiaomi Mi A1 Hands On and First Impressions
There are some key reasons that Xiaomi has succeeded and grown exponentially as a smartphone maker everywhere, particularly in India. The products are of a particularly high level of quality, the specifications are always on point, the brand name generates interest and buzz, and the pricing is almost never wrong. The last year has not seen a single launch from Xiaomi that I consider overpriced; the phones may not necessarily be fantastic, but they are always good and never expensive. Now, with Android One to boast of, a promise of Android Oreo by the end of the year, and the familiarity and known quality of performance that the lightest variant of Android offers, the Xiaomi Mi A1 is a device to look forward to indeed.
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Above all, it shows that Xiaomi is serious about its buyers, its market share and its customer-friendly approach to the industry. Users that prefer MIUI continue to have good devices such as the Redmi Note 4 and Mi Max 2 to choose from, but the Xiaomi Mi A1 now opens up the brand to the eyes of power-users, stock Android lovers and software snobs such as myself. It’s a masterstroke by Xiaomi, and one that not only reminds us that Android One still exists, but also reinforces the opinion of many that no kind of Android is as good as stock Android. If this is something you believe in, you no longer need to disregard Xiaomi as a potential purchase.