It hasn’t even been a year since Xiaomi launched its smartphones in India and it has already had a significant impact on the industry and consumers. In these few months, the Chinese smartphone maker had made us realize two things – you don’t have to pay through your nose to get the best hardware specifications and smartphones below Rs 10,000 can be usable too. The Redmi 1S is a great testament to the latter and its success led other smartphone brands to do a better job than throwing left-overs and run down products in the entry-level segment. However, that’s not to say the Redmi 1S didn’t come with its share of flaws, as you can read in my review. To address those concerns and to set new benchmarks, Xiaomi is bringing the Redmi 2 to India tomorrow. I have been using it as my primary smartphone for the last one week. The Redmi 1S had failed to dazzle me, can the Redmi 2 do any better? Let’s find out.
First things first. At a glance, the Redmi 2 doesn’t look like a Rs 6,999 smartphone from any angle, especially if you consider the display. At this price segment, we are used to displays with poor viewing angles, dull colors and usually don’t have any protection like Corning’s Gorilla Glass or Asahi’s Dragontrail. The Redmi 2 changes all that. The phone retains the 4.7-inch 720p display specification from the Redmi 1S but it is not the same display. Xiaomi has gone with a laminated display this time, which reduces the gap between the LCD layer and the glass on top, so icons appear to be on the glass surface and you also get better viewing angles. The Redmi 2’s display is not only brighter but also reproduces colors better than most displays you’d find on smartphones in this category. It also has good outdoor legibility and comes with Dragontrail protection as well. If you factor in that at 312ppi this is actually a Retina display and look at the price point, you’d realize that Xiaomi has done something special here.
Comparing it with the Redmi 1S, the Redmi 2 is thinner, lighter and generally better designed. The curved edges and corners feel good to hold though it can get quite slippery at times. Both the models have 8-megapixel rear cameras but the Redmi 2 now has a 2-megapixel front camera. Both devices have 8GB of internal storage and 1GB RAM but the Redmi 2 has a newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core chipset clocked at 1.2GHz. Xiaomi likes to market its 64-bit architecture but sadly the smartphone still runs on Android KitKat, which doesn’t utilize any of the improvements. Xiaomi has also added a second microphone on the rear for noise cancellation (visible in the photo below above the camera lens) and it works. In my experience, the audio quality during voice calls is top-notch.
For the past three months I have been exclusively using sub-Rs 10,000 smartphones as my primary phones and the experience has been an eye opener. The Redmi 2, in many ways, is the pinnacle of what affordable smartphones are capable of doing. Take the 8-megapixel rear camera, for instance. Let me put it simply, if you are looking for an affordable camera phone, the Redmi 2 should be on the top of your shopping list. The camera quality is sort of unseen on a Rs 6,999 phone. Photos clicked in daylight are vibrant and retain sharpness. You even get the ‘bokeh’ effect in closeup shots. Even slightly well-lit indoor photos come out well in HDR mode. Photos clicked indoors have noise especially when viewed at 100 percent zoom but more than passable for putting up on social media networks.
The front-facing camera automatically starts the “age guess” mode, where the camera guesses your gender and age. Quite fun. The front-facing camera has a wide angle for group selfies. The photos are passable and are usually have noise, but that’s on expected lines. Overall, I can’t think of any smartphone priced below Rs 10,000 with this camera quality.
I was able to play Asphalt 8: Airborne with low graphics settings with no problems whatsoever. Of course, Temple Run 2 plays fine on it as well, so do many other popular games. There wasn’t a single regular app that wouldn’t work on it. Some people have faced problems with Truecaller not working on MIUI 6, but you can get that running as well by adding it into the auto start list in the app permissions from the built-in security app.
That isn’t to say that the Redmi 2 is perfect. In my books, Xiaomi has been a bit too ambitious running MIUI 6 with its myriad animations running on such frugal hardware. Apps take a wee bit longer to open, there is noticeable lag while switching apps and just in case you have too many apps running in the background (in my experience around six apps or more), things start slowing down. You might be trying to scroll through your Twitter timeline but it would register the scroll flick gesture as a tap, the keypad starts getting sticky and hitting the home button leads to a loading screen.
But there’s nothing that killing off apps in the background cannot solve. After using the phone for a couple of days, you start noticing the signs much earlier and tend to kill unnecessary background apps almost intuitively. This is something that can be improved with a software update, which I would hope is around the corner.
The Redmi 2 is probably the only smartphone available right now at any price point that offers dual-mode, dual-band 4G LTE connectivity on both SIM cards. It not only supports TD-LTE on Band 40 but also FD-LTE on Band 3, which some upcoming 4G LTE networks are expected to utilize. While 4G networks might not mean much for most users at the moment, the thing is that both SIM card slots also support 3G connectivity – users will no longer have to choose which SIM to put into SIM Card slot 1 because only that SIM will be able to connect to 3G networks. There’s no other smartphone priced under Rs 10,000 that has 4G/3G connectivity on both SIM card slots.
In terms of battery performance, on an average I managed between five and six hours of display on time consistently, which is again a rarity in this price segment. The 2,200mAh battery almost lasted me for an entire day a couple of times, which again is surprising. In terms of usage I had about 2 hours of calls, two Gmail accounts, a hyper-active WhatsApp account and an obsessive me who loves to check Twitter every 30 minutes if not more frequently.
In my opinion, the Redmi 2 is almost the perfect sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone. Priced at Rs 6,999, Xiaomi has set a new benchmark for others to meet yet again. Higher praise than that, I cannot give.