Xiaomi is known for a lot of things. First and foremost, it’s known for its well-priced smartphones, but you also get a fairly rounded package that includes good build quality, good software and innovation. The company’s products push the boundaries at the top of the range, with the recently launched Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 showcasing just what it can do when it comes to design and screen. But one thing that it has not been known for thus far is its front cameras.
Well, of course Xiaomi smartphones have front cameras, it’s not like you could never take a selfie till now. But Xiaomi has pretty much never made a fuss about its front cameras. It just kind of exists, and it does its job. So when Xiaomi announced its new Redmi Y1 and touted its front camera as its key feature, I’ll admit I was taken by surprise.
Priced from Rs 8,999, the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 may seem like just another budget Xiaomi smartphone, but it’s got a little something that will appeal to selfie lovers. With a 16-megapixel front camera with lamp flash, the phone is designed to appeal to buyers that take a lot of pictures of themselves. This affordable smartphone is also the first phone in India to feature MIUI 9 out of the box, and represents a new approach for the Chinese manufacturer. Find out how the Redmi Y1 fares in our review.
Budget smartphone at the core
As would be expected from a Rs 8,999 smartphone, the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 is a budget device at the heart. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 SoC, the phone comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of RAM for the starter variant, while Rs 10,999 will buy you 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. It’s interesting to note that the Redmi Y1 is a rebranded Redmi Note 5A Prime, a phone that was launched in China recently. You also get a fingerprint sensor at the rear, which is an expected feature in this price range.
The phone runs Android Nougat out-of-the-box, and is also the first phone that Xiaomi has launched in India to come with MIUI 9 on launch. The phone has a 5.5-inch HD screen with Corning Gorilla Glass on top, and ships with a micro-USB charging cable and 10W charger. It’s a fairly simple smartphone, and offers typical budget performance which is in line with the price of the phone. Everything works reliably, and you aren’t likely to face any significant issues in day-to-day use. ALSO READ: Oppo F5 Review
The phone doesn’t look very different from Xiaomi’s typical design language, and this is unfortunately becoming a bit disappointing. While the plastic body might be forgivable considering the price and features, the typical Xiaomi look is uninspiring to say the least. The front of the phone has the three capacitive navigation keys at the bottom, which aren’t backlit. The top of the phone has the 16-megapixel front camera and the lamp flash. Interestingly, you get a dedicated storage slot on the Xiaomi Redmi Y1; the tray has independent slots for both SIM cards as well as a micro-SD card.
Indeed, the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 is more than a reliable mid-range smartphone. In line with the current favorite trend of the Indian consumer base, the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 comes with a 16-megapixel front camera with lamp flash. The front camera has an aperture of f/2.0, and can record video at up to 1080p resolution. The rear camera on the phone is a 13-megapixel snapper with phase detection autofocus, single-tone LED flash and 1080p video recording.
We took a bunch of pictures using the front camera, and results are decent, providing your focus area is narrow. This essentially means that you’ll get good pictures when you’re taking selfies of yourself; if you widen the focal area a bit, you’ll find others in group selfies somewhat out of focus. When it comes to detail, you’ll see that the phone is using all of its resolution to provide a decent amount of detail, and colors are about on-par with what you’d expect from an affordable smartphone such as this. ALSO READ: 10.or G Review
(Camera samples shot with the Xiaomi Redmi Y1)
The reason the images lose focus in group shots is because of the fixed focus we see on sensors. We asked Xiaomi product lead in India Jai Mani a bit about this. “Smartphone front cameras don’t typically have variable autofocus because the pictures you shoot are usually a fixed distance, that is, an arm’s length from your hand to your face. There’s nothing theoretically against having front cameras with variable focus, except that it would make the module slightly larger. So, in the interest of better design, smartphone makers stick to fixed focus sensors at the front.”
You’ll notice that in the group shots, the person closest to the image is usually in focus while others appear hazy and blurred out. Results are best when you keep your face at the center of the image frame, so the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 is really best when you’re taking pictures of yourself. With some careful framing, you could probably get a second person into the shot without it blurring out too much. That said, while results aren’t impressive, it’s likely the best selfie-centric smartphone you can buy at under Rs 10,000.
(Camera samples shot with the Xiaomi Redmi Y1)
The rear camera produces similarly acceptable results for the price. While there is some grain and the colors are anything but as realistic and as vibrant as they could be, this is to be expected from a smartphone powered the Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 SoC. On the whole, there’s nothing particularly extra-ordinary about the camera setup on the Redmi Y1, except for the high-resolution of the front camera and the lamp flash which will of course help in low-light photography.
Xiaomi has launched a lot of smartphones this year. From the Redmi Note 4, which went on to become the top-selling smartphone in India for 2017, to the Mi MIX 2 with its edge-to-edge screen, most of it was significant and exciting. With the Xiaomi Redmi Y1, the company has offered something out-of-the-box too. The 16-megapixel selfie camera and lamp flash, along with roping in Katrina Kaif as a brand ambassador, shows Xiaomi taking a different approach. It’s one that will likely pay off; this is, after all, what the consumer wants, and the company is showing ambition with it.
The phone itself is basic in many ways, but it will no doubt appeal to a section of the market that wants a quality alternative to the mostly mediocre options available today. The Redmi Y1 brings affordability to the selfie-first audience through its Redmi Y1, and is definitely worth looking at if you want a good front camera at under Rs 10,000.