The Mi A2 is Xiaomi's second Android One device, running stock Android Oreo out of the box.
Prices start from Rs 16,999.
The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, one of the most affordable devices with this chipset.
At the very beginning, let me admit something. I was quite impressed with the Mi A1 last year, and it remains among my favorite Xiaomi devices. So believe me when I say that I have been really looking forward to the Mi A2 ever since word got out that Xiaomi will be launching the smartphone in India. Today it finally has, and having used the Mi A2 for the last few days here is my review.
Right out of the box you notice that the Mi A2 is much a better built and designed device compared to the Mi A1. The glass panel on the front, and the aluminum back panel combine to offer a premium looking device. Also adding to the premium-ness is the ultra-slim form factor (7.3mm). But that does come at a cost.
For one, the camera module at the back really juts out making the device wobbly when kept on a flat surface. The device is also slippery, and I mean really slippery. There have been more than one instance where the Mi A2 nearly slipped out of my hands. The solution to both these issues is the bundled silicon case. It not only provides ample grip, but is also designed to offset the protruding camera module.
No notch display
In line with the current trend, the Mi A2 features a tall 18:9 aspect ratio display. But for good or for worse, there is no notch here as Xiaomi has opted for rounded corners. The bezels on the side are quite slim, but the same can’t be said about the ones at the top and bottom. The bezel at the top houses the earpiece, sensors, front camera and LED flash. The bottom bezel again feels like a waste of space, but most Android companies are still struggling to find a perfect solution to get rid of it.
The smartphone flaunts a 5.99-inch IPS LCD display with FHD+ (2160×1080 pixels) resolution and 403ppi. The display, for most parts, works well with good levels of contrast and legibility when indoors. But brightness levels are less than impressive, particularly when outdoors. Legibility under direct sunlight too takes a big hit.
The Mi A2 gets a big upgrade over its predecessor in this department. In place of the Snapdragon 625 chipset, the new smartphone is powered by a Snapdragon 660 chipset. Performance levels are on par with what you expect from a device in this price range. Apps open and close in a jiffy, and it is also able to easily handle multi-tasking. Playing graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 9: Legends too is possible, though the graphics need to be toned down for a lag-free experience.
The variant I reviewed came with 64GB storage, and 4GB of RAM. There is another variant coming soon, which will featuer 128GB storage, and 6GB RAM. One grouch though is the lack of a microSD card slot on the Mi A2. While there are dual-SIM card slots, the lack of a hybrid setup means you can only put two nano SIM cards.
Making sure everything ticks is a 3,000mAh battery, which is actually about 80mAh smaller than the unit on the Mi A1. Still battery life is quite good, and you won’t have to hunt around for your charger at the end of each day. The bundled 5A/2A charger took about an hour and half to charge the device from zero to 100 percent, which honestly is not too bad.
The talking point of the Mi A2 is that it is a part of Google’s Android One program. This means it runs stock Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box, and there is little to no bloatware to affect the device’s overall performance in any way. As a part of the program, it is also in line to receive regular software updates, which is always a bonus in the Android world.
While the smartphone comes preloaded with most of Google’s default apps, there are about five Mi apps installed as well. But the ability to remove them if you want is a big positive. As you would expect from stock Android, the experience is smooth as there are no unnecessary apps or animations to bog down the system.
But the simplicity also means you miss out on certain features like gestures for navigation, and face unlock. That said, they do feel like small compromises when you start comparing the experience of using stock Android against custom ROMs.
Now to another highlight of the Mi A2 – camera. Like the Mi A1, Xiaomi’s new smartphone too comes with dual rear cameras. But the setup is different. Gone is the telephoto lens, and it has instead been swapped with a 20-megapixel secondary sensor for improved low-light images. The primary 12-megapixel sensor too is a tad different as it now comes with f/1.8 aperture.
In good lighting conditions, the Mi A2’s rear cameras are quite something. Together they manage to capture a lot of details, and color rendition is top-notch too. In low-light conditions too, the Mi A2’s cameras are quite impressive, and you tend to forget that this is a sub-Rs 20,000 device.
Xiaomi is touting the Mi A2’s portrait mode, and I have to admit it did manage to surprise me. The camera is able to capture some really great shots with good subject separation and background blur. While most of your photos will be shot on auto mode, there’s also a manual mode that lets you tweak individual settings, including switching between the regular and low-light lens.
The selfie camera on the Mi A2 also gets a big upgrade when compared to the Mi A1. There is now a 20-megapixel sensor with f/2.2 aperture, and a LED flash. The camera was able to capture some amazingly detailed selfies even under ambient lighting conditions. Despite a single lens, there’s a portrait selfie mode, and for most parts it too works well. There is again good separation of the subject, and blurring is borderline believable. The one thing I did notice is how most selfies were a tad on the softer side, despite not using the beauty mode. But that is unlikely to be a deal breaker.
Other talking points
There might not be stereo speakers built-in, but the Mi A2 is loud enough in most environments. The calling experience while commuting in noisy trains was good enough, and the person on the other end of the call was able to easily hear me.
The fingerprint sensor is placed at the back, just below the rear camera module. The placement is bang on, and you can easily reach it with the index finger to unlock the device.
Xiaomi has also taken an interesting step (read bold) that will no doubt get many people talking. Like some of the flagship offerings, the company has decided to drop the 3.5mm audio jack on the Mi A2. In my opinion wireless is the future, and the quicker we all start adopting Bluetooth headsets, the better. But the Mi A2 being a mass market product, it remains to be seen how the public reacts to it. On its part, Xiaomi has bundled a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adaptor that will let you continue using your old headphones with the Mi A2.
Should you buy?
It is quite evident that Xiaomi has brought in many improvements when compared to last year’s Mi A1. Stock Android with the promise of regular updates remains the device’s highlight, and the cameras too are quite capable under various lighting conditions. The display however feels like a letdown, and the lack of an audio jack is likely to make or break buying decisions.
Having said that, it is quite easy for me to recommend the Xiaomi Mi A2 to anyone looking for a new smartphone in the sub-Rs 20,000 segment. The closest competitors include the Huawei P20 Lite and the Moto G6 among others, and the Xiaomi Mi A2 comes up top. Who says sequels can’t be better than the first?