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Lounge Review: The Xiaomi Mi A3 is a hit-and-miss budget option

  • Despite the positives of Android One, the Mi A3’s shortcomings are hard to ignore
  • The Mi A3 has much to offer for social media enthusiasts, with a triple camera setup at the back

The Mi A3’s ‘Not Just Blue’ colour variant.
The Mi A3’s ‘Not Just Blue’ colour variant.

In a market dominated by Chinese companies and smartphones running custom UIs (user interfaces), Google’s stock Android UI is still preferred by many. That explains why a leading smartphone maker like Xiaomi, which sells millions of MIUI-based (their proprietary custom UI) smartphones every year, has a separate series of stock Android phones. The Mi A3, the third phone in the series, is available at a starting price of 12,999. The Android One connection ensures that the phone gets timely Google updates.

For the uninitiated, Android One is a Google initiative under which the handset is manufactured by one of the partner Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), while the software running on it is kept as close to the original Android as possible. It has fewer customization options and features than a custom UI, but overall feels much easier to use.

On the surface, the Mi A3 has a lot in common with the recent bunch of Redmi smartphones. It has a glass back finish, a thin bezel design with a teardrop-shaped cutout at the top, and comes in eye-catching colour options such as “Not just blue" and “More than white". The handset doesn’t feel hefty even though it packs a 4,030 mAh battery that was able to muster a full day’s backup comfortably.

The 6.1-inch display is slightly smaller than the K20 (6.4-inch) or even the Redmi Note 7. Xiaomi has skimped on the screen resolution, offering just 1,520x720p, though most smartphones in this range offer at least 2,100x1,080p. While the colours look brighter than usual, nothing can make up for the lack of sharpness, all too evident during gaming or video playback. Powering the Mi A3 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 octa-core processor, clubbed with up to 6 GB RAM, a very capable combination for day-to-day tasks. We even played games like Asphalt 9: Legends and FIFA Mobile without any niggles, though the gameplay was nowhere as smooth as it is usually on, say, the One Plus 7.

The fingerprint sensor is included within the display and lights up automatically if the phone is moved or lifted. The sensor is accurate but a tad slower to respond than devices such as the K20 Pro. While the phone has ample internal storage, it doesn’t have a dedicated microSD slot, so if you are using both SIM slots, you can’t use the memory-card slot.

The Mi A3, however, has much to offer social media enthusiasts. There is a triple camera setup at the back, which includes a 48 MP Sony IMX 586 sensor (also used in the K20 Pro and OnePlus 7), an 8 MP wide-angle camera and a 2 MP telephoto camera. The 48 MP camera has to be enabled in the camera app menu before it can be used.

It’s far from perfect, though, and has some issues that can’t be overlooked, like the lower screen resolution and lack of a hybrid SIM slot. Several Android One smartphones are available at the same price, like the Moto One Action ( 13,999) and Nokia 7.1 ( 12,999), which offer full-HD screens but fall short in terms of camera and hardware. If you are open to a custom UI, the Redmi Note 7 Pro too would be a good buy.

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