“A Chinese phone with a cheap price?” this phrase isn’t any new, because there have been several brands in India and other markets where Chinese-made devices are re-branded and sold at an affordable price, but the original phones in China are even cheaper. Lately, the response to that phrase has been changing from a “doubt” to something positive, as the well known Chinese brands, which have been doing great in the Chinese market, are entering the other markets directly. First Gionee, then Oppo and now, it is Xiaomi and of all brands, the best marketing is done by Xiaomi, although the number of devices sold says some other story.
The Redmi 1s is priced so well at Rs. 5,999, in a segment where no real decent smartphones are available. It was a price point where once people said “if you are new to Android and wanted a basic device to check out the OS, you can buy this xxx phone for Rs. 5-7k”, but now, there are some good contenders and Xiaomi’s Redmi 1s is one of the strongest players. Why? Please throw the specs aside. Here, the Redmi 1s wins in several ways – the user interface, the camera quality and the ease of use. The only story true with Xiaomi right now, is that everyone who has used this device is recommending it, but those who want it, have to keep trying their luck every week until they finally get a chance to buy one. I have been testing this and using the Redmi 1s since a couple weeks, and there are some serious positive views about it.
Design, Form Factor
Whatever you are paying for it, you expect the device to look decent enough. And there is no clear intention from any company to make a phone bad at looks. Xiaomi, in this case, hasn’t done any compromise with the design as the phone looks like any mid-range smartphone with a large screen and the properly placed buttons and ports. The only issue we had with the Redmi 1s, was with the large bezels around the display, making the phone unnecessarily larger than what one expects a 4.7-inch smartphone to be.
There is a clear demarcation between the front and back areas, as the fixed front has a black side panel; while the back cover that is removable, extends itself to about 3/4th of the side area with its gray color. The buttons are very much accessible on even the left hand, thanks to the placement on the side panel. The rectangular shape of the phone doesn’t hurt your comfort because the corners are all curved, and even the edges are not sharp enough to hurt.
The Redmi 1s is no way a light device, because the 158gm weight does not make it look like a plastic built phone, though the parts such as the rear cover are all made of plastic. Just like the phones from Nokia, the 1s looks pretty solid and comfortable to hold. We haven’t had issues while holding even the Moto G 2014 with a larger screen, so no complaints here because the Redmi 1s is designed properly with an appropriate shape. It sits on any palm without giving the user “why did Xiaomi design it this way?” feel. The back cover is removable as well, for those whom it really matters because you can remove the battery.
Display, Brightness and Viewing Angles
The display isn’t the brightest of all, because once you are under the sunlight and have set the brightness to maximum, the content still is not easily visible. Of course we could see the bright areas clearly, not everything is seen with ease. And once you set the brightness control to automatic, the sensors go on steroids as you would see the brightness impetuously changing although we are just changing the angle of the phone standing at the same place.
The color output is quite fine though, and Xiaomi has included options for color temperature and saturation. The 720p display is there but the viewing angles are not great, at least when compared to the 720p display in Moto G (the 2014 version), but hey, which other device in this price point has such display resolution and better viewing angles than this? To talk about both display and screen together, the touch response and receptiveness is pretty awesome.
Software – OS, Interface, Ease of use and Apps
It’s MIUI, the user interface Xiaomi uses in its Android devices. And it is one of the most interesting and intuitive user interfaces for Android, although there are few things that you would miss on this too. Especially, the app drawer that goes missing here. But that is not going to make the experience bad at all, because MIUI is a mixture of the best of the interfaces – Android with the touch of iOS. Because, although there is no app drawer, the app icons on home screen don’t limit the usage as you can freely place any widget of any size and add home screens as you wish.
The UI is the same as in Xiaomi Mi 3 and the Mi 4 initially, but those two have got the MIUI v6 update, while the Redmi 1s is still on the MIUI v5. There are some differences but the interface still does a lot, bringing out shortcuts, options not hidden deep into the settings. The Indian version of Redmi 1s has the Google Play Store, and the various Google apps pre-installed. Thus, one doesn’t have to worry much. But if you got a Chinese one, you can still install the Play Store using a .apk installer or even through Mi store. It is Android, in the end.
The same home screen is where you can even have folders, change transition effects apart from installing widgets and shortcuts. While, on the first impression, it felt as if I am back to the iOS interface, this is much more than that and a lot better frankly. Right from the lock screen, you are taken on a ride, a smooth and easy ride.
For those who wanted an even lighter version of MIUI, you have it there. The Redmi 1s has a MIUI Lite Mode with large app tiles, easily accessible options and larger text. This although doesn’t give a great experience, it is not for everyone.
Cameras – capture samples, quality review
There is no exaggeration, and there is no hiding the fact that at this price bracket, the Xiaomi Redmi 1s has a brilliant 8MP camera, and the camera did a better job than the 8MP shooter on the new Moto G.
The LED flash does not justify the job well because the light thrown is more than one would want naturally.
Performance, Speed, Benchmarks
Here comes the spoiler. One of the deal breakers for me, is the performance of the Xiaomi Redmi 1s. While I was quite happy initially with the responsiveness of the swift MIUI, the thoughts began changing with time. The phone tend to become sluggish with time, and the Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB RAM cannot hold the high-end games well. It becomes one of those cases where the new Motorola Moto G keeps itself ahead.
With a normal use, there is nothing noticeable and the Xiaomi Redmi 1s responds to everything normally. Even the games didn’t show any lagging, but just in a week after I installed a few apps, used it continuously for a few days with everything regularly, the performance got slower than what it was initially. The real disappointment is because the Redmi 1s (Indian variant) is not powered by some low-key processor, but a very decent one. If we had to compare with any recent device, even the Moto E with a low-end processor has a better performance for long use.
Multitasking was still decent, because switching between the apps was happening with ease. But, playing the games and opening any large document on the office-apps was showing the problems that one cannot ignore easily. If you are someone who want to have a good camera and feels good on hand, but do not want to play much high-end games, my views about the performance shouldn’t change your thoughts about the device.
Call quality – reception and speaker quality
The call quality on the Xiaomi Redmi 1s is actually better than that on the Mi3. It was with our particular Mi 3 unit where some wheezing noise was heard on the other end during calls. Here, the calling was clear and the earpiece too was clear enough. The calling on speakerphone doesn’t give you the best experience, as the speaker on the back of the device does not put out the sound very clearly, when set on full volume. There was some sort of disturbance, which is not noticeable on the normal calling and hearing through the earpiece.
Ports, Speakers location and quality
As mentioned in the design part above in this review, the placement of the the MicroUSB port, mics as well as headset jack is quite appropriate and, there are no complains as such. But the speaker, is very oddly placed because while the back area is the least preferable one, Xiaomi Redmi 1s has the speaker near the camera in the edge of the device. Practically, that is where your palm touches the phone and when the device is held in hand, the speaker’s sound output has some obstruction. The quality of sound though, is good and loud, but the placement is where this deserves some criticism.
Battery life (both on heavy and light usage)
The 2050 mAh battery doesn’t go dead before the end of the day, if you are a regular user having the internet connectivity turned on, and attend calls regularly, added by occasional music and video playing in the device. But, a certain area where found some issue was with the charging while having the 3G connectivity turned on. Because, the Redmi 1s took over 3 hours to charge from 5% to 100% when the connectivity was turned on, and the background data was on – and interestingly we were actually not using the device. There was no such feedback from many actual users, so we feel this could be something to do with our unit. Overall the battery gives you a day of usage quite easily, if you decide not to try and prove it otherwise by some gaming and continuous video playing, because that is when it would last not more than 3 hours.
Connectivity – Data network, Wi-Fi
The Wi-Fi reception is good but not the best, and same is the case with data network connectivity. While at a particular place where we had three phones together – Xiaomi Mi3, Moto G 2014 and the Redmi 1s, it was only this phone having a little lesser reception than the other two.
Another major issue was with the GPS, where it took minutes and a couple of GPS On/Off toggling before the Redmi 1s could detect the location accurately. Even more surprising because we were not moving, and the phone was stationary at one place. The first time does take time, but it is not that much time taken by other devices around. Once the spot is found, the GPS then actively kept locating and moving along while driving.
Value for Money?
I can confidently say that the Xiaomi Redmi 1s is a great value-for-money device, and at this price point, there is only one decent phone that doesn’t have such specs but still can be a good choice, especially for the reason that the Redmi 1s is not available that easily. It is the Asus Zenfone 4 that can be a good choice beside this, although Moto E comes in a similar price but the camera in it is no where in comparison to the one in Redmi 1s.
There are some odds, but the positives in the Redmi 1s are for the features that are used on daily basis. The UI, camera and the comfort / ease of use are the most important, and the phone doesn’t disappoint in these aspects. But if you are looking for everything good in one, you may have to look at some alternatives with a higher price, because just like many smartphones in the current scenario, the Redmi 1s shows sluggish performance as you start using it rough with multiple apps installed and multitasking like you do on high-end devices. One doesn’t use a smartphone based on its price, but based on how they want to use it. For heavy users, the Redmi 1s is not really recommended, but for an average user, there is no device better than this at the price range of Rs. 6000-8000.
All this said, if you really like one, you should be lucky and swift enough to hit the “Buy Now” button on Flipkart to get this device.
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