China smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has been selling smartphones since 2011, but it first gained worldwide attention when it sold 100,000 of its Hongmi Android-powered phones online in 90 seconds in August last year. Two months later, it sold the first batch of 100,000 of its Android Mi-3 phones in China in under 86 seconds. Since then, the Hongmi, which has been launched in Taiwan and Hong Kong, has been clocking incredible sales records. The phone will finally go on sale in Singapore on Friday.
At $169, Xiaomi is making the Hongmi, which has been rebranded as the Redmi here, a very attractive device to get. What sets it apart is that the Redmi contains the hardware of what other smartphone makers consider to be mid- to high-end specifications, like using a quad-core processor and an 8MP camera. It also boasts dual-SIM features, which are not found in most smartphones in the market.
Hidden away under the plastic shell are also several unique features that make the Redmi stand out among the sea of Android devices that have flooded the market.
Here are 10 reasons we love the Redmi.
10. It is priced at $169
Running on a quad-core, 1.5 GHz processor with a 4.7-inch IPS display and 8MP rear camera, the Redmi is under-powered compared to devices like the 2.26 GHz quad-core LG G2. Then there is its use of the lesser-known MediaTek processor versus the more well-known and popular Qualcomm chip used by its competitors. But the LG G2 has a $898 price tag, while the Redmi is more than five times cheaper.
9. It does not feel cheap
The term "plasticky" has been used a lot to describe many smartphones but this is also because consumers expect more when they pay a premium for a smartphone. But with its 1,280 x 720 display, Corning Gorilla Glass 2 screen and in-plane switching (IPS) display, the Redmi rarely gives off a sense of cheapness. There is heft to its weight when held in your hands, which means it does not feel like it is about to fall apart.
There are quite a number of smartphone owners who own two separate mobile phone lines, but there is a distinct shortage of devices that support the option of using two SIM cards on one phone. For travellers, it is always good to have a dual SIM device, where one SIM is for a personal number and the other SIM slot is used to support the foreign data SIM card for surfing the Web. And this $169 phone allows that.
Android devices are some of the most customisable devices in the market, and Android makers have taken advantage of this, applying their own look and feel to their devices. The key word here is "their own", as all phones from a single brand tend to look the same across the board. There are third-party themes that device owners can download, but the Redmi has its own theme store right in the device. And more than just the ability to incorporate a particular theme, users can also customise specific individual pages, so your lock screen, home screen, messaging, dialer and icons can each follow their own unique theme.
6. Lite Mode
A while back, there was some interest in phones for the elderly, where the devices used oversized buttons and have an easy-to-use interface for the elderly to use. The Redmi has this built right in, as the Lite Mode transforms the icons into larger buttons, from the apps to use, to the dialer keypad. Users can add or delete apps to a default home screen to ensure that the elderly only have to choose between key features from the device.
When you install Android apps from the Play Store, a list of permissions need to be approved before the installation can take place. This is usually an "all or nothing" feature and at times, the urge to own the app means users tend to simply accept the permissions required. Now, users can go into each app and manage the permissions individually. If you suspect that an app might be drawing too much data, you can monitor the app. Some apps can start up in the background and users can now choose to prevent this as well. Such a fine level of precise permission control is not offered out of the box on any other major smartphone maker.
4. Camera Audio Capture
Selfies are a huge part of social networks, as folks seem inclined to take plenty of self-portraits and sharing them online. The problem is that front-facing camera tend to be too low resolution, while rear cameras do not allow users easy access to the controls on the screen. And no matter what you think, taking photos in front of a mirror, with your phone in full view, just makes you look silly. In comes a simple audio detection that snaps photos when it detects an increase in audio levels. A simple phrase like "Say cheese" can trigger the shutter and all you have to do is to hold the phone steady.
3. Recording Phone Calls
There are paid apps that can do the job, but this one is built right in. You can choose to have the phone record phone calls from specific individuals so that you can keep a copy of the conversation. For journalists who conduct interviews over the phone, this is a must-have. For everyone else, it is a nice back-up plan for when you need to keep a record of certain conversations.
2. Private SMS
This will probably raise a few eyebrows. There is a secret compartment within the Messaging app that allows you to send and receive SMS messages from select contacts. This private room can be accessed only by activating a certain on-screen gesture and once inside, users can determine which contacts can send messages directly to this private messaging wall. These messages do not appear in the regular messaging window, which means prying eyes cannot find them. Some of us might justify its use by stating that it can be useful for business partners, but let's face it - this is perfect for those with secret lives, like boyfriends, girlfriends and other partners that they want to keep hidden.
1. Cheap Accessories
The phone might come cheap and the company is not looking to recoup by overcharging on accessories either. A spare battery will set you back only $9.99, while a battery charger is an additional $9.99. A clear skin casing is priced at $4.99, while a soft gel one is only $8.99. Hopefully, other smartphone makers can take their cues from Xiaomi and stop pricing their devices and accessories at a premium, just because they think they can.