Xiaomi Mi A3: Is it the Best Android One Smartphone Under Rs 15,000?

Xiaomi Mi A3 is the latest Android One smartphone to launch in India. Starting at Rs 12,999, the Mi A3 packs a punch when it comes to hardware and Xiaomi’s pricing is on point as well. The Xiaomi Mi A1 was an instant hit for the company, but the Mi A2 did not live up to expectations as the phone lacked 3.5mm headphone jack and also offered a smaller battery. Expectations were high on the Mi A3 as it carries the future of Mi A series of phones on its shoulders, so it was challenging for Xiaomi as well to get things right. Well, with the Mi A3, Xiaomi has got so many things right, but at the same time, the company has made a back step by adding an HD+ display to a smartphone priced over Rs 10,000. However, the screen is not just everything about a smartphone and there are a lot of things which the Mi A3 gets right when compared to the competition. Let’s find out whether the Mi A3 is worth a purchase at Rs 12,999 compared to the competition and is it the best Android One smartphone under Rs 15,000?

What the Xiaomi Mi A3 Gets Right?

Xiaomi has done a tremendous job this year when it comes to designing its phones and it continues with the Mi A3. The Redmi Note 7 series launched earlier this year arrived with Aura Prism design, but the Mi A3 has Dynamic Holographic design which appears to be better than the Redmi Note 7 series design language. The Dynamic Holographic design has four layers- Glass, nano-level holographic design, glossy reflective coating and a colour layer. These four layers combined offer a unique pattern on the rear side. The phone comes in three colour options- Not Just Blue, Kind of Grey and More than White. And yes, the Mi A3 has a glass back which is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 technology.

Also, the Mi A3 feels compact when taken into hands, thanks to the smaller 6.08-inch display. The in-hand feel of the smartphone is also excellent because of the curved 3D rear panel. With all the big-screen phones out there in the market, the Mi A3 comes as refreshment with its compact form factor.

Hardware side of things, we’re looking at the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chipset which comes as an upgrade to Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC that was launched more than two years ago. The Snapdragon 665 SoC is a minor upgrade over the Snapdragon 660, hence there are no significant performance improvements. The Mi A3, being an Android One smartphone, comes with a stock version of Android 9 Pie out of the box. Besides the Camera, Mi Store, Mi Community and Amazon apps, all other apps pre-installed on the smartphone are directly from Google like Google Search, Google, Google Play Store and so on.

Performance on the Mi A3 was pretty much identical to the Mi A2; It was snappy and apps opened quick during my ten days of usage. The Adreno 610 GPU which we get on the Mi A3 also handled games like PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9 pretty well. PUBG Mobile ran at Medium settings which is expected from a mid-range chip. The 4GB of LPDDR4x RAM keeps the majority of apps in memory, but heavy titles like PUBG Mobile refreshes if you switch to other intensive apps like Facebook.

As for the software bugs, I did not notice many on the Mi A3, which is a good thing as the Mi A2 and Mi A1 were riddled with software issues. Also, at first boot itself, the Mi A3 received the July security update, and at the time of writing this article, the phone also received August security patch update weighing over 280MB in size. Xiaomi also confirmed the Mi A3 would get Android Q update on time as well.

Moving onto the cameras, the Mi A3 offers triple camera setup on the back- a 48MP primary shooter paired with an 8MP wide-angle lens and a 2MP depth sensor. Images captured using the primary sensor came out really well as it’s the Sony IMX586 sensor we already saw on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro. In fact, the images of the Mi A3 seemed better than the ones shot on the Note 7 Pro. Additionally, the Mi A3 has the 8MP ultra-wide-angle shooter, which most of the phones in this segment does not offer. Photos captured using the 8MP shooter does come out good, but they lack details which is understandable. Portrait shots also came out good on the Mi A3, but at times, the phone struggles to blur the background accurately. There’s also a 32MP front-facing camera which performs really well too.

What Doesn’t the Xiaomi Mi A3 Get Right?

Well, it’s the display. The Mi A3 is the first Xiaomi phone to pack an AMOLED display under Rs 15,000 and it’s also the cheapest phone in the market right now with an in-display fingerprint scanner. The Mi A3 rocks a 6.08-inch HD+ Super AMOLED display which on paper may not inspire confidence, but in real life, the screen renders accurate colours. The display on the Mi A3 may be the best in the AMOLED standards, but at times, you can quickly notice the lack of a Full HD display. Having said that, the screen on the Mi A3 gets the job done, but it’s disappointing to see Xiaomi going with an HD+ display for the smartphone to cut the costs.

Another disappointment with the Mi A3 is the in-display fingerprint scanner. Firstly, the placement of the scanner itself is entirely off the radar (it’s placed slightly on the lower end of the screen), probably due to the smaller screen used by the company. It’s extremely tough to use the fingerprint scanner by taking the phone in a single hand because of the odd scanner placement. If the placement of the scanner is an issue, then the inaccuracy of the scanner is another issue. When it works, it gets the job done perfectly, but when it doesn’t, you’ll have to make multiple attempts or probably make use of the screen lock itself. Xiaomi says the scanner used on the Mi A3 is of the seventh generation, so a software update might fix the inaccuracy issue.

Lastly, the Mi A3 despite boasting a beefy 4030mAh battery delivers sub-par battery life. There’s a saying that the stock Android phones offer poor battery life and the Mi A3 is a prime example for that case. Compared to the Redmi Note 7 Pro which runs MIUI 10, the battery life on the Mi A3 is slightly disappointing. I barely managed to get a screen-on time of over five hours twice during my entire usage of the phone. Another downgrade is Xiaomi not offering a fast charger inside the retail box. The Mi A3 supports 18W fast charging, but Xiaomi does not bundle any fast charger inside the box; With the competition bundling fast chargers inside the retail box, it’s high-time for Xiaomi to consider the same.

Verdict

Overall, the Mi A3 is yet another stellar offering from Xiaomi. Before the India launch, everyone was worried about how the Mi A3 fits into Xiaomi’s product portfolio. But Xiaomi answered that question by pricing the device at just Rs 12,999. The Mi A3 comes in two variants- 4GB+64GB priced at Rs 12,999, 6GB+128GB priced at Rs 15,999. For the asking price of the base model, the Mi A3 delivers a lot- the cheapest in-display scanner phone, stock Android with regular software updates, a flashy design that appeals to everyone, and more importantly, the compact form factor of the phone is something we don’t get with every smartphone these days. The Mi A3 is also the cheapest phone in the market right now with the Sony IMX586 sensor.

That being said, the Mi A3 is a perfect choice for those looking for a stock Android phone under Rs 15,000. Yes, it has an HD+ display, but make a note that it’s an AMOLED panel that gets the job done for the most part. If you were to choose between the Realme 5 and the Mi A3, then add Rs 2,000 and get the Mi A3 itself (4GB+64GB model).

Chakri Kudikala

Chakri is a go-to guy for your next smartphone recommendation. Back in his engineering days, he used to play with smartphones by installing custom ROMs and that passion got him into the tech industry. He still goes nuts about a smartphone knocking his door for review. Currently managing everything at Telecom Talk, Chakri is trying to master PUBG Mobile in his free time.

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Chakri Kudikala