Even before it was launched in New Delhi a few hours ago, the word “flagship” somehow has been associated with Xiaomi’s latest smartphone, the Mi A1. Make no mistake though: the new Xiaomi Mi A1 is not a flagship device but instead, it is the phone’s rear camera that is being referred to as the flagship dual camera.
In fact, the company even pointed out how the Mi A1’s rear camera has the same setup as the Apple iPhone 7 at today’s launch event. However, we believe that it is important to look beyond all the labels that have been thrown to the camera and look at it in a much simpler manner.
This is mainly because the Mi A1’s rear camera pretty much revolves around two aspects: its optical zoom capability alongside its love for bokeh under the phone’s Portrait mode. In order to deliver these features, Xiaomi has implemented a 12MP f/2.2 wide-angle camera and another 12MP f/2.6 telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom on the back of the Mi A1.
These simple examples generally show how both features work in real life:
There are also several other modes that users are able to utilize with the rear dual camera including Panorama, Hand Held Twilight, and Manual. There is also Beautify mode for Mi A1’s rear camera although it is not as tweakable as the Beautify mode for the phone’s selfie camera. However, the front camera is generally still a straight forward 5MP f/2.0 snapper.
Since the Mi A1 is an Android One device, it is running on stock Android which is rather bare when compared to Xiaomi’s own MIUI. That being said, Xiaomi has opted for its MIUI camera app over Android’s default camera app which the company said is necessary in order to take advantage of Mi A1’s dual camera setup.
Nevertheless, the app, which is identical to the one in MIUI 8, is still simple enough to use with almost all of its frequently used options just a tap away. They include the 2x optical zoom button that is located very close to the app’s shutter button while the Potrait mode can be enabled through the button at the top of the Mi A1’s screen, located in between flash and HDR options.
Meanwhile, there are only two other Xiaomi apps that were pre-installed in the Mi A1 which are the IR remote control and Feedback. One thing that must be highlighted: the stock Android might be the reason why the phone’s performance feels light and swift out of the box; after all, there is a huge number of Android fans who love the pure, stock Android experiece. That said, it feels weird to see a Mi device not running on MIUI.
In terms of its physical aspects, Mi A1’s design language is aligned with some of the Mi devices that were launched earlier this year such as Mi Max 2 and Mi 5c. While most of its physical characteristics including a full metal body, 2.5D display, and rounded edges are already becoming more common among mid-range smartphones, the Mi A1 is still another example of a high quality product from Xiaomi.
Based on our initial hands on experience with the device, the Mi A1 is a solid mid-range smartphone with a big focus on simplicity and photography. The new phone also marks a rather interesting chapter in Xiaomi’s journey as the company took a step away from MIUI and adopted pure Android experience for Mi A1, which is not a small feat since MIUI is the company’s longest running product.
This move might not only able to help further its relationship with Google but in a way, reflects its willingness to acknowledge a part of its fanbase that want to see what Xiaomi smartphones can achieve with stock Android. For now, we shall continue putting the new Mi A1 through its paces while the new phone makes its way into Malaysia by the end of September.