The story of Xiaomi’s rise reads like the stuff of dreams. Founded only five years ago, Xiaomi is now the number one smartphone maker in China and third biggest smartphone maker in the world, behind only Samsung and Apple, having overtaken more established brands such as LG and Lenovo.
Xiaomi’s rate of growth has been nothing short of staggering and it is showing no signs of slowing down. In 2014, the company reported that it sold over 60 million phones, marking an increase of over 320% as compared to 2013’s 18.7 million phones. And most recently, the company announced that it has set a new Guinness World Record for most smartphones sold in 24 hours on an online platform. The number of phones sold, in case you were wondering, was a whopping 2.1 million, which translates to 24 phones each second.
And if you think Xiaomi just makes affordable products for budget-minded consumers, you would be wrong. Increasingly, the company is making concerted attempts at the premium space and we found its recent Mi Note to be an excellent tablet capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4.
And Xiaomi is pressing on full steam ahead. Now that it has a firm hold on China, the company is keen to make headways into neighboring India where it has reportedly sold over a million phones. According to analysts, India is the third largest smartphone market, where over 21 million smartphones were sold in the fourth quarter of 2014 alone. Sales of smartphones in India in the whole of 2014 is reportedly in excess of 53 million. Obviously, Xiaomi is keen to have a slice of this pie, which is why we were here in Delhi for the global premiere of a new Xiaomi Mi phone.
The new phone in questioned here is the heavily rumored Mi 4i. “i” in this case stands for India, as Xiaomi stated during the unveiling event that this was a flagship phone designed specifically for India. It’s based heavily on the Mi4, but with some significant differences. And don't worry, the Mi 4i is not exclusive to India. And though it has some interesting features for users in India, it is just an all-round solid phone. Let's begin with its design.
First of all, unlike the Mi 4, its body is made out of a single piece of highly durable polycarbonate. Gone are the chamfered edges, but in its place are soft squared edges and a soft-touch matte finish that is also anti-grease. It feels nice to touch and certainly does not feel "plasticky". Thanks to the polycarbonate construction, it is both slightly thinner and lighter than the Mi 4, weighing just 130g and measuring just 7.8mm thick. It will be available in a five different colors - yellow, white, blue, pink, and grey.
Like the Mi 4, the Mi 4i also has a 5-inch display and it is sourced from Sharp and Japan Display Inc.. The display resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels, which gives the Mi 4i’s display a pixel density count of 441 pixels per inch. Xiaomi was also quick to point out that compared to the iPhone 6, the Mi4i has a 10% larger screen and also a 7% greater screen-to-body ratio - a new metric that smartphones like to use for comparison.
Another key improvement of the Mi 4i is its larger battery. Specifically the Mi 4i has a rated battery capacity of 3120 mAh, which, according to Xiaomi, is the largest of any 5-inch device. But thanks to Quick Charge, users can charge the Mi 4i from flat to 40% in just one hour and a full charge can achieved in just three hours. More impressively, Xiaomi claims that the Mi 4i will be able to last one and a half days if used normally.
The Mi 4i will run MIUI6, which is based on Android Lollipop and powering it is Qualcomm’s second-generation 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor and an Adreno 405 GPU. This latest edition of the Snapdragon 615 features four high-performance cores running at 1.7GHz and four power-saving cores running at a more conservative 1.1GHz that handles tasks running in the background. It is apt that the Mi 4i uses this processor because Qualcomm’s India offices were heavily responsible for its design. It also has 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 16GB of internal storage. Unfortunately, the Mi 4i does not have a memory card slot for increasing storage. And since only a 16GB variant is offered, this could be a potential deal breaker for some users.
Acknowledging that consumers take a lot of photos with their smartphones, Xiaomi has placed a lot of emphasis on the Mi 4i’s cameras. The rear-facing camera shoots at 13-megapixel and uses a sensor sourced from Sony. It features a five-element lens and has a pretty fast F2.0 aperture and two-tone flash for better photos in dimly-lit environments. The front-racing camera is no slouch and shoots at 5-megapixel and features a F1.8 aperture. Knowing that people are going to be using their cameras for selfies a lot, a self-timer function has been built into the camera app, which is a thoughtful touch. New to the Mi 4i that will help users take better photos is a new technology called Sunlight Display. It’s built directly into the panel and automatically adjusts the display when used under harsh sunlight conditions so that users do not lose details when taking photos outdoors.
The other important things to note is that the Mi 4i will support both FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE, which means it will work with Singapore’s 4G frequencies. It also supports 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1 and has an integrated GPS. Finally, like all other flagship Xiaomi devices, it will support dual micro-SIM cards and both card slots are 2G, 3G and 4G compatible.
The Mi 4i will be available in Singapore some time in May, but pricing information has not be confirmed. However, it is priced at Rs. 12,999 in India, which is around S$276 at the time of writing, so we expect it to be priced quite similarly when it gets here. Considering its design, build quality, specifications, and attractive price, the Mi 4i looks like another winner from Xiaomi - if you can overlook the fact that it only has 16GB of storage. Stay tuned for the full review here on Hardwarezone.com.