You can say that this is somewhat of a biased opinion. And it is. I am biased towards the phones that run clean software, which is not only simpler to use but also gets updated for a reasonable period of time. In this case, I am talking of the Android One software that powers the Xiaomi Mi A1. Until a few weeks ago, the Mi A1 was the phone to buy. But now, there is another one in the mix. It’s the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Note Pro. Both the Mi A1 and the Redmi Note 5 Pro cost same: that is Rs 13,999. And both are fantastic phones.
Given that the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a newer phone, chances are that many consumers are going to make it their first choice if they are looking to buy a new phone under Rs 15,000. In fact, even under the Rs 20,000 price bracket, the Note 5 Pro is one of the top phones you should consider. And there is nothing wrong in it. The Redmi Note 5 Pro is a fantastic phone. This is the reason why it, along with the Redmi Note 5, sold out within 3 minutes when 3,00,000 units of the two phones were put up on sale at the Mi.com and Flipkart on Thursday. In fact, the Redmi Note 5 Pro, as India Today Tech found in its review, is arguably the phone with best camera and display under Rs 20,000 price bracket.
Yet, I believe that overall the Xiaomi Mi A1 is still a better buy for most people. And I have my reasons, the primary one of them being the software.
I just like using the Android One over the MIUI, especially the MIUI 9 that powers the Redmi Note 5 Pro and that seems clunky. The software is the biggest plus point of the Mi A1. The software is also the biggest weakness of the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Here is what we wrote in our Redmi Note 5 Pro review:
“While good hardware is always appreciated, good hardware with dated software is also frowned upon… A great number of deeds done by Xiaomi — in the past — have revolved around it paying heed to consumer demand. And consumers are making their stand clear: they also want good — read updated — software.”
The problem is that the Redmi Note 5 Pro runs MIUI that is still based on Android 7, which is almost two years old now. It needs the Android 8, at least, along with core features that Google’s latest Android software features. A lot of people may not mind the ready lack of Google Now, or updates in future, but at the same time a lot of people do. In Xiaomi’s own Twitter poll, which the company later deleted, more people (53 per cent) said that they preferred Android One over the MIUI.
The software — Android One based on Android Oreo — in the Mi A1 not only comes with the stock Android users interface, which means cleaner to look and with less bloat, it also promises users update for at least one more year. Although it lacks some features — there is no FM app in the Android One — and some users don’t like it, most of Mi A1 users I have spoken to love its simplicity, speed, the way apps are organised, the animations that users interface has and the lack of unnecessary apps.
Better portrait mode
Although overall it seems that the Redmi Note 5 Pro has a better camera than other phones this side of Rs 20,000 mark, and that includes the Mi A1, the portrait mode is better in Xiaomi’s Android One phone. Yet again, let me quote from our Redmi Note 5 Pro review:
“The Redmi Note 5 Pro, if I were to sum it up in a sentence, is the best camera phone in its price category, unless you’re looking specifically for a portrait camera. In that case, the Mi A, should be your go-to device.”
Promise of future Android updates
When Android P comes out later this year, chances are that the Xiaomi Mi A1 will be among the first phones to get it because it is an Android One phone. What about the Redmi Note 5 Pro? It is still on the Android 7-based MIUI, and Android 7 was released almost 2 years ago. So chances are that either it will get the Android 8 update some time in future and that will be all for it, or it will get the MIUI based on Android P but fairly late, say something like middle of 2019. As noted earlier, this may not matter to all consumers, but people who want regular security updates, patches that Google releases and update to Android P should go for the Mi A1 and not the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
It looks better
Design is subjective. But I like the Mi A1 better. Not only it is slimmer (7.3mm) than the Redmi Note 5 Pro (8mm) but it also looks better with an all-aluminium body. The Redmi Note 5 Pro, in contrast, has plastic inserts at the bottom and top of the phone. The Mi A1 simply has a design, which is just like its software and user interface, is clean, subtle and at the same time classier than the design of the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The Mi A1 is also a more handy phone due to its lower weight (165 grams) compared to the 185 grams of the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
A couple of other points…
As I said earlier, this is not to say that the Redmi Note 5 Pro is not a good phone. Far from it. The Redmi Note 5 Pro is one of the best phones you can buy right now. It also has an (overall) better camera than what you get in the Mi A1. It has a bigger and better display than what you get in the Mi A1. And it offers better battery life. But use the two phone, you will see why picking the Mi A1 over the Redmi Note 5 Pro makes more sense for most consumers. Not all but most.