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Features

My Take on the Best Smartphones of 2017

The year 2017 is almost over now. I was just thinking at the number of devices I was playing around this year and thought to list out my experiences and feedback with smartphones this year. Without much ado, here we go!

Let me start with my most favourite topic, Camera.

Google Pixel had a great camera; probably the best this year. Google made people understand that, its not always the hardware but software that can make great difference to the picture. Without a dual camera setup, Google was able to achieve great portraits with its AI based algorithms. However, things weren’t all that green with the Pixel. Along with the LED screen issues. I also heard about the performance flaws on the Pixel 2 XL. Hopefully, Google can fix it via a software update. According to me, the Pixel 2 was a better bet than the Pixel 2 XL in terms of performance and hardware. I really wished Google had chopped these bezels and made just one Pixel 2 this year. Would’ve made life so simple. Pixel was a great camera for Pictures, especially portraits.

The most practical flagship for me was the Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Looked very similar to the earlier iPhones, nothing great on design; bur still performed the best when compared to other Android flagships and iPhones. The A11 Bionic was slick. The 8 Plus stood slightly lower in terms of the camera when compared to the iPhone X. However, when you consider the price and the extra ‘plus’ features, it won it over. The iPhone X is a great phone, but definitely not worth a lac. The iPhones this year has the best cameras for videos, especially the slo-mos.

The Samsung Note 8 is a clear winner; probably the best smartphone of this year. Its amazing on how this company pulled off especially after that debacle of the Samsung Note 7. Great optics, IP68, Stylus and most importantly, less forked android made this a winner. Samsung Pay was great for the company this year. Probably, the 3rd most thing I used on the Samsung phone after camera and screen.

Out of all the devices I tried this year, one device that caught my attention was the MiA1 from Xiaomi. This device was so totally off the Xiaomi strategy. With Mi A1, the company offered stock android along with their nifty add-ons to make this device a worthy re-entry to the Android One segment in the country. Well, as much as I wanted the stock android experience, using it on a Xiaomi device felt totally different. MIUI has been the most important component to Mi Phones that makes it stand out from its competition regardless of the segments the devices belong. Sometimes this also made me wonder if Xiaomi is a software company or a hardware one. The MiA1 had Great Optics and was a good all around performer in the segment.

Introducing Mi Mix 2 in India was a brave attempt from Xiaomi India. I honestly wished they do well in this segment because that would open up more opportunities for the company to introduce flagships in India close to the global launch dates. Further, it also opens up the segment for them.

While the Redmi phones were the clear winners in the budget segment, it was nice to see brands like 10.or (Brand name owned by Amazon) and Comio play in the segment with interesting devices up their sleeve. While 10.or brought in stock feel android phones in this segment, Comio was pretty aggressive with their focused marketing. Hope we will see more in the coming days from them.

It was Impressive to see Huawei India introduce some great models this year. The Honor brand phones were aggressive and one has to appreciate their strategies to bring devices quick to India. They were audible all through the year and brave in pitching through various channels. Probably only brand that leveraged not just tech bloggers to reach more people. I really wished we saw the Huawei P10 or the Mate series in India. Leica is love.

The LG V30 is a great phone. The DAC on the phone is worth a mention.Wonder why it doesn’t get a worthy mention whenever someone wants to recommend a flagship to friend or foe; maybe, its because of the software and lack of its optimisation. Also, the price game that LG plays every time – Launch at a price, reduce it in a week, reduce it even further in few weeks.. the cycle just goes on.

Well, OnePlus was the winner in affordable tech. Not once, but twice this year. Both the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T were brilliant phones. Great optics, good screen and decent software. They have almost become a brand everyone recommends. Flagship Killer? well may not be. I don’t think, even they claim that title anymore. So lets spare this topic going forward. The OnePlus5T was probably my Best All around phone in India. I’m still amazed at how blazing fast the Face Unlock worked. Of-course, worth mentioning that it is a convenience feature and not a security one.

Summing up, this was just my experience with these devices and I hope, we see even better smartphones coming up next year. Till then, wish you a very happy new year. Do let me know your thoughts and comments.

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Product Reviews Smartphones

Redmi Note 4 Review: The Best mid ranger got even Better

The Redmi Note 3 has been the best selling phone for Xiaomi in India ever since they started almost 3 years ago. The company announced the latest edition from this series, the Redmi Note 4 today at an event in Delhi. This is also the global debut of the Snapdragon variant. This phone is going to be available in 3 variants, 32/2GB RAM (9999 INR), 32/3GB RAM (10999 INR) and 64/4GB (12999) models.

I have been using this phone for little over a month now and I’ve liked the experience with this device. They have definitely upped the game in the budget segment. Lets see if the Redmi Note 4 is a worthy successor of a product which was already a top selling smartphone.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

First thing that you’ll notice when you hold the phone, is how comfortable it feels in your hand; and yet solid, well-built in terms of design and quality.

The Redmi Note 4 design and the construction feels very refined.

Following the design from the Mi Max, the curved edges feel very comfortable extending it to the 2.5D glass. The speakers are now moved towards the bottom of the phone. There are antenna lines due to the metal being used. The buttons feel very good. The redmi Note 4 sticks to the ground rule of budget smartphones on design and yet gives a feel of being very premium. The matte black variant is gorgeous.

The company has pulled over a good design without compromising on regular Redmi features like the IR Blaster or even the Back-lit capacitive keys. I am a little wary about the Hybrid Sim slots but then most of the people love it; so lets give that a pass. The Redmi Note 4 supports external micro SD card upto 128 GB.

Under the hood, the Redmi Note 4 runs on a Snapdragon 625 chipset; and a 3GB or a 4GB RAM depends on the variant you choose. The IPS screen offers a 1080p resolution with a sharp display and a good viewing angles with reasonably accurate colours. Not just with benchmarks, the Redmi Note 4 performed pretty well with some gaming tests too. The Snapdragon 625 does help in optimising battery usage.

The redmi Note 4 has a 4100mAh battery and it did perform well with a good SOT of 8 hours.  I use a dual sim setup. The primary Airtel one for calls and the secondary Jio majorly for JioTV and JioMusic.

The audio from the internal speakers was loud and sounded quite good via the 3.5mm jack headset. The call quality was top notch; didn’t see any connection or network issues. The Jio volte worked pretty sweet as well.

Camera:

The camera performs very well. I was trying few other products in the same segment and the Redmi Note 4 camera was much better than the rest of them. The 5MP front camera is quite decent if not the best when it comes to selfies. However, the 13MP rear camera is excellent. It offers a f2.0 aperture, CMOS PDAF Auto Focus system.

The contrast is punchy and the colours are very natural too. The sharpness at times can go haywire but then, the details are neat. The HDR images are impressive too. Here are some of the pictures shot with this device.

The DOF is natural as well. I really liked the details in the below image. If isn’t too obvious, do check the ant inside the flower.

The low-light performance is quite mediocre; it can be improved for sure, but then in a day light, they work quite well. I did try to shoot some silhouettes just to check on how the camera adapts to the conditions. It was definitely impressive.

If you’re looking for some handy tips on Smartphone Photography, read this article.

Make no mistake by comparing the camera with the likes of OnePlus 3T or Google Pixel, just for the heck of doing it. This camera works very well among the segment its placed. Is it a vast improvement from the Redmi Note 3? Well, not really. However, its quite evident that the company has worked on the camera department especially on the software and how the camera processes the images.

Software, User Experience:

The software on the Redmi Note 4 runs very smoothly, its powered by MIUI v8 running Android Marshmallow. Check out our most favourite MIUI v8 features here. Few of the features that make users stick to MI phones is ease of use UI offered by MIUI,  its plethora of UI customisations, theme support with 1000s of free themes available, privacy features, in-built utilities (FTP server, RAM Cleaner, Mi Mover, Data Saver, Virus Scanner, Battery Saver, Call Recorder) etc.

The software also offers support for Child Mode and Lite which is indeed a great addition. The Dual Apps and Second space are nifty too.

With lots of features built-in (one-handed mode, double tap to wake, flip to silence, mute when lifted, do not disturb, block-list) the necessity to install 3rd party apps is drastically reduced. I also like the quick ball as well. Very nifty when you use large screen phones like this one.

MIUI is the most important component to Mi Phones that makes it stand out from its competition regardless of the budget segments. Sometimes this makes you wonder if Mi is a software company or a hardware one!

Unlike most phones where IR blaster works just with the stock apps, the IR blaster in Mi phones work seamlessly with 3rd party software like peel which provides lot of options like support for Indian set-top boxes and channel guides. The MIUI v8 on the Redmi Note 4 works smooth and is quite consistent.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

At these prices, this device is definitely worth the money. Especially, when you are in the market for a good mid ranger.

If you already have a Redmi Note 3, this new edition “may not” be a worthy upgrade. Vastly because the changes aren’t very evident; there are some battery and performance improvements. However, the design and camera is the winner. So if these matters to you, then go ahead with it. Or maybe, if you’re bowled over at the matte black variant like I do!

Summing up, its a no brainer to recommend this phone to anyone who is looking at buying a great quality product at a budget today. Do let us know your thoughts and feedback. Thanks for reading!

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News

Xiaomi showcases Mi TV 4 at the CES 2017

Xiaomi showcased the Mi TV 4 at CES 2017 today. Mi TV 4 has a 4.9mm ultra-thin frameless metal body. The 65-inch version is designed with a modular approach, with the separate Mi TV Bar consisting of the mainboard and a sound system that supports Dolby Atmos, delivering a stunning viewing experience within the home that rivals the experience in a cinema.

Mi TV 4 is extremely thin at 4.9mm. With a screen that goes almost all the way to the edge, the 4K display takes centerstage. This is further complemented by a transparent stand.

Mi TV 4 (65″) has been crafted with a modular design approach first introduced with Mi TV 3. The TV set is separated into two parts: a 4K display and the Mi TV Bar, which incorporates both the motherboard and an independent sound system that now includes up-firing speakers.

These speakers, together with a subwoofer and two rear wireless satellite speakers together make up the Mi TV 4 Dolby Atmos home theatre. Dolby Atmos utilises the up-firing speakers to project sound overhead, so audio envelopes the viewer in 3D space, rather than on a 2D plane like in typical surround sound.

Having such a design makes Mi TV 4 easily upgradeable, as changing the Mi TV Bar will make any TV like a brand new product, while keeping the 4K panel unchanged.

Mi TV 4 will be available in China at a later date, with an estimated price well under US$2000 for the 65-inch version that comes with the Dolby Atmos home theatre.

Key features of Mi TV 4:

  • 4K display (3,840 x 2,160 pixels)
  • 4.9mm ultra-thin metal body
  • Quad-core 64-bit flagship TV processor
  • Independent Dolby Atmos cinematic sound system
  • Dolby and DTS dual audio decoding
  • Deep learning AI system for intelligent recommendations
  • Sizes: 49”/ 55”/ 65”
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Accessories Product Reviews

Mi Air Purifier 2 Review: Improves your Indoor Air Quality

According to the WHO report, 22 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities are in India, contributed significantly by industrial and vehicular exhaust. 

Air purifier is one of the things people should really consider buying, but generally are very wary about it. There are a few reasons – One, It’s something you think you don’t need; Two, even if you make a mind to get one, its very expensive.

The biggest caveat of an Air Purifier is that, it is not visual, like a water purifier. Remember the advertisements that show you the dirty water, one purifies it and then drinks the same water. Well, it isn’t that easy with air. However, the Air pollution is really harmful  and the adverse effects are measured in years. With water, at-least you have an option not to drink it and choose to drink something else; with air? well, you’re already in trouble!

http://aqicn.org/map/india/
http://aqicn.org/map/india/

A month ago, Xiaomi introduced its first smart home product to India, Mi Air Purifier 2. Priced at INR 9,999, Mi Air Purifier 2 is an intelligent product with smart features that make using it to clean the air simply effortless. I have been using this product for over a month now and I am definitely impressed.

The setup is simple. It’s just plug and play. This is the first ecosystem, home appliance product from Xiaomi in India. Most of these products are made by third party companies that Xiaomi invested in or partnered with. XIAOMI provides them the marketing, sales channel etc. The internal engineering team ensures that all the products feel consistent regardless of the 3rd party company they come from.

Mi Air Purifier 2 seamlessly connects to the cloud via Wi-Fi, enabled by the Mi Home app (Android and iOS), which acts as the central hub for a range of smart home products from Mi Ecosystem and other third-party companies. The app also tells you when to replace the filter. You don’t need to clean it yourself or rather, you can’t clean it completely.

Mi Air Purifier 2 - FilterThe 360° cylindrical filter on Mi Air Purifier 2 takes in air more efficiently from every direction compared to conventional air purifiers. Its triple-layer design removes particles larger than 0.3 microns with a high-density EPA filter, while an activated carbon filter removes formaldehyde, bad odour and other harmful substances.

Mi Air Purifier 2 quickly removes PM2.5 particles, dust, indoor plant pollen, pet fur and more. With its high 310m3/h CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate), Mi Air Purifier 2 takes just 10 minutes to circulate purified air in a 21m2 room. 

You could just brush off the dirt and dust from the pre-filter. For the internals, you may have to replace the filter.

It doesn’t make too much of noise. Vouching for it, it doesn’t make any noise at all in a relatively cleaner room, where the air quality is better. There is a buzzing sound when the fans are running on full throttle. But that stays for few minutes before it turns back to normal. The motor is extremely energy efficient with advanced aerodynamics to reduce noise and wind resistance, resulting in a noise level as low as 30dB in Night mode.

The intake is in the bottom side and the fans are blowing the fresh Clean air from the top.

Mi-Air-Purifier-2-Top

The air purifier uses 4.8 watts and the energy consumption is low. To increase awareness about air pollution, Xiaomi has now become the first smartphone brand in India to integrate Air Quality Index (AQI) data — which also reflects the measurement of PM2.5 particles in the air —  into its MIUI 8 Weather app.

People have a myth that, one you’re indoors, you breathe fresh air and air quality is fine. If you have or planning to buy an air purifier, we recommend you use them in the place where you spend most of your time. For some, bed room could be the most ideal one. The design of the product is kids and pets friendly; also stays stable and grounded. Ideally this should be placed on the floor. So do not use it on a table. 

Being less expensive isn’t the only reason why we recommend this product; The build quality and companion mobile app are top-notch as well. 

Summing up, This is a product that grows with you. I mean to say, you do not see a visual difference in your health immediately to say things had gone better. However, it would definitely make your lives better overtime. For people who would still rely on the numbers, the companion app does give you the metrics on how the Air quality has improved.

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News

Xiaomi launches Mi Pay in China Today

Xiaomi and China UnionPay, one of the world’s largest payment networks, jointly launched Mi Pay today, a revolutionary way to pay with Xiaomi smartphones in China.

Xiaomi also announced that it now supports public transportation cards from six cities. With this, Xiaomi becomes the first smartphone company in the world to support contactless payments through both bank and public transportation cards. Mi Pay will supports debit and credit cards from 20 banks to begin with.

Up to eight cards can be tied to any one device. Mi Pay users also get to benefit from promotions and rewards offered by the banks.

Users can simply add their China UnionPay and public transportation cards to the Mi Wallet app as shown below.

Mi Pay bind card Process

In stores, instead of having to swipe a card when making payment, users just have to hold their device near China UnionPay’s QuickPass-enabled POS terminals and the bank card details will popup. After fingerprint verification, the device is then activated and can be used as a bank card. This results in an extremely simplified payment process: users can complete their transactions just by holding their smartphone near the POS terminal with a finger on the fingerprint scanner.

Xiaomi uses NFC for Mi Pay. NFC has been there for a while now; Hopefully, this will help change the landscape of mobile payments and increase the adoptions.

Near-field communication is a set of standards for smartphones and other mobile devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimeters. – Wikipedia

Other than hardware-level security, Xiaomi has also incorporated multiple authentication mechanisms that protect user information in these scenarios: adding a bank card, smartphone theft or loss, and attempted fraud. For example, users have to be logged in to their Mi Account when they are adding a bank card, which ensures the safety of their personal data. For transactions, Mi Pay employs tokenization to protect plain text credit card information, and makes users verify their fingerprint for maximum security. If a device is lost, users can turn off Mi Pay through the official website, and find their device using Mi Cloud.

Mi Pay could help resolve the frauds w.r.t Mobile Payments and data breaches. This can also be a simple substitute to the 2 factor authentication and OTP as well.

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Features

Xiaomi in India: A Journey that Transformed the Smartphone Scene

This week, Xiaomi celebrates its second anniversary in India and is offering great discount on products for its customers. Its quite intriguing to learn how this company made its way to glory over the past two years.

Early 2014, It wasn’t easy at all for any new company to establish itself in the smartphone market which was dominated by Samsung in India. However, Xiaomi adhered to its goal of providing affordable technology to people and managed to strike a cord by offering great products at reasonable prices. They have been progressing in the right direction ever since.

Xiaomi was founded in 2010. They’ve been able to bring together like-minded people from Microsoft, Google, Motorola, Yahoo and other big players in the industry with a focus of making innovative products at ground breaking prices. They reached great heights in China by 2014. Mi 3 was Xiaomi’s top performing smartphone in China then, so it was a logical move to introduce this phone in India.

xiaomi-mi-3

The Beginning:

Mi started its journey with Mi 3 in July 2013. This was one phone which transformed the Indian Smartphone market. Until Mi3 arrived in India the concept of ‘affordable flagship phone’ was non-existent.mi in india first invite

Xiomi had a different approach to things and had a clear road map in their mind.I can still remember the conversations which Hugo and Manu had with the media and blogger community. Instead of having the launch at a fancy venue, they focused on small group discussions with us to understand the market and our thoughts. They also explained to us what they bring to the table. This approach was something new to many of us and today we know that it was indeed a great way to start.

I loved the honest approach this company was taking. It was a new learning for many of us to understand how they could price the phone at such a great price.

The Mi3 India announcement came with this beautiful theme designed exclusively for the launch which showed their dedication and interest in bringing great products to our country.

mi-in-India-theme

Xiaomi Mi3 also introduced a new concept to Indian e-commerce business – The Flash Sale which was new to us and it became a routine for many of us to sit in front of a computer and wait till the clock strikes 2.00 PM to hit the submit button and buy phones. On a lighter note, the initial sales also did a regression analysis on the Flipkart’s infrastructure which went down many times during these sales.

flipkart-mi3-server-down

“The site saw an unprecedented 250,000 users simultaneously accessing the Mi 3 page shortly after the sale opened at 2pm today. This traffic load was 4 times higher than the heaviest level ever experienced by Flipkart’s infrastructure. At 2pm sharp, when the countdown timer on the Mi 3 page hit 00:00:00, users were able to instantly add the product to their shopping carts (resulting in liquidation of the entire inventory in just under 5 seconds) and were then taken to the payment and checkout pages which they completed at their leisure.” – Flipkart

More Phones to the Market:

Hugo scratching the phone screen
Hugo trying to scratch Redmi 1S using a pair of scissors to show the quality of the glass.

Following the Mi3 success, the company introduced Redmi 1s – which was the best entry level smartphone. The company also partnered with Airtel for the first time to help users experience how 4G can help them with faster internet using the Redmi Note 4G This also got company more traction which till then was only by online sales and branding via Facebook & Flipkart.

By the end of 2014, the company had already sold about 1M phones in India which was a massive number considering the fact, they were just 6 months old in the country.

Mi PowerBanks, which were launched in October 2014 was an instant hit as well. No one could imagine buying a 10,000 mAh power bank for as low as 999 INR.

Mi4, Mi4i and Mi Band:

2015 saw variety of devices coming from the company. The Mi4, Mi4i, Redmi 2, Mi Pad and Mi Band. The Mi Band became one of the most successful product for the company. In a short period of time, Mi also became the Number one wearable brand in India with over 27% market share according to IDC survey, 2016 Q1.

India Wearables Market Share 2016Q1

Days after the Mi4i launch, the company also announced that Ratan Tata, chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons has made an investment in the company. Ratan Tata’s investment was the best affirmation of the strategy the company has undertaken in India so far.

Manufacturing smartphones locally was a significant step which Xiaomi took.  Around August 2015, the company partnered with Foxconn to bring in the first Made in India phone to the market – The Redmi 2 Prime. Further, generating more jobs in India.

MIUI, offering the User Experience that matters:

MIUI helps the performance and offers great user experience along with a variety of options to control your phone. Over the years there have been a lot of customisations specific to the Indian market like directory integration, copying OTP from messages etc.

You never buy a phone just because it has great specs. You buy it for its reliability, design, style and most importantly, the user-experience.

MIUI is more of an experience and gives you similar feel without worrying about the latest version of Android available in market. The company has been very vocal about supporting all their phones. Their latest release – MIUI v8 will be available to every device which was sold in India.

Mi Phones in 2016:

Early this year in March, the company announced the Redmi Note 3 which has seen incredible success for the company in India. They have sold over 600K phones within 60 days of launch. It was quickly followed by Mi5 and Mi Max  which reached India within months of their Global release.

Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Mi Fit App

Around April 2016, Xiaomi invested in Hungama which also got them an exclusive partnership to deliver content to Mi customers.

Earlier this month, Mi India expanded its offline presence with two new partners. Being primarily an e-commerce company, the company has taken its learning from the online model to offline model. As they expanded to more than 5000 offline outlets, it allowed more people to experience Mi products and purchase them easily.

The People behind and their Approach:

Hugo has always been a great guy to talk to.He has been honest and clear in his approach from the very first meet. A lot of people love his presentation style. The attention to detail in his talks is also worth mentioning!

Manu is very approachable as well. In the past 2 years, every-time we met him, he has always welcomed us with a wide smile. Its impressive to see, how he has built his team in India and taken ‎the company ahead in the region. Not to forget, his dedication on being part of the every launch and lending ears to our feedback. 

Mi Press meets have always reminded me of the good old Nokia days. They are not about flashing the technical specs or marketing content with numbers but one gets a lot of  insight by being a part of the detailed technical and feedback discussions.

Xiaomi also introduced the culture of Fans in India. While some companies used fans just to celebrate success or have them at their launches, Xiaomi involved them in testing/building the products as well. For their latest Redmi Note 3, Explorers identified 100 fans and planned a lot of activities and explore the phone through them.

Challenges the Company Faced:

Xiaomi’s journey in India has not been just a bed of roses; they faced many challenges as well. To begin with, the entire ‘Flash Sale’ model backfired when many people started to report it to be fake and questioned the integrity of Flash Sales itself. This also brought a sense of disappointment to the few who wanted to buy a phone but never managed to buy one through these Flash sales. Thereby, tarnishing the brand name on social media.

This was followed by concerns of data privacy as there were reports claiming that Mi devices store data on Chinese servers which could be hacked easily. The company had to step up and convince the users about how serious they were about user data and how they planned to move it out of China.

Now everyone expects Xiaomi to bring every cool product the company announces in China to India. Be it the MiTV, The Rice Cooker, Home Automation solution, Variants, Accessories etc. Unfortunately, its not that easy for the company to get them all here. There are definitely logistic constraints as of now and we hope to see them soon.

Customer Service is also the most discussed topic online. To be honest, every company suffers in that segment. I can’t think of any company other than Apple which excels in Product and Customer Service. But Apple has the luxury to do that. With Xiaomi things also went haywire as outsourced Customer Service companies could not live up to the expectation. Early this year, the company introduced its first in-house customer service offering.

A lot has changed in the past 2 years and its definitely worth looking back what this company has done in the Indian Smartphone Business. They changed the way how many people look at buying smartphones, technology got more affordable and a lot more people got connected. We hope they come up with more ground breaking and innovative technologies that anyone can use and adopt in their lives. We wish Xiaomi a lot of success in years to come, and Well, Happy Anniversary Xiaomi India!

Xiaomi Mi Anniversary

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News

Xiaomi launched Mi Drone today – Modular Design, 4K and 1080p Video recording Options

Xiaomi at an event today launched Mi Drone – the company’s very first drone that is targeted at the high-end consumer market. The Mi Drone comes in two variants — the 4K version retails at RMB 2999, while the 1080P one is priced at RMB 2499. Mi Drone (1080P) will be crowdfunded on the Mi Home app starting 26 May 2016, and Mi Drone (4K) will be available for testing via an open beta programme in late July.

Mi Drone comes with either a 1080P or 4K camera. The 1080P camera sports a 16-megapixel Sony backside illuminated CMOS sensor and has a 104- degree wide angle lens. The 12-megapixel 4K camera shoots video at a maximum resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels and supports recording still images in RAW format.

mi-drone-flightMi Drone also has four layers of built-in security — real-time location tracking to allow users to retrieve the drone easily even if it has crashed, real-time computing power to enable it to return on low battery levels, automatic hovering at the edge of no-fly zones, and the use of a remote control with a PCB antenna array to avoid losing contact with the drone and can control up to 3km.

For safer and more stable flights, Mi Drone uses both GPS and GLONASS for accurate positioning. In the absence of satellite signals, Mi Drone uses vision positioning and can continue hovering even at low altitudes (below 2.5 metres). One can trace Mi Drone’s position via GPS and once the Mi Drone fly out of the connected range then it will automatically fly back to the original position where it took off.

Mi Drone uses a 1.2mm thin body design, and after over 100 tests on structural integrity and strength, its weight has been reduced by as much as 16%. The four propellers feature an aerodynamic design for optimal efficiency.

Mi Drone has a 15.2V battery with a capacity of 5100mAh. These factors — lightweight design, propeller efficiency and high capacity intelligent battery — allows Mi Drone to achieve a long flight time of up to 27 minutes.

Mi Drone has a modular design and foldable landing gear, enabling users to easily disassemble and carry it around in a backpack.

mi-drone-backpack

 

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Product Reviews Smartphones

Xiaomi Mi5 Review: A Power House with a Beautiful Design

In this article we review the Xiaomi Mi5, which was announced early this year at the Mobile World Congress 2016. The phone was released in India last month and had a pretty good response in every flash/open sale the company did. Let us look at this device in detail.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The Xiaomi Mi5 is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with 32 GB inbuilt storage (no microSD expansion) and 3 GB of RAM. This is the first phone in India to be sold with this processor. According to the company, the MI5 is engineered for breakneck speeds and packed with latest breakthrough features like UFS 2.0 flash storage, LPDDR4 RAM, USB Type-C with Quick Charge 3.0, voLTE. Few of the areas where we could noticeably feel the speed of Mi5 is while applying themes (happens in a matter of 4 seconds), viewing trending or subscribed videos in youtube and while loading images in browser on search.

The Mi5 variant sold currently by Xiaomi is a clocked-down processor (1.8 Ghz as opposed to the 2.2 Ghz on the 64GB model); however, there is no considerable lag while you work.

mi5-xiaomi-rear

The Xiaomi Mi5 is a 5.15” 4G Dual-SIM (Nano) device made of a premium glass body that curves towards the edges on the back and blends seamlessly to an aluminum metal frame that runs around the sides. The Front is protected by gorilla glass 4 and the rear is covered by 3D glass/ceramic depending on the variant that result in a premium design.

First thing that you’ll notice when you hold the phone, is how light it feels in your hand; yet solid and well-built in terms of design and quality. With phone’s thickness being just 7.25 mm and with the tapered edges on either sides of the back, the result is an incredibly thin form factor that snugly fits in your palm. You merely feel like holding a 4 or 4.5 inch phone in spite of the fact that the display is 5.2 inches. It’s easy to use the phone in one hand, with the phone being light and the software giving you an option for one-handed usage.

Couple of interesting hardware design thoughts for longevity of the camera and fingerprint sensor are the sapphire glass lens cover for the rear camera and a ceramic finish on the front home button that houses the fingerprint sensor. This is also Xiaomi’s first phone with a physical button. Another design change with MI5 is that, you now have an option to toggle the back and overview button.

The only sore point is the loud speaker quality and grille design. Loud speaker could have been better in terms of clarity and loudness for a flagship device. Also, while holding the phone in landscape mode and watching videos, the audio tends to get muffled, with fingers blocking the speaker grills.

Display:

In a smartphone era where QHD display is being used as a standard for flagships, the MI5 sports a 1080p FULL HD IPS display, which is kinda out-dated. However it’s not a bad thing at all and it actually helps in translating to a promising one day battery life which is excellent.

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With 428 PPI resolution and the number of LEDs illuminating the display bumped up to 16, the MI5 is ULTRA BRIGHT with 600-nits of brightness and colors are vivid too. With Night Display, there is a wide brightness range available that provides dimmer options for reading at night. There is also a new READING mode when enabled, minimizes blue light radiation resulting in the display being easy on the eyes and reduces eye strain. The company continues with the Sunlight display in MI5 as well which provides excellent readability outdoors.

Camera:

The Xiaomi MI5 has all the bells & whistles in terms of the camera settings. For example the characteristics of output image (sharpness, contrast, saturation) could be set to one of the 7 available levels as per user’s preference. MI5 inherits the 4 MP (2 micron-pixel) wide angle front camera found in the MI Note. Rear camera is a 16 MP shooter with dual tone LED flash, PDAF (phase detection auto focus), 4-axis OIS and f/2.0 aperture that quickly locks faces and snaps pictures faster. 4-axis OIS does a great job while shooting videos and the resultant footage is less shaky compared to other smartphones without OIS. The phone also has options for 4k video, slo-mo and time lapse videos.
mi5-xiaomi-lens

For best results, use HDR mode while snapping landscapes, low light photos or anything that is immobile. For fast moving subjects in daylight, I recommend using manual mode with 1/1000s or 1/250s shutter speed for best clear results. Front camera takes really bright selfies even in low light.

Mi5 also offers a 32 seconds exposure for taking night shots. Check out the sample shot below which was shot in a very low light scenario around midnight.

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Other additions in camera include a new Tilt-shift mode which does a better job than many 3rd party apps. Also, its worthy to mention the Sketch filter which delivers amazing results.

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In addition to camera timer, there is a new Voice activated Trigger available, that snaps pictures within 3 seconds after a sound is heard. Check the other camera samples below.

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Software, User Experience:

The Mi5 runs MIUI7 on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Few of the features that make users stick to MI phones is ease of use UI offered by MIUI,  its plethora of UI customisations, theme support with 1000s of free themes available, privacy features, in-built utilities (FTP server, RAM Cleaner, Mi Mover, Data Saver, Virus Scanner, Battery Saver, Call Recorder) etc. With lots of features built-in (one-handed mode, double tap to wake, flip to silence, mute when lifted, do not disturb, blocklist) the necessity to install 3rd party apps is drastically reduced. The phone also offers support for Child Mode which is indeed a great addition.

MIUI is the most important component to Mi Phones that makes it stand out from its competition regardless of the budget segments. Sometimes this makes you wonder if Mi is a software company or a hardware one!

Unlike other phones like Le 1s, where IR blaster works just with the stock apps, the IR blaster in Mi phones work seamlessly with 3rd party software like peel which provides lot of options like support for Indian set-top boxes and channel guide.

Fingerprint scanner is fast and works perfectly every time. Since the finger print scanner is placed on a physical home button, the phone does not wake on touching the sensor. Instead the home button has to be pressed every time to unlock the phone from sleep mode. You can add up to 5 fingerprints on the phone.

Powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor, the phone is incredibly faster while opening apps, unlocking the device and watching videos. Thanks to the Adreno 530 GPU, gaming performance on the mi5 is great and there are no issues like frame drops or lag during game play. Call quality is decent. We could not test the voLTE feature that supports HD calls and high speed call connections due to the unavailability of network support.

The Xiaomi Mi5 supports Quick Charge 3.0. Unfortunately the Indian 32GB unit that is currently available ships with Quick Charge 2.0 adapter. Thanks to our government certification authorities, the QC 3.0 adapter is still in the process of getting certified.  We hope the future units do get shipped with this adapter. However the good news is that, even with this adapter, the phone charges 60% in 40 minutes, 80% in 55 minutes and reaches 100% in 1 hour 30 minutes, which is good. With a high density 3000mAh battery, the phone easily lasts for a day with moderate usage. The phone does get warm near the rear camera while shooting photos/videos; however, this is pretty common in phones these days.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

If you are looking for a flagship android phone which has a great front & rear camera, fast processor which provides an excellent game play and a light weighted phone that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket the mi5 is an excellent choice, when compared to the other 2016 flagships. Currently the mi5 retails around 25k for the 32gb variant. We would really hope the other variants reach the Indian market soon. There has been a lot of talk online about the phone being overpriced at 25K. Lets be honest, this is the best bucks you can spend to get a SD 820 powered smartphone at this moment.

If you are an audiophile who stores music collection or an avid photographer who shoots 4k videos often, then 32gb variant won’t really suffice your need.  I recommend, you to wait until the company releases the 64/128gb variant in India. Otherwise, you may end up taking backups pretty frequently.

Summing up, its a no brainer to recommend this phone to anyone who is looking at buying a great quality product which has the latest and greatest of smartphone technologies built in for today.

Do let us know your thoughts and feedback. Thanks for reading.

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I recently came across online that the Mi5 broke easily in one of bend tests. While, I haven’t tried to bend the phone to confirm, it would be good to have a good quality protective case and an optional tempered glass to increase the rigidity.

Categories
Product Reviews

Xiaomi Bluetooth Speakers Review: Your Portable Party Machine

Few months ago, when I visited Shenzhen, one of the items I really wanted to buy was the Xiaomi Bluetooth speakers. My reasons were simple – personal entertainment, and a perfect gifting material for family. Earlier this week, Xiaomi announced the launch of these bluetooth speakers in India. They are priced at INR 1,999 and will be available around Holi, third week of March. It will come in gold, pink and blue colour options. Hopefully, this review of mine will help you decide!

The speakers do come with a small pouch in the box.

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The speakers have a full aluminium body design which is very minimalistic, handy and weighs about 270 grams. It pack a 1500mAh battery, which offers around 8 hours of music playback. The build quality of these speakers are top-notch and quite dust free as well. The buttons does give a good feel. The volume buttons also double up as a track changer. Pairing the speaker to any of the device is simple. You just have to long-press the bluetooth button to reset, and then basically pair it with your device. I use these speakers with my iPhone, Android and even my MacBook.

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Like I mentioned earlier, when I picked my speakers, I thought it would be more of a personal entertainment than a living room one. However, I was taken to a surprise. The speaker was loud and covers even a mid-size room; the tonal quality is neat as well. The speakers offers a large 90dB (A) @0.5m sound in this compact body. On higher volumes, though, you can feel the vibrations on the table, the sound is pretty less distorted. I choose to keep the speakers on a cushion or bed than a table; can’t stand the sound of those vibrations. I wish, if there was a soft dock which would take these.

With built in mic, you can even take calls via the speakers. Initially, I wasn’t too excited about it; but then, when I actually took a call through it, it was pretty awesome. Almost an extension of your loud speaker mode in a good sense. Further, If you don’t fancy Bluetooth music playback, you have an Aux-in input too.

battery-widgetThe colour on the LED around the play/pause button changes as the battery level goes down. On iOS, I love this widget which shows me the exact battery levels of the speaker.

The micro-SD is a good addition. Unfortunately, the international version of the speaker does not have a microSD card slot; its only available in China. You can throw in some of your fav music onto the card and then you are good to go without bluetooth. However, there isn’t an app or UI on the speakers to show you the contents of the card, so shifting tracks have to be done manually, one-by-one which can be painful at times. So highly recommend you to just load your most favourite tracks to the micro-SD card.

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Summing up, its a great addition if you love music; especially on the go. These speakers from Xiaomi sound really good and is totally worth the money you pay for it. Suggesting a portable speaker around INR 5000 was always a tough one with good range of speakers from JBL, Sony, Logitech and few others. While some offered good sound quality, they didn’t look all that impressive. However, at INR 1999, its a no brainer to recommend these speakers from Xiaomi. They look excellent and work pretty awesome too.

Now that, I have two speakers, I would really love to see an option where I can connect these two and play music in stereo mode. I mean, isolating the Left and right audio streams. That will be super impressive!

Thanks for reading. Do let me know, if you decide to buy one.

Categories
IT News, Tech Information and Analysis News

The Redmi Note 3 launched in India today; available starting 9th March

Xiaomi India launched the Redmi Note 3 today in the country. This is the company’s first release this year and hopefully the Mi5 (which was unveiled at MWC Barcelona) will follow soon. The Redmi Note 3 is Mi’s first all body metal smartphone with a fingerprint sensor in India. The device is powered by a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor, which is the first in any phone, first in world. This processor uses ARM 872 CPU core, which is 20% more power efficient and gives significant performance benefits.

Mi has announced two variants with different storage and RAM – There is a 3GB RAM variant with 32GB internal storage which is priced at 11999 INR and a 2GB one with 16GB onboard storage priced at 9999 INR. The Redmi Note 3 is available starting March 9th on mi.com and Amazon. Pre-registering on the two sites for the first sale starts from 4pm on 3 March.

Redmi Note 3 is a dual SIM phone, features a 5.5-inch full HD display with 1080×1920 pixels resolution. The display offers wide viewing angles and a good colour reproduction; also supports sunlight display for better viewing on a bright day.  The phone also supports reading mode (similar to Flux on Mac and Night Shift on iOS) which reduces the blue color tone on the screen during the night and gives a more warmer tone to the display.

Mi Redmi Note 3 runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop operating system topped with the MIUI 7. Redmi Note 3 comes with a 16MP rear camera with dual LED flash and a 5MP front camera for selfies; with a PDAF Autofocus, and a dual ISP (Image Signal Processor). The phone also packs a 4050mAh battery which is pretty good considering the processor, size and the display. The device also supports QuickCharging; you can charge 50% in one hour and 3 hours for full charge. With being a metal body and having a 4050 mAh battery, the phone weighs just 164 grams. The Redmi Note 3 also has the support for VoLTE.

The Redmi Note 3 is the first phone from Mi which has a FingerPrint scanner. You can store upto 5 finger print profiles; and unlocks the phone in 0.3 seconds. With MIUI,  You can also app-lock, View Hidden Files with finger print security. You can also use it to snap a selfie. The fingerprint sensor mounted on the rear is perfectly positioned in terms of how you hold your phone; very similar to the competition, The Honor 5X and the LeEco Le1s.

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The curved edge design and build quality is impressive and the MIUI 7 blends really well with it. The built-in IR blaster is a good addition. Let’s look at the detailed review in the coming days!