Xiaomi Mi A2 review: Two steps forward, one step back

Very few smartphone manufacturers can get as much value from a device as Xiaomi. We often look at the alignment of the company and wonder how small its margins should be if they can deliver such high specifications at such low prices. This is especially true in the low and mid-range market, where others strive to offer usable minimum specifications and Xiaomi devices are impressively better.

But for a long time, recommending Xiaomi products outside of their markets in China, India and Southeast Asia have been difficult. I could not find them easily, so I had to buy from an unreliable source and bet with future support in case something went wrong with the hardware, in addition to the Android interface felt more adapted to eastern markets than to Westerners The Xiaomi Mi A1 changed a lot of that. It was widely available and running a pure version of Android, all while packaging the company's exclusive specifications with an impressive price of $ 230.

The My A2 tracking (along with the Mi A2 Lite) was announced at the end of July with Much fanfare and, equally, disappointment. I've spent the last two weeks with the device and I understand why. In several aspects, it is a remarkable improvement with respect to the Mi A1, but some controversial sacrifices had to be made and I am not sure that they were the correct ones. While My A1 convinced me that it offered the best value of any Android smartphone a year ago, I do not feel comfortable saying the same about My A2. It's still a great device and you probably will not find anything better in this price range in your country, but it's not the undisputed success of the Mi A1.

Hardware, design, what's in the box

One of The first thing I noticed about the Mi A2 was its beautiful blue back panel. I applaud companies like Xiaomi and Huawei that are trying to launch unique and beautiful color options instead of the opaque / gray / black white that others offer. In its dual white / blue tone, the Mi A2 draws attention. The front is occupied by an IPS + 18: 9 screen high, bright and without notches, surrounded by a white frame and covered with a smooth glass that curves slightly towards the edges. The sides and the back are made of a single piece of anodized and curvilinear aluminum painted in blue. When the light catches, it seems to be a bright blue sky color; and when it is overcome with shadows, it changes to a deeper gasoline blue.

Above the screen, you will find the speaker in the middle flanked by the proximity sensor and the camera on the left, and the front LED will flash to the right. The top of the phone has a microphone hole and an IR blaster. The lower part has the USB-C port surrounded by metal screws for some reason, and two loudspeaker grilles, although only the one on the right acts as a loudspeaker. The left one is only to show (and symmetry).

On the left side of MI A2 is the dual SIM slot which, unfortunately, no longer supports a MicroSD. This means that you must deal with the storage option you have purchased, so I advise you not to choose the 32 GB version like me. On the right side you will find the power and volume buttons, both are successfully clicked and very responsive.

The back of the My A2 has some inscriptions with the Android One logo, a fast and responsive fingerprint sensor, and a double bulging camera with an LED flash module. The bump does not bother me much, but if you like to sit your phone on a desk and use it from time to time, the My A2 will bother you with how unstable it can be.

The 3.5mm headphone jack that was present in the Mi A1 is noticeably missing from the hardware. A USB-C to 3.5mm converter is included in the box, but let's face it, you'll lose it somewhere or you'll forget to take it on the days when you really need it. There is no FM radio functionality either. Both omissions could be major drawbacks in some markets where Bluetooth headsets are still expensive and where listening to the radio is the only way to receive notifications of urgent news or to enjoy music.

Also missing NFC. Depending on where you live and how widespread the mobile payments are, this could be a big obstacle for the business and Xiaomi should know. For now, continue choosing to skip NFC, probably to reduce costs and help your small margins.

But there is one addition that I certainly appreciated: the Mi A2 comes with a soft and clear TPU case in the case. Considering how often I drop my phones, TPU cases are a must for me, so it was nice to see one right there in the box. It costs almost nothing to add and I want more manufacturers to follow the same strategy. Also in the box were the 5V / 2A charger, the USB-A to USB-C cable, the 3.5mm USB-C adapter, the SIM-ejector tool and the usual manuals and documentation.

Camera

The Camera app is one of the few additions of Xiaomi software in My A2. The interface is easy to use, and allows you to easily scroll to the sides to switch between Short Video, Video, Photo, Portrait, Square, Panorama and Manual modes. It is possible that feel that some of these are superfluous, but in this age of Instagram and Snapchat, other users would definitely appreciate them. The top row is occupied by some quick settings for the flash, HDR, color filters and an overflow button with more settings.

I liked how Xiaomi allows you to change the exposure by sliding up and down next to the focus ring on the screen, and the Straighten mode that tries to guess how to take the best aligned picture even if you tilt your phone / hand at ridiculous angles . On the other hand, I did not appreciate the watermark "Shot on My A2 – My Dual Camera" in the default photos; I only noticed it after taking several pictures and cursed under this anti-consumer movement. I would have to go back and take all the pictures again or live with that watermark permanently engraved on my photos.

Why is this enabled by default?

Another configuration I found unpleasant was that the Embellish function that smoothes out all wrinkles and marks on faces was enabled by default for the front camera, and was set to level 3 (out of 5). My first attempts at a selfie resulted in jelly faces until I realized what was happening and turned it off.

Turning to the performance of the camera, the Mi A2 takes some very decent shots with good light. With HDR set to automatic, you can get well-exposed images with clarity and detail. In low light conditions, whether with indoor light or in a cloudy environment, the photos are usable but a little grainy and noisy.

Xiaomi can sing her praises all she wants, but Portrait mode disappointed me. I touched the screen and sometimes it clouded me in the area where I was trying to focus. It was a frustrating experience and I was never sure what I would get; Some photos would be good, but others would be completely blurred. Even when the focus was correct, the bokeh effect was exaggerated and some artificial blurs surrounded the subject. After several attempts in different configurations and themes, I finally gave up and stayed with the normal Photo mode.

Photo taken in Portrait mode. Zoom in to see the artificial blur around the flowers.

At 20 MP, he had high expectations of the front camera and, in fact, delivery. The new front LED flash is not something I used personally, because flash-illuminated images are colorless and discolored, but it's there for those who want to use it.

I would like to thank my Lego Boost for posing for this selfie.

Software and performance

The Xiaomi Mi A2 runs stock 8.1 Android Oreo with the August security patch. It is an almost unadulterated version of Android with only a few additions. The Camera and Comments applications can not be uninstalled, but My community, My Drop (local file sharing application), My Remote (for the IR blaster) and File Manager (a more powerful file manager), can be deleted if I do not want them .

If you're familiar with Android stock, you'll immediately find yourself at home here. Launcher 3 is your initiator, the quick configurations and the drop-down lists of notifications have not been modified, nor are the configurations. Even the UI tuner of the system is there. The other Google applications are also pre-installed: Calculator, Calendar, Chrome, Clock, Contacts, Drive, Duo, Gmail, Google, Maps, Messages, Phone, Photos, Play Movies, Play Music, Play Store and YouTube. [19659014] All this together with the 4GB of RAM and Snapdragon 660 contribute to a fluid experience. The My A2 does not work like a $ 200 phone and nothing. It is agile and does not break when I move from one application to another, I take images, I load them and play music at the same time. The reception has been slightly better than my Pixel 2XL, especially for WiFi, but not as good as my Nokia 7 Plus, which is still the champion of getting signals in the deep abyss of my pharmacy, where no other device can connect. The life of the battery has been good in my time with that; I can get more than 4 hours or more of screen time, similar to my Pixel 2 XL. (I spend most of the day in a place where there is no reception, which kills the batteries faster than you can say "dead")

Should I buy it?

Possibly, yes. The decision to recommend the Mi A2 is not as clear as it was for the Mi A1. The omission of a headphone jack, FM radio and MicroSD slot can be potentially damaging to many users. I would certainly have preferred to see the MicroSD or the 3.5mm jack that the IR Blaster; It seems that Xiaomi did the wrong cut there. Combine those with the lack of NFC in addition to regional availability and band limitations, and the Mi A2 is not for everyone.

However, the Mi A2 still offers some of the best values ​​in the Android market in its price range, if you are willing to tolerate your restrictions or if you do not care. The phone is a joy to hold and use. Perhaps it is the blue color that speaks, but it seems more refined than its predecessor and, no doubt, much more expensive than its initial price of $ 215 would make it believe. It also exceeds its price. The only thing I regret is that I rushed a bit and bought the 32 GB version, without remembering that there was not a MicroSD slot in it. If you are considering this device, get the 64 GB even if you do not think you will need that much. It only costs $ 15 more and will have some storage space, just in case.

One of these is almost four times the price of the other.

For everything else, like the camera and the only Speaker, we could criticize forever but we will always come to the same conclusion: but it only costs $ 215! Sure, the competition is becoming more rigid in that price range, but I can not think of any device that offers this kind of value. Either they are running a slower chip or less RAM, or they have poorer or worse compilation cameras, or they run a skinned version of Android that makes the experience and results in slower updates more difficult. (I totally OEM skins and their improvements, but in the low range, they feel more like an obstacle than a useful addition.)

The only thing that really stands in the way of the Mi A2 is Xiaomi. Anyone who has followed closely the history of My A1 would have noticed the slowness of the company in the implementation of security patches and important updates in the device: HMD often exceeds it in months . Even when they were released, most of the updates were suspended for a long time due to errors. Xiaomi also took an eternity to release the kernel sources for My A1, but recently promised to be better. However, we can not be sure and we will have to see if it maintains a reliable trajectory. For those reasons, if you are buying My A2 because it is an Android enthusiast, it is most likely to bring you closer to a Pixel experience, but it will not be the same anyway.

Buy it if you

  • ] You want an uncomplicated mid-range smartphone that looks great and works even better
  • You only have $ 200 more or less and you want to get the most value out of your dollars
  • ] You are getting it for a relative or friend and you want the least possible headache of your gift (or recommendation)

Do not buy it if

  • You can not live without NFC for mobile payments, or with 3, 5 mm / FM radio to listen to your audio [19659034] Your operator bands are not fully compatible
  • You want the best Android stock experience at prices below Pixel. You will pay more for a Nokia, but you will get faster updates.

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