Along came the Mi A3. To purify and to prevent the tainting of my opinion by other reviewers I never indulged in watching or reading any other review of this phone. In essence, my review here today will be free from hype, specs, or technical gibberish. I aim to answer just one question here today. Does the Mi A3 satisfy the five pillar criteria of being a great smartphone for its price? Let’s get started.
I’m sorry for this meme, I truly am. But let’s not mince words here, the display on the Mi A3 is a mixed bag. Here’s what it gets right though; size and AMOLED. The screen looks quite vivid with infinite contrast thanks to its AMOLED underpinnings. Moreover the phone’s chassis and smaller screen size has made the A3 the most pocketable phone I’ve used in ages. These are things I will praise the A3 for, but what boggles me is why Xiaomi decided to go with a GODDAMN 720P panel for this phone.
All other phones in this price segment come with Full-HD displays and it’s a feature most budget phone buyers have taken for granted. So it’s quite saddening to see Xiaomi make this trade-off. If you ever hear someone say that the screen resolution on the A3 is not that important and the AMOLED is all that matters, I’d suggest taking their words with a pinch of salt because the display looks noticeably blippy. I’d suggest you stay away from this phone if you’re a sucker for consuming high resolution media.
The Mi A3 has stellar battery life (1.5 days with intensive use). Period. It comes in a close second to the M30 and that’s quite an admirable feat considering the A3 packs only a 4000mAH battery compared to the M30’s 5000 maH. At least the reduced screen resolution offers this as an advantage. Couple with that quick charging support and you’ve got your self some solid battery performance.
Software And Performance
Obviously here’s where the yesteryear ancestors of the Mi A3 truly outshone the rest of the competition. The stock software experience and the snappiness found itself a niche fan following amongst Indian consumers. Does the A3 live up to the legacy? To an extent, yes. Though you can’t exactly blame the A3 for this specifically, the lure of stock android has diminished to a great extent. Google’s Nexus line always prioritized a fast and snappy user experience with their bloatfree software. Now, the Pixel lineup is quite notorious for hiccups with respect to performance and RAM management, an issue which I believe can be isolated to software considering that Pixel devices have the most recent processing packages when they launch.
So, why is all this relevant? For starters, the issues that plague the Pixel lineup now adversely affect Xiaomi’s Android One lineup. At times the phone feels insanely smooth and games like COD run on high settings with no major hiccups. But, after about half an hour of video playback or gaming, the phone starts thermal throttling quite vigorously. My 2 cents is this. The Mi A3 is by no means a bad performer, it’s just that phones in the same price category and the same sister company like the Redmi Note 8 Pro handle the performance aspect in a better way albeit running a software skin (MIUI)
The Mi A3 offers the best wide-angle shots in its price category. Though pictures from the primary shooter look devoid of dynamic range and bias towards darker shadows, the wide angle shooter does a stellar job of exposing the subject and keeps the distortion to a minimum. There are definitely better cameras out there, but none of them can churn out the quality of images that the Mi A3 can with GCam. Yes, the Mi A3 supports the camera2api out of the box and images from the GCam ports look great. Truly a feather on the cap for the A3.
So, Should You Buy One?
Android One’s tag has become quite redundant in my opinion. It neither offers the smoothest software experience nor the fast updates (this phone still runs Pie) that the program set out to. If Xiaomi were to kill off the A lineup next year, I don’t think the niche fan following would collectively miss it. But all this still doesn’t stop the Mi A3 from being a worthy purchase for an older audience demographic (OK BOOMER) that will thoroughly enjoy the simplicity and long battery life this phone has to offer.