The manufacturer you may have rarely heard of is making some great devices.
Updated May, 2017: Added the Mi 6 and Redmi Note 4.
Xiaomi is a smartphone manufacturer that is growing in stature day-by-day, despite having virtually no physical presence outside of Asia. Sales of its phones in territories including India and its native China have propelled the relatively young company into the top five smartphone manufacturers in the world. Impressive, certainly, and it seems Xiaomi is set to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Apple and Samsung in the higher reaches of the smartphone market.
And yet while so many may have heard the name, the phones are still relatively alien to many in the West. Xiaomi has a reputation for building devices that are an extremely good value without cutting corners. If you’re interested in picking up a Xiaomi phone or just interested in the brand, these are the phones you’ll need to know about.
Xiaomi Mi 6
Released April 2017: The Mi 6 is the first sub-$500 phone to be powered by the Snapdragon 835. It is also the first Xiaomi device to ditch the 3.5mm jack. The highlight of the phone is the dual-camera setup at the back, which includes a standard 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, along with a 12MP telephoto lens that delivers 2x lossless zoom.
The design has picked up a considerable upgrade from last year’s Mi 5, with Xiaomi offering a chassis with rounded corners and two panes of glass sandwiched by a stainless steel frame. As you’d imagine from a Xiaomi flagship, the Mi 6 has beefy specs in the form of a 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835, 5.15-inch Full HD display, 6GB of RAM, 64GB/128GB internal memory, 8MP front shooter, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and USB-C.
The removal of the 3.5mm jack allowed Xiaomi to fit in a larger 3,350mAh battery — 15% larger than the battery in the Mi 5 — while also making the device splash-resistant. The Mi 6 is also offered in a variety of color options, as well as a limited edition ceramic version and a silver variant with a mirror finish.
The phone retails for the equivalent of $420 in China, and it will be a few months before it makes its debut in other Asian markets.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
Released January 2017: The Redmi Note 4 is Xiaomi’s budget phone for 2017. The phone has improved in several areas from its predecessor — including the design and camera — in an overall package that delivers incredible value for money.
Best of all, there’s now a variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage. The rest of the internal hardware has also been tweaked, with a Snapdragon 625 running the show. There’s also a 13MP camera at the back with an f/2.0 lens, 5MP front shooter, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and a massive 4,100mAh battery that delivers at least a day’s worth of usage on a full charge.
The phone runs MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and will receive the Nougat update shortly. The pricing is what makes the Redmi Note 4 so alluring: the base model with 2GB of RAM and 32GB storage is available for as low as ₹9,999 ($155) in India, and the version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage costs ₹12,999 ($200). If you’re looking for a well-rounded budget device that has it all, then the Redmi Note 4 should be at the top of your list.
Xiaomi Mi Mix
Released October 2016: The Mi Mix is Xiaomi’s most futuristic phone. With a 91.3% screen-to-body ratio, the Mi Mix has virtually no bezels, allowing Xiaomi to fit a 6.4-inch display in a handset that’s the same size as a 5.7-inch phone.
To achieve an edgeless design, Xiaomi had to innovate in other areas as well. The front camera module is located at the bottom of the screen, and is 50% smaller than an average sensor. As there isn’t room to accommodate an earpiece, Xiaomi relied on “cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology” to transmit sound. And as it couldn’t fit a traditional proximity sensor, Xiaomi went with an ultrasound sensor that’s located behind the glass panel.
The Mi Mix isn’t just about the design either. The phone has the latest hardware in the form of a Snapdragon 821 SoC, 6GB of RAM, 256GB storage, 16MP camera at the back, and a 4400mAh battery.
The end result is that the Mi Mix is a stunning phone to look at, and given the internal hardware, it is fully capable as a daily driver. The only problem with the phone is that it is limited to China, and won’t be sold outside the country. Your best recourse is to buy it from reseller sites, where you’ll be shelling out close to $615 to pick one up.
Xiaomi Mi 5s
Released October 2016: Launched at the end of 2016, the Mi 5s is an evolution of the Mi 5, with Xiaomi eschewing the glass back for an all-metal chassis. Making high-end hardware available at an affordable price is what Xiaomi excels at, and the situation is no different with the Mi 5s. For what amounts to $275, you get a phone with a Snapdragon 821, 12MP camera, 3GB of RAM and 64GB flash storage.
There’s also a Plus variant of the Mi 5s with dual 13MP rear cameras, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB flash storage. Other specs include a 5.15-inch Full HD display on the Mi 5s, and a 5.7-inch Full HD panel on the Mi 5s Plus. The smaller Mi 5s has a 3000mAh battery, while the larger Mi 5s Plus offers a 3800mAh unit.
Both phones are limited to China, and it’s not likely they will be making their way to other markets. However, you can buy it from reseller sites for as low as $275, which comes out to be a pretty sweet deal for those located in Asian markets.
Xiaomi Mi Note 2
Released October 2016: The Mi Note 2 doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, primarily because it made its debut alongside the Mi Mix. That said, the phone is important to Xiaomi’s global ambitions as it is the first from the manufacturer to offer global LTE bands. With support for over 37 LTE bands, you’ll be able to use the Mi Note 2 on most carriers around the world.
The phone itself has plenty to offer — the Mi Note 2 features a 5.7-inch dual curved display similar to that of the S7 edge, although Xiaomi partnered with LG on the display front. Even though it is a Full HD AMOLED panel and not QHD, it gets the job done admirably.
Other specs include the Snapdragon 821, up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, 22.5MP camera at the back, 8MP front camera, and a 4070mAh battery. The biggest drawback with the phone is that it is limited to China, but if there’s one Xiaomi phone that you can pick up and use anywhere in the world, it is the Mi Note 2.
Xiaomi Redmi 3S
Released August 2016: The Redmi 3S is Xiaomi’s entry-level wonder. The Chinese manufacturer’s claim to fame three years ago was the Redmi 1S, and the Redmi 3S offers even more value for money. For what amounts to $110, you get a phone with a 5-inch 720p display, the Snapdragon 430 SoC, 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage, 13MP camera, 5MP front shooter, and a massive 4100mAh battery.
Xiaomi is also selling a Prime version of the Redmi 3S for $140 that offers 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage, as well as a fingerprint sensor at the back. And in a bid to target offline buyers, Xiaomi is offering a variant of the phone called the Redmi 3S+ that will be sold exclusively offline in India. The phone is available from over 7,000 retail outlets across the country.
Overall, the Redmi 3S solidifies Xiaomi’s position in the budget segment. For more on what the phone offers, read our review:
Xiaomi Mi Max
Released July 2016: Unveiled in China in June 2016, the Mi Max is Xiaomi’s largest phone to date, with the handset packing a huge 6.44-inch display backed by Gorilla Glass 3. The phone is available with either 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage and a Snapdragon 650, or a more powerful variant with Snapdragon 652 under the hood and 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage.
There’s a 16MP camera with PDAF at the back, a 5MP shooter up front, LTE bands for India and China along with VoLTE, and a massive 4850mAh battery that Xiaomi claims will easily deliver two days of battery life on a full charge. On the software side of things, there’s MIUI 7 with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The phone is available in India for ₹14,999 ($225).