Xiaomi's invitation only flash sale model has been a game changer of the smartphone landscape, their phones are renowned for providing value for money, and they pair well with an ecosystem of affordable accessories, from headphones, fitness bands to portable battery packs.
Xiaomi’s entry into the Indian market was one of the most talked about topics on Facebook last year. Their online flash sale model is now wide used by a host of other brands including Lenovo, Huawei, OnePlus, and Yu.
But Xiaomi is more than just cut-rate specs fighting a price war. They’ve made their intentions clear by pouring considerable effort into MIUI 6, pairing software with hardware in a way that rivals Apple, but at a fraction of the price. Aiming for #1, Xiaomi is sure to come close, and it does exceed expectations for what you’d settle for in a smartphone priced at 6,999.
The successor to the year-old Redmi 1S, the Redmi 2 adds incremental updates to both the hardware and software, but is it as disruptive and irresistible a buy in 2015, and how does it stack up against its competition? That’s what we’re about to find out.
Build Quality, Design
Overall, the Redmi 2 has a decent build for a phone at this price range. Unboxing the Redmi 2 reveals some company’s minimalist design stylings - the box is made of recycled materials, and bundles a basic charger along with a microUSB cable. One biker delivery guy could easily carry 20 of these, and they would cost as much as two iPhones.
Weighing in at 133 grams, the Redmi 2 is 25 grams lighter than its predecessor. The face is protected by AGC Dragontrail Glass, which the company claims is scratch proof. After nearly a month’s heavy use, where the phone was put in close contact with abrasive objects like house keys, I did notice some scratches on the surface.
The Redmi 2 survived a few drops like a champ, but do consider using a protective cover if you’re concerned about resale value. Personally, I found it liberating to use a phone without a protective case and screen guard. It’s not as light or as dense as an iPhone, and that means it can survive more drops to the pavement.
The back of the phone is made out of a soft touch matte plastic, which can be flipped open to expose the innards. You get interchangeable batteries, two 4G SIM card slots, and a MicroSD card slot that accepts upto 32 GB cards.
The display doesn’t give you much to complain about, like its predecessor, the Redmi 2 has a HD IPS 4.7-inch 1280x720 pixel resolution display, protected by AGC Dragontail glass. That’ more than 300 pixels per inch, and what’s surprising is that we’re used to seeing such a spec on an entry-level phone. Anyone remember the HTC Wildfire? That was just five years ago.
The Redmi 2 uses a new manufacturing process to provide a fully laminated screen - there’s no gap between glass and LCD — the pixels feel closer to your fingertips.
The Redmi 2 is a highly tactile device. There was the occasional lag, but there’s great synergy in how display fuses with UI and chipset, to just get out of the way and let you do what you want on this.
MIUI 6 has plenty of tweaks and built-in apps that make it a sticky user experience.
First-time users may find it to be a mix of Android and iOS, but many of the improvisations are unique to Xiaomi’s MIUI. The ROM was quite fast and stable, visually slick, with animations and transitions that are fast and fluid, without getting in the way of what you want to do.
MIUI 6 could do with a better multi-tasking interface, it manages to pull of a number of improvements over its predecessor.
MIUI 6 lets you set per app data restrictions, record in-call audio, set profiles on both the SIMs. The phone lets you set per app data restrictions, and choose by default which SIM is used when calling or texting, based on usage history. Here are some of the most notable features of MIUI 6.
The Redmi 2 is powered by the Qualcomm MSM8916 Snapdragon 410 chipset, the company claims it’s 30 percent faster at browsing and an overall 50% higher CPU performance compared to the Redmi 1S.
The Redmi 2 scored 19416 points in AnTutTu Benchmark v.5.7 in Performance Mode, an improvement over the Redmi 1S, which has an average score of 16307.
The only gripe one might have is the limited memory and storage on the phone - there’s a limited edition of the Redmi 2 with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, which would be ideal for a phone from 2015.
The Redmi 2 supports Quick Charge 1.0, which lets you charge your smartphone’s battery up to 40 percent faster. There’s a 10 percent larger Li-Po 2200 mAh battery, which can tide you through a day of heavy usage on one charge, with both SIMs on.
I wasn’t able to test the phone on any 4G network, but was able to stretch the battery out to two days with a moderate amount of usage. When the battery runs low, a tiny LED reminds you, and turns green when it’s being charged.
The Redmi 2 has an 8 megapixel rear camera with LED flash and a 2 megapixel front-facing camera. Only the selfie camera gets a spec upgrade, the rest of the improvements have been made on the software side of things.
The camera has a bunch of nifty little tweaks that really worth a mention - there’s the option to set a 3 second timer while shooting selfies, in which the numbers flash right next to the camera, so you know where to look. In Audio mode, you can take snaps by saying “click”, “capture” or “snap” to your phone.
In conventional camera mode, you can toggle ‘Highlight tones’, which lets you choose the kind of tones you want to highlight. There’s HDR mode, which combines multiple range of exposures to create a composite image.
You can shoot photos in Panorama mode, or choose from a set of scene modes (portrait, landscape, sports, night) or get into Manual mode, where you can tweak White balance and ISO settings. In HHT mode (Handheld Twilight mode), you can take better quality night shots by using a lower shutter speed and adjusting the ISO levels.
Redmi’s photos seem a little oversaturated by default, but the colours do pop out and paint an impressive picture. You’ll easily be able to take pics worth sharing.
As far as the camera goes, the Redmi 2 really does punch above its weight, division and league. For an entry-level phone, the shots one can extract out of it is notable. This is not just the result of superior specs - but greater synergy between hardware and software.
The Redmi 2 is a great entry-level smartphone, and it gets quite a bit of its mojo from MIUI 6, which integrates features that you won't find on Android 5.0. The only disappointments are on the RAM and storage front, which will be remedied by a Limited Edition Redmi 2 with 2GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. If you’re looking for an entry-level dual SIM smartphone that supports 4G networks, the Redmi 2 makes a compelling option.