Xiaomi Mi 4i
Having spent over a month with the device, the MI 4i and I have developed a love-hate relationship. Sometimes, the phone just dazzles me with the simple tweaks that make living with it such a joy. And other times, it just makes me want to abandon it and go back to my ex-phone (Nexus 5).
On its launch, a lot of tech bloggers had problems with it being called a "flagship". And I have a problem with them now. A company's flagship doesn't necessarily have to be priced higher, look better or package the highest specifications on the market. It should, however, be the best phone being offered by the company at that point of time. And at this point of time, taking into consideration all the other Xiaomi devices being sold in India, the Mi 4i is the most attractive phone when you consider the price, specs and features unique to it.
For starters, there's the sunlight display and battery. The MIUI ROM running on the device is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship in software development. If you like Cynogenmod's customisability and the iOS's UI, MIUI is as close as you'll get to having the best of both worlds. Attention to minor detail like in the notification actions — for instance when you snooze an alarm, you can dismiss the snooze from the alarm notification without having to jump into the app — is a minor but endearing feature. You can even control how much access an app has to the information on your phone (from GPS, contacts and messages to creating floating notifications, among others). This is something that will be available on other phones too, but only after the Android M update. MIUI, like any other software, isn't flawless. Despite being highly customisable and power-efficient, the lockscreen notifications on the Nexus 5 and other stock Android devices like the Moto G are more intuitive and easy to interact with. Even the MiBand had trouble unlocking the phone every now and then, but worked perfectly with the Nexus 5. But that can be fixed by unpairing and pairing the band again with the app installed on your phone.
A downer about this phone is the heating issue. Before you update it to MIUI 188.8.131.52, it persistently heats up to the point that phone calls have to be made holding it away from the face. After the update, the heat tracking improves, among other performance fixes. It still heats up a little when running at full potential, but stays bareable even at its worst.
Updating the device is easy, especially when compared to stock Android devices. Instead of waiting for the OTA to hit the device, all you have to do is download the update package and paste it on your phone. All you have to do after that is select the package from the software update screen in
the settings. The screen is gorgeous even in direct sunlight. While users of other phones will be squinting to get a glimpse of the notification or caller ID, the Mi 4i will get the details sharp enough to be legible in the sun. The display doesn't lose its charm indoors either, and the colour reproduction is something else. It has a 1080p display like the Nexus 5 but somehow manages to make those pictures look livelier. And to take those pictures, the 13 MP camera lets you set exposure manually, while there's also the beautify mode (which uses age prediction and skin smoothening algorithms) to take photos you'd be happy to share even without editing first. The phone has all the photo editing skills needed for you to not bother doing anything except for hitting the shutter button.
And the biggest feature of them all is actually the largest component in the phone. The 3000+ mAh battery is a freak among its peers. The huge battery is probably why I haven't switched back to the Nexus 5 all this while. With great power comes great arrogance and this battery will make you so overconfident that you probably won't even charge your power bank for weeks before realising. The Mi 4i just manages to pull you through an entire day at above-average usage and keeps a bit of battery still in store for that alarm in the morning. To fit the giant battery in the device, they did have to get rid of the standard mother board and screen, re-engineering much more compact components that feel sturdier and more elegant than their previous devices.
The phone is slim, so you can always put a case on it, they'll tell you. But with this magnificent piece of engineering, you probably won't need to. You should however, get a tempered glass screen protector. Despite all the flaws and refusing to be a Xiaomi fanboy, I can't deny that parting with this phone will be tough. The Mi 4i is a wondeful phone for its price range. The features that make it stand out are subtle but have a substantial impact over the long term. It's priced at half the cost of phones that it's capable of competing with. Not only is the phone among the best we've reviewed this year, but also an experience that no one should miss if given the opportnity.