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Nokia 7 Plus vs Xiaomi MI A2: the battle for mid-segment Android One supremacy

Both have displays of almost similar sizes and resolution.

Both have the same processor.

Both have the same RAM and onboard storage configurations.

Both run stock Android. 

Both assure users of updates as both are part of the Android One initiative.

Both come from companies that know what it is to be the number one smartphone brand in India. 

If it was not for nomenclature and radically different design languages, we would have said that the Nokia 7 Plus and the Xiaomi Mi A2 were twin brothers torn apart at a local festival by the cruel clutches of fate, who ended up facing each other on a battlefield (courtesy those cruel clutches of fate again – they can be really cruel). The two phones are very similar, even though they do have their share of disparities, which is exactly why so many people are wondering which of the two to choose, especially if they want to get on the Android One bandwagon, which promises a pure Android experience. The two devices are perhaps the best in the Indian market in that regard. So which of the two should you go for? Here’s my two pence on it.  

Looks

This is one of the few rounds that is lopsided between the two devices. Both devices are similar in terms of external materials, with displays dominating the front and metallic backs. But there the similarity ends. The Mi A2 is not a bad looking device but it is by no means designed to turn heads, and its jutting out rear dual cameras might even annoy some. The 7 Plus on the other hand is a very contrary beast with its copper accents on the sides and around the camera and fingerprint sensor. Add to this the special ceramic paint on the back which gives the phone a very different feel and the 7 Plus emerges the winner by a decent margin, in spite of being slightly thicker (8 mm as against 7.3 mm) and wider (75.6 mm as against 75.4 mm) than the Mi A2.

Winner: Nokia 7 Plus

Hardware

This is where it starts getting interesting. Both devices are neck and neck when it comes to major hardware – the Nokia 7 Plus has a marginally bigger display at 6 inches as against the 5.99 inches on the Mi A2 (the 7 Plus’ display also seems a little brighter), but both devices are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage, but the 7 Plus has an option for expandable memory while the storage on the A2 is fixed. The A2 comes with dual cameras with a 12 megapixel  main sensor and a 20 megapixel secondary one (both with f/1.7 apertures), while the 7 Plus has a 12 and 13 megapixel rear camera set up, with the former being the main sensor with f/1.8 aperture and the latter having a smaller f/2.6 one. That said, the 7 Plus comes with 2X optical zoom – something the A2 lacks. In terms of front cameras, the Mi A2 has a 20-megapixel sensor while the 7 Plus has a 16 megapixel one. Notably, the 7 Plus’ Cameras come with the legendary Zeiss optics that made Nokia a phone imaging supremo in the not so distant past. Both devices have similar connectivity options (4G, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth) but the 7 Plus adds NFC to the Mix. The 7 Plus also has a larger battery – 3800 mAh as against 3000 mAh. And while the Mi A2 has done away with a 3.5 mm audio jack, the 7 Plus retains it. While I think that while camera lovers will vote for the Mi A2, there are many mainstream users who would value the expandable memory, 3.5 mm audio jack and larger battery on the 7 Plus. I am calling this one for the 7 Plus – it is a close call, though.

Winner: Nokia 7 Plus  

Software

On paper this should logically see both devices locked at equal levels – they both come with stock Android and are part of the Android One initiative, which assures updates for a period of two years. And at the time of writing, both devices were running Android 8.1, and were set to get Android Pie in the coming days. Both devices come with minimal bloatware, although both have innovated on the camera UI. I am however going to score this one for the 7 Plus, simply given Nokia’s formidable track record of delivering updates – it has come close to matching the Pixel.

Winner: Nokia 7 Plus  

Camera

 

If someone had told me a few years ago that a Xiaomi device’s camera would beat a more expensive Nokia phone’s camera, I would have been tempted to accuse them of insanity. A few years is however a long time in technology, and today that very fact is true. No, it is not as if the Nokia 7 Plus has a bad pair of shooters. Far from it. They deliver realistic colour and as long as the light does not get too dim, they turn in decent low light performance too. However, they are a definite notch below their counterparts on the Mi A2, which deliver more poppy colours and often more detail. In low light conditions, the gap between the two devices narrows as a fair bit of noise creeps into the A2’s pictures. The 7 Plus does record audio much better, but video quality on both devices seemed to be about the same. The A2 however wins in the much vaunted portrait mode zone, handling edges better and delivering some very good bokeh. It also beats the 7 Plus in selfie mode, with better colours and details again (and oh yes, amazingly good portrait mode). The 7 Plus does not disgrace itself in the camera department. It just gets outgunned by the A2!

Winner: Xiaomi Mi A2 

Gaming and multimedia

Both devices pretty much match each other when it comes to gaming and multimedia. Neither will set benchmarks on fire and yes, PUBG will play by default on medium settings rather than maxed out ones, but unless you are a high end gamer, you are unlikely to get too disappointed by your experience. Both phones will handle casual titles easily but will show the odd lag and drop the odd frame when pushed into high definition gaming territory. So we would not recommend either to PUBG or Asphalt fanatics, but if you are the casual puzzle or endless runner player, then neither device will disappoint you. We did feel that the audio quality was marginally better on the 7 Plus as compared to the A2, and of course, that larger battery does mean you can play and watch video longer on the 7 Plus. And it is on those margins that I am handing this one to the 7 Plus.

Winner: Nokia 7 Plus 

General tasks

Stock Android with minimal bloatware. What could go wrong? Not much, as both phones sail through regular tasks like Web browsing, social networks, messaging and mails with a degree of ease. Touch response on both devices is excellent, although I thought the Nokia 7 Plus just felt a tad smoother. I ran multiple apps (none of the heavy gaming sort, though) and had over a dozen tabs open in Chrome and neither phone heated up or slowed down. I am calling this one a tie.

Winner: Tie 

Battery life

Remember the camera round where the 7 Plus did not do badly at all but was outclassed by the A2? Well, the roles are reversed here, with the 7 Plus totally outrunning the A2 in terms of battery life. Yes, the 3000 mAh battery on the A2 will see off a day of normal use, but the 3800 mAh one on the 7 Plus gets to a day and a half and with careful nursing, can even see off two days. I would put it at among the best mid-segment devices in terms of battery life – there are devices with larger capacity batteries, but not many of them match the Nokia 7 Plus here. A smooth operator that just goes on. The A2 does not do badly at all but is not really close to the Nokia 7 Plus.

Winner: Nokia 7 Plus

Price

This is where the Mi A2 fights back with a vengeance that is absolute. For all the ground it might seem to concede in other departments, the A2 scores comprehensively in the price one, in best Xiaomi tradition. While the Nokia 7 Plus is now available at Rs 25,999, the Mi A2 comes for Rs 16,999 – opening a price gap between the two devices that is more ocean than a gulf. The Mi A2 is stubbornly mid-segment, while the 7 Plus is in flirting distance from the upper, slightly premium end of things. The A2 takes this by a mile.

Winner: A2

Verdict

So who wins this one? Well, the fight is ferociously close. Quite often, both devices match each other. There are however four parameters where the differences between the two become stark: camera, battery, design and price. And the importance you accord to each is likely to determine which of the two devices you pick up. If price is critical and you are on a tight budget, the 7 Plus gets ruled out. If camera is of paramount importance, the Mi A2 again is the better option. But yes, get into battery zone or into a really distinct appearance and the pendulum swings towards the Nokia. If budget were not a restriction (oh such a utopian scenario), I would be swayed towards the Nokia 7 Plus, because unlike the A2, it cuts no corners – the absence of expandable memory and the 3.5 mm audio jack could put off some people. However, the fact that the Mi A2 holds its own against the 7 Plus at a price that is about a third lesser is a telling tribute to what Xiaomi has achieved.

Neither device is likely to disappoint you. The price differential is telling, yes, but the 7 Plus does give you more for those extra bucks in terms of design, battery, expandable memory and that 3.5 mm audio jack. It all depends on you – what you consider important and how much you want to spend.

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Nimish Dubey

Nimish Dubey has been writing on technology since 1999. He has contributed to a number of publications and websites including The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Mint, Economic Times, Outlook, and India Today. He is currently the Editorial Mentor at TechPP.com and a regular contributor to Indian Express. When not writing, he loves to read and listen to classic rock.

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