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Xiaomi Mi A3 first impressions: stock Android goodness in an upgraded design

When Xiaomi partnered with Google back in 2017 to revive the Android One project, there were not many expectations to begin with. However, the Mi A1 and the subsequent Mi A2 surprised users with the combination of vanilla Android goodness, rock-solid specs and most importantly, attractive price tags. With the Mi A3, Xiaomi has also added the glossy garb of its Redmi-series phones to its Android One line-up. I received the device recently, and after a short stint with phone, here’s what I think.

The Mi A3 marks the evolution of Xiaomi’s Android One series with its glass build. The Corning Gorilla Glass 5 back panel of the smartphone has a unique gradient design for each of its colour variants – More than White, Not just Blue, and Kind of Grey. I have the More Than White model and it has a pearl finish that reflects rainbow hues when light hits it. You will see the vertical triple camera module in the top left corner, while the Xiaomi and Android One logos are on either side at the bottom. Interestingly, the camera module is also protected by a Gorilla Glass 5 layer, as is the display. The fingerprint scanner is missing from the body since the Mi A3 comes with an in-display sensor, marking another first for the series. The phone has an additional face unlock method for extra security.

As for the other design elements, the right edge houses the physical buttons – power and volume up / down. You will find the SIM slot on the left while the bottom edge is home to USB Type-C port and speaker grills on either side of it. On top, you’ll find an IR sensor and – wait for it – the 3.5mm audio jack. That’s right, after giving it a miss on the last generation Mi A2, Xiaomi is bringing it back on popular demand.

The compact form factor of the smartphone has been made possible by the use of a 19.5:9, waterdrop notch display on the front. The screen is a 6-inch Super AMOLED panel with HD+ resolution. While the lack of full HD resolution is disappointing, it gets the job done and is sufficiently bright even in direct sunlight. The Mi A3 uses an in-display fingerprint scanner, which worked well during my short usage period. Since the phone boots stock Android 9 Pie, you don’t get many customisation options. However, there are features like a night light mode, ambient display and more. The Android One branding means that the phone is entitled to two major Android updates along with security patches for an extra year.

The Mi A3’s waterdrop notch is home to a powerful 32-megapixel selfie shooter. The triple camera setup on the back panel comprises of a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with f/1.79 aperture, an 8MP wide-angle lens with a 118-degree field of view and a 2MP depth sensor. In typical Xiaomi fashion, despite being a stock Android device, the Mi A3 comes with a custom camera app. You get features like AI-backed scene recognition, portrait mode, and more. The initial pictures taken in daylight turned out impressive with AI scene recognition and portrait mode performing well. As for the selfie camera, the 32MP shooter takes good photos too.

Coming to the performance, the Mi 3 is only the second smartphone in India after the Realme 5 to come with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC. Xiaomi is offering the handset in two variants, one with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage, and the other with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. Xiaomi has also brought back another omission from Mi A2, the expandable microSD card slot, so that you have the option to increase the storage if you so wish. During my time with the phone, it seldom lagged and opened apps swiftly. Lastly, the Mi A3 is powered by a 4,030mAh cell that supports 18W fast charging.

As things stand, competing devices like Realme X (review) and OPPO K3 (first impressions) look more compelling thanks to pop-up selfie cameras, higher-resolution displays and more powerful processors. However, the Mi A3 gets an upper hand thanks to its clean Android interface and timely updates.

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