Xiaomi Mi A2 first impressions: Good design but there are some trade-offs

We briefly used Xiaomi’s latest Android One-based Mi A2 smartphone. Scheduled to launch in India on August 8, the phone comes with an impressive design and a clean UI. Check out our first impressions of the phone.

Xiaomi Mi A2 : Here’s everything you need to know about Xiaom’s new Android One phone.
Xiaomi Mi A2 : Here’s everything you need to know about Xiaom’s new Android One phone. (Xiaomi)

Xiaomi, in partnership with Google, on Tuesday launched its second Android One smartphone -- the Mi A2. The successor to the previous year's popular Mi A1, the latest model comes with major improvements, ranging from camera resolution to the overall design. Xiaomi will be launching its Mi A2 in India on August 8.

Just from the design point of view, Xiaomi Mi A2 is a significant improvement over the Mi A1. And let's not forget that the Mi A1 was one of the best-looking phones at the time of its launch. The radical improvement is the front where it now features a 2.5D curved glass and a taller 18:9 display. The back is neater with flat uniform black colour with horizontal placement of the dual-cameras on the top left corner.

The camera module, however, protrudes more than any of the recent camera modules we've seen. Xiaomi bundles a cover along with the phone to make the overall form factor more uniform. The phone is quite slim at 7.3mm. Overall, the unimetal arch body design is impressive. It looks pretty good, if not better than the Mi A1.

There's a major improvement in the camera department - which was also the USP of the Xiaomi's Mi A1 phone. Apart from the gimmicky AI features, Xiaomi Mi A2 has 12-megapixel and 20-megapixel dual cameras. The first sensor comes with Sony IMX 486 sensor and a large f/1.75 aperture whereas the second sensor comes with Sony IMX376 sensor, 2um Super Pixel and f/1.75 aperture.

The camera is fairly similar to other Xiaomi phones. The most important thing to know about the Xiaomi Mi A2 camera is the Pro mode, where you can choose the lens to take photos in regular mode or low-light mode to optimise the brightness and overall quality in poor lighting. Apart from that, the camera has a dedicated portrait mode as well as HDR.

A closer look at the dual-camera setup on the Mi A2.
A closer look at the dual-camera setup on the Mi A2. (HT Photo)

A similar optimisation has been done for the front-facing camera, which now has 20-megapixel resolution and comes with the same capable Sony IMX376 sensor. There's a front-facing flash or "selfie-light" in Xiaomi's speak, to brighten the selfies. The front- facing camera also does the bokeh mode (DSLR-like shallow depth-of-field).

Under the hood, Xiaomi Mi A2 is powered by the Snapdragon 660 processor along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage. The Snapdragon 660 SoC is a capable chipset and powers phones like Vivo X21 and Nokia 7 Plus, which are available in India for 25,350 and 35,990 respectively. We're hoping the Xiaomi Mi A2 is priced much lower than these two phones. Stay tuned for a detailed review of our verdict on the performance.

Xiaomi Mi A2 runs stock Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box with bare minimum customisation.
Xiaomi Mi A2 runs stock Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box with bare minimum customisation. (HT Photo)

Apart from the specifications upgrade, the highlight of the phone is the vanilla Android experience. The phone runs on Android 8.1.0 out-of-the-box and is slated to receive Android P whenever it's commercially rolled out. Other key Google features include photos (unlimited cloud storage) and AI-based Google Lens integration. Xiaomi hasn't modified the pure Android experience, but added a few features like Mi Drop, File Manager, and a dedicated feedback button. Apart from these, the phone runs Android as it is.

What Xiaomi didn't tell
Xiaomi has cleverly kept quiet about the key feature missing on its Xiaomi Mi A2 phone. The phone doesn't come with 3.5mm headphone jack - a brutal trade-off you've to make with this phone.

It's a big bummer, considering that a lot of companies have tried to push customers to USB Type-C for audio, but it hasn't gone mainstream yet. Although Xioami is bundling an adapter with the phone to resolve this problem, it's still quite inconvenience for users. It's yet to be seen how the move is received by Xiaomi fans.

Another feature that's missing is the absence of an microSD card. While the phone has dual-SIM functionality, it won't let you expand your storage - another trade-off that users will have to make with the phone. Note that Xiaomi Mi A1 comes with 64GB built-in storage and supports 128GB expandable storage. At least a hybrid SIM slot could have sorted out this problem.