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Xiaomi Redmi Y1 first impressions: This affordable selfie phone packs a punch

Featuring a 16-megapixel front-camera, the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 is aimed at selfie-lovers. Read our detailed first impressions of the smartphone.

First look at the Xiaomi Redmi Y1.
First look at the Xiaomi Redmi Y1. (HT Photo)

Selfies have become a part of pop culture. Unsurprisingly, smartphone companies are putting a lot of resources into improving the front cameras. On some phones, the front cameras come with higher resolution and features than the rear camera. For example, Huawei-owned Honor last month launched a phone with dual-cameras on the front and back. Companies such as Vivo, Oppo, Samsung and Asus have been extensively focusing on the selfie category.

One key brand missing in the growing phenomenon had been Xiaomi, a Chinese company that has inched closer to the market leader Samsung within less than three years of its debut in India. Last week, Xiaomi finally embraced selfies with a new smartphone series called Redmi Y.

One of the first smartphones under the new series is Redmi Y1. The smartphone follows the core philosophy of Xiaomi which is a combination of high-end specifications and affordable price tag. Starting at 8,999, the Redmi Y1 improves upon the front camera, and is clearly targeted at selfie-loving millennials

However, the Redmi Y1 doesn't have a distinguishing design when compared to other Xiaomi smartphones and looks more like the beautiful Mi A1 Android phone. The similarity in the design is certainly not a negative. The smartphone is quite feather weight and unlike various selfie phones out there, it's quite sober in look and feel.

The Xiaomi Redmi Y1 looks a lot similar to the Mi A1.
The Xiaomi Redmi Y1 looks a lot similar to the Mi A1. (HT Photo)

It fits well in the palm while all the necessary buttons such as power/lock/unlock and volume rocker are well within the fingers' reach. A subtle approach to the design may appeal to many users, but somehow we believe an exclusive touch to the Y series could have made it more attractive.

Let's cut to the chase the key USP - selfies. The Redmi Y1 sports a 16-megapixel front-facing camera with LED flash. The camera features are pretty much standard. It has a bunch of pre-loaded colour filters, auto mode for flash, face detection, and a beautification mode.

Users can further customise the beauty mode filter according to their preferences. We will recommend you to choose the 'medium' filter as it adds smoothening to the skin but doesn't overdo like the 'high' filter. The medium filter ensures you have the right balance of software optimisation and a natural look to your skin. The phone also comes with some cool preloaded Augmented Reality (AR) filters to add more fun element to your selfies.

Selfie phones are a dime and a dozen and looking at the price point, the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 is quite impressive. The smartphone delivers pretty decent photos in low light as well. LED flash comes in handy when in really, really dark situations.

Trying out the beauty mode in the Redmi Y1.
Trying out the beauty mode in the Redmi Y1. (HT Photo)

While Xiaomi may have been pitching the Redmi Y1 as a selfie phone, its rear camera is quite good as well. Though at lower 13-megapixel resolution, the Redmi Y1 takes near excellent macro shots. It thrives in the good light scenario. But the rear camera has its own hits and misses. At times it may take a few seconds to figure out the right focus, but mostly it gets the job done with ease. Pro tip — keep your hand stable to ensure the photos are not blurry.

The Xiaomi Redmi Y1 impresses with its rear camera as well.
The Xiaomi Redmi Y1 impresses with its rear camera as well. (HT Photo)

Another undersold feature of the Redmi Y1 is that it comes with MIUI 9 Global Beta ROM (based on Android 7.1.2 Nougat) out-of-the-box. The latest MIUI iteration brings a slew of new features and improvements. We'll elaborate all the MIUI 9 features in a separate article, but here's a small overview.

The latest update brings a new section called App Vault that provides quick access to your favourite apps, live cricket scores, notes and calendar updates. This is quite similar to Google Now but has Xiaomi's touch to it. The company has promised to add more functionality to the section.

The video app now clubs similar type of videos (by file type or file name). Some of the new features in MIUI 9 are split screen (running two apps on the screen simultaneously, new themes and a dedicated Mi Drop for instant file transfer. The final version of MIUI 9 will be rolled out by end of this month.

Summing up, the Redmi Y1 looks like another winner from Xiaomi stable. It has the right combination of software-based features and hardware. More importantly, it comes at an affordable price tag.

Users looking for similar features but with better storage and performance can consider the 4GB+64GB variant of the phone, which comes for 10,999. Stay tuned for our detailed review where we will talk in length about the performance aspect of the Redmi Y1.

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