Xiaomi Redmi 5A quick review: Can be the go-to smartphone for everyone

For Mukesh Ambani-led RIL, the JioPhone is the most potent means of connecting the hundreds of thousands of unconnected Indians. For Micromax, it’s the Bharat 1. For Samsung and Lenovo/Motorola, it’s the Galaxy J2 and the Moto C respectively. For HMD Global, it’s the Nokia 2. While the JioPhone and the Bharat 1 are ‘smart’ feature phones, the Galaxy J2, the Moto C and the Nokia 2 are full-scale 4G smartphones. Without diving into the technicalities, let me just put it out there in simple terms: while the JioPhone and the Bharat 1 are physical numpad-toting feature phones, the Galaxy J2, the Moto C and the Nokia 2 are smartphones rocking archaic hardware. To be more precise, all these phones, essentially offer entry-level experience that some may say justifies their entry-level price tags, but what if the hundreds of thousands of unconnected Indians still want more? Enter Xiaomi’s new Redmi 5A.

Xiaomi is touting the Redmi 5A as ‘Desh ka Smartphone’ or a smartphone that has been designed from grounds up for India. It is directed towards first-time Internet users and users who are looking to switch from a feature phone to a smartphone, without having to spend a fortune on a good handset. Much like the JioPhone, the Bharat 1, the Galaxy J2, the Moto C and the Nokia 2. Unlike the JioPhone, the Bharat 1, the Galaxy J2, the Moto C and the Nokia 2, however, the Redmi 5A doesn’t compromise much in terms of hardware specs; it doesn’t compromise much in terms of looks and feel either. The Redmi 5A, in fact, is the most powerful phone that money can buy at its low price point, and has a build quality to match if not better some of the more expensive phones in its price segment: a lot like its predecessor phone, the Redmi 4A.

The Redmi 5A is successor to the Redmi 4A — a phone that Xiaomi is immensely proud about as it should be: the company has sold 40 lakh units of the Redmi 4A within eight months of its launch after all – and retains much of its predecessor’s hardware set as also its ultra-affordable price tag. Dig a bit deeper, and things start to get clearer. Not only is the Redmi 5A designed for India, it will also be made (assembled) in India. Xiaomi, to recall, now assembles a considerable chunk of phones that it sells in India — more than 90 per cent, according to Xiaomi — here in the country itself.

The made for India aspect also stems from the fact that although the Redmi 5A launched in India shares much of the hardware specs with the Redmi 5A that’s already available in China, the one that will sell (and will be made) in India will come with some India-specific nuggets likely to appeal to India’s masses. The Redmi 5A India version, will for one, come with a dedicated slot for two nano SIM cards and one micro-SD card for storage expansion. Secondly, Xiaomi is also introducing a 3GB RAM/32GB storage version of the Redmi 5A in India. In China only one 2GB RAM/16GB variant is available. Elsewhere, the Redmi 5A houses the same dual graphite sheet – to save the phone from over-heating — which the company ships inside its premiere phones like the Mi A1 and also includes a power charger that can adapt to India’s fluctuating power scenarios.

The Redmi 5A is still rocking an all-plastic body and there’s still no fingerprint scanner on-board the device, trade-offs that seems fair considering the phone’s low price tag. At its price point, it doesn’t really matter whether it is plastic or metal. What really matters is that it’s beautiful and very ergonomic. It’s a good looking plastic phone, the Redmi 5A, and it certainly feels nice in the hands too. The Redmi 5A has a metallic matte finish on the back that’s smooth to the touch and because the rear seamlessly wraps around its front, the phone feels all the more comfortable in the hands.

The right edge houses the volume rocker and the power button while the left edge houses a dedicated slot for two SIMs and one micro-SD. The speaker vent is, meanwhile, located on the lower end of the back. The lower end of the display panel houses three capacitive keys for navigation, without any backlit. There’s also an LED notification light on the front. The Redmi 5A — just like the Redmi 4A — is surprisingly thin and light-weight, even more so considering that it packs in a fairly respectable battery (3,000 mAh) inside.

The Redmi 5A comes with a 5-inch HD IPS LCD display with a 720×1280 pixels resolution. The quality of the panel may not be as good as the one on-board the Redmi 4, but, at its price point, the Redmi 5A can afford to get away with it. Colours look rich and vibrant and there’s a manual mode inside that helps achieve slightly better results. There’s also an in-built reading mode that turns colours to the warmer end of the spectrum for night-time reading.

On the inside, the Redmi 5A comes with an entry-level 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processer coupled with Adreno 308 GPU and up to 3GB of RAM. The phone comes with up to 32GB of internal storage which is further expandable by up to 128GB via a dedicated micro-SD card slot. The dual-SIM phone supports 4G LTE and VoLTE. Just like the Redmi 4A, the Redmi 5A is also the most powerful (and most power-efficient) smartphone that you can buy in the Indian market right now. The Redmi 5A is quick and responsive in every sense of the word – with occasional hiccups – and MIUI 9 (based on Android Nougat) does add a whole new dimension to the user experience. MIUI 9 has a ton of features on top of Android, according to Xiaomi. The MIUI 9 update, in addition to Xiaomi’s custom built features, brings back key Android nuggets like split-screen multitasking and Google Assistant, something that was missing in the previous iteration.

The Redmi 5A is backed by a 3,000mAh battery which is smaller than the one on-board the Redmi 4A, but, Xiaomi is claiming up to 21 hours of music playback and up to 7 hours of video playback and up to 8-days of stand-by on single charge.

Moving on, the Redmi 5A comes with a 13-megapixel camera on the rear with f/2.2 aperture, Phase Detection Autofocus and LED flash. The rear camera is capable of shooting 1080p videos at 30fps. On the front, the Redmi 5A comes with a 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture.

The Redmi 5A has been launched at a starting price of Rs 4,999 for the base 2GB RAM/16GB storage version. The Redmi 5A will also be available in a 3GB RAM/32GB storage version that will cost buyers in India Rs 6,999. The Xiaomi Redmi 5A will be available for buying online via Flipkart and Mi.com/in, and offline via the company’s exclusive retail partners and Mi Home stores starting from December 7, the company has announced. The Rs 4,999 price tag for the 2GB RAM/16GB storage version will however be applicable for a limited period (50 lakh units) only. The Redmi 5A 2GB RAM/16GB storage version will thereafter be available for Rs 5,999, the company adds.

If you’re someone who is looking for a basic smartphone at dirt-cheap prices, but, also someone who loves to flaunt it, the Redmi 4A should get the job done. The phone, although plastic, feels premium from every nook and corner and is also quite high on specs for its price as long as you know its limitations.

The Redmi 5A feels no different. At the same time additions like dedicated slots for dual-SIM and micro-SD, dual graphite sheet and the ‘Make in India’ adds some variety to it. But more importantly, it’s the price that Xiaomi will be selling its new phone. The Redmi 5A 2GB RAM/16GB storage version at an introductory price of Rs 4,999 is a steal, and you don’t even have to wait for my full review for it: the Redmi 5A has the potential to be the go-to smartphone for everyone. As for those looking for a full verdict, well, watch this space for our full review of the Xiaomi Redmi 5A in the days to come.