We love MIUI, but this custom Android interface that is preinstalled on Xiaomi phones can be offputting for users in the UK and Europe who are either not familiar with it or prefer a less-bloated vanilla implementation of Android, and who want access to all their favourite Google apps and services out of the box.
Xiaomi has previously addressed this issue with last summer's release of the Mi A2 and Mi A2 Lite, budget- and mid-range phones running Android One. It has now updated the line-up with the Mi A3 (reviewed), which went on sale in Spain at €249 from 24 July.
As anticipated the Mi A3 is a rebadged Mi CC9e that switches out MIUI for Android One, with headline specs including the mid-range Snapdragon 665, a 48Mp triple-lens AI camera, a 32Mp selfie camera, and a high-capacity 4,030mAh battery. The 6.08in screen might feel like a downgrade over the previous generation, reduced from Full-HD+ to HD+ at 720x1520 pixels, but this is an AMOLED panel with an integrated in-display fingerprint sensor.
Also see: Best Xiaomi phones
Where to buy Mi A3 in the UK and elsewhere
Though an international launch is expected to be reasonably imminent, for now Xiaomi has announced the Mi A3 only in Spain. You can buy it direct from Xiaomi where it costs €249 for the 4GB/64GB model, and €279 for 4GB/128GB. Both models are available in white, blue and grey.
Outside of Spain you'll need to look elsewhere to get your hands on Mi A3. GearBest is now stocking the phone in both 64GB (grey/blue) and 128GB (grey) capacities, priced at £227.67 and £256.23 respectively. It is expected to ship between 7-10 August.
Note that this is shipping from Hong Kong, so you may be asked to pay import duty (calculated at 20% of the value on the shipping paperwork).
What's new in Mi A3?
Mi A3 gets a whole new design over Mi A2 and Mi A2 Lite, now with a premium-looking glass rear and a Dot Drop (waterdrop notch) display that frees up more space onscreen for the important stuff. This panel uses quality AMOLED tech in place of the previous IPS, and though it has a lower HD+ resolution than the previous generation it is also integrated with an in-display fingerprint sensor (previously found on the rear).
The screen adopts a taller 19.5:9 aspect ratio, which helps Xiaomi fit a larger screen without the device becoming too unwieldy. (Mi A3 measures 153.48x71.85x8.475mm and weighs 173.8g.) It's fitted with tough Gorilla Glass 5 to help protect from accidental damage.
The cameras are highlights, and a clear focus for Xiaomi in this latest update. We see the same triple-lens trio at the rear as in other budget models in the line-up, with a 48Mp ultra-wide-angle Sony camera sitting alongside 8Mp wide-angle and 2Mp depth sensors and replacing the previous dual-lens model.
The main camera has a six-piece lens with f/1.79 aperture that uses the same four-in-one 1.6um pixel binning technology as other Xiaomi phones to produce one spectacular 12Mp photo. It can also shoot video in 4K at 30fps.
Around the front is a 32Mp selfie camera, up from 20Mp, which is also able to use AI to intelligently set the scene. It, too, uses 1.6um Superpixels (4-in-1), and this five-element lens supports an f/2.0 aperture. Video is possible at 1080p at 30fps.
The battery is another standout at 4,030mAh in capacity, up from 3,010mAh. It should be plenty to get you through the day. It doesn't support wireless charging, which so far has been introduced in Xiaomi's flagship series, but there is 18W fast charging with support for Quick Charge 3.0. You'll find a 10W charger in the box.
The processor is also new, though not a huge improvement over the Snapdragon 660 found in the Mi A2. The Snapdragon 665 used here is an octa-core chip built on the 11nm process, running at 2GHz and integrating the Kryo 260 and Adreno 610. It is also paired with 4GB of LPDDR4X RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage, expandable by microSD up to 256GB.
This is a 4G phone with support for dual-SIM (both support 4G), dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS and infra-red. Whereas only the Mi A2 Lite fitted a headphone jack you do have that option here, alongside a USB-C port for charging. It is not clear whether or not NFC is supported for making mobile payments.
Android One was first introduced in 2014, intended to be of interest primarily to first-time users of Android or those running budget devices. But its stripped-back pure Android experience quickly turned the heads of even flagship users, who also wanted to enjoy the operating system as it was intended.
In essence Android One is the closest you'll get to standard Android, with none of the bells and whistles often preinstalled by phone manufacturers and mobile network operators. This means there is zero bloatware, no third-party app launchers, and no fancy themes, keyboards or other customisations. It is a clean slate on to which you can install only the stuff you want.
Moreover, since Android One offers such a pure experience, security patches and new features are able to be rolled out almost immediately. Android One devices are always first on the list for new operating system updates, too.
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