As expected, Chinese phone maker is launching its first phone to ship with nearly stock Android software rather than the company’s own MIUI user interface. The Xiaomi Mi A1 is a smartphone with a 5.5 inch, full HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It has a 3,080 mAh battery, dual cameras (including a 2X zoom lens), a fingerprint sensor, and a microSD card slot.

The Xiaomi Mi A1 to be available in multiple markets, starting with India, where it will sell for 14,999 rupees ($234) when it goes on sale September 12th.

The phone is also an Android One device… but that doesn’t mean exactly what it used to.

Google says that when the Android One program launched 3 years ago, the idea was to offer “high quality, affordable phones,” and for the most part that meant those devices would ship with stock Android software and receive updates delivered directly by Google.

But over the past few years Android One devices have started to show up in a wider range of prices. Android One doesn’t just mean “cheap” anymore. Although we haven’t seen any high-end phones wearing the Android One name yet, some recent models have had solid mid-range specs, and the new Xiaomi Mi A1 may be the most impressive Android One phone to date.

Just about the only things about it that don’t scream high end are the full HD display (rather than QHD), the Snapdragon 625 chip (instead of a Snapdragon 835), and the fact that it still has a microSD card and headset jack (which I think most users would see as positive features… even though these are items that you’re more likely to find on mid-range than high-end phones these days).

Oh, and if the phone looks familiar? That’s because it’s virtually identical to the recently launched Xiaomi Mi 5X, at lest in terms of hardware.

One thing the Mi A1 doesn’t have? Operating system updates handled by Google. Instead, Xiaomi will be responsible for testing and releasing those updates, at least partially because the company developed a custom camera app for the dual-lens rear camera on its phone (something that Google’s stock Android camera app doesn’t yet support).

That said, Google says the Mi A1 will ship with Android Nougat and it will receive and Android Oreo updated by the end of 2017. It’s also expected to be among the first phones to get Android P whenever that’s ready to go.

So what exactly is Android One these days? According to Google, here are a few things to know about the program:

  • “Android One phones are Google endorsed devices that run a simple, fresh, and secure experience.”
  • They “run a pure Android experience with a clean design and a small, carefully curated set of preinstalled apps.”
  • The phone have “the latest technology from Google” built in, such as Google Assistant and Google Photos.
  • “Android One devices will receive timely upgrades to the latest Android OS.”

In other words, an Android One phone isn’t exactly the same as a Nexus or Pixel… but it does combine third-party hardware with a software and security model that’s a bit closer to what you’d get from a Google-branded phone.

The Mi A1 is launching in India, but it will also be available in other markets… but not the US, Canada, or the UK (which I single out, since that’s where most of our readers are).

But I wouldn’t be surprised to find stores that are willing to sell you the international model in the States… just don’t expect it to support all US network bands.

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11 replies on “Xiaomi Mi A1 is an Android One phone with stock software, dual cameras”

  1. “…and the fact that it still has a microSD card and headset jack (which I think most users would see as positive features… even though these are items that you’re more likely to find on mid-range than high-end phones these days).”

    No SD slot and no headphone jack are reasons I no longer buy flagship phones, and many of my friends are the same way.

  2. This looks like very similar specs to the Moto G5+ that my wife got yesterday, even down to the same price ($230) at Best Buy. I’m all for people having options, but it isn’t like there aren’t any phones like this.

    As for Sam’s point about phones getting regular updates, that’s been a problem for quite sometime. It’s kind of like making a point that there aren’t enough phone with removable batteries and keyboards. That’s just where the technology is overall.

    1. Best Buy gets $299 for the 64 GB version and it’s screen is smaller (5.2 vs 5.5) and doesn’t have the dual lense camera that the Mi A1 has.

      1. It was $239 yesterday when my wife got it: It even came with $40-ish in sim credit. I guess it was the end of the Labor Day deal that reset today.

        Or you can still pick it up for that price at B&H Photo:

        Note that I said it was very similar, not exactly the same. I don’t think most people care about the difference between a 5.2″ and 5.5″ screen. The Moto G5 Plus might not have a dual lens, but at least you can buy one today in the United States and you’ve been able to buy it for awhile. It seems like you can’t buy this anywhere for at least another week and then not in the US. Remember that the criticism was that you can’t buy phones “like” this in the US.

        1. I disagree about the “technology” aspect of your assertion. We have a lot of variety in phones today, more than previous years, however the majority follow a narrow spec feature.

          These are conscious choices the phone designers make. We can have removable batteries, microSD slots, extra SIM, keyboard, kickstand, custom covers, dual speakers, slim bezel, small display etc etc.

          It’s not a lack of technology, it’s a lack of investment, lack of creativity, lack of confidence. That’s why this vast variety of phones are so narrow in difference….because no-one is willing to innovate, everyone is looking over their shoulder at the competition and following the industry practices, even if the practice is wrong.

          Hence you can find hundreds of phones fitting this demographic:
          – Old AndroidOS
          – Few Updates to New AndroidOS (almost never to the latest)
          – 5in to 5.7in
          – 65% to 75% Screen to Body (+75% flagships)
          – HD to FHD (QHD/QHD+ flagships)
          – Cortex A53 cores (Cortex A72/73 flagships)
          – 2GB to 3GB RAM (+4GB flagships)
          – 16GB to 32GB (+64GB flagships)
          – 2,400mAh to 4,000mAh (Fast Charge flagships)

          ….there’s very few actually innovating, everyone copying and remixing off each other.

    1. I agree. It’s been hard to recommend a budget Android phone to older family members because none of them will be regularly updated and will become security nightmares sooner than later. $200 can get you a lot of phone now for the money, but nothing with regular and guaranteed safety updates.

    2. It is very risky to sell technology products in the United States and Europe due to restrictions and ownership of patents.

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