The Mi 4i may have been officially unveiled only last week by Hugo Barra but it was leaked very thoroughly well before its launch. And although most predictions about its spec sheet were on the spot, the ones that claimed that the device was a stripped down version of the Mi 4 were perhaps a bit off the mark. For, make no mistake about it, the Mi 4i is a very contrary animal from the Mi 4 in terms of appearance at least, and looks like nothing we have seen from Xiaomi in India so far.
Whereas the Mi 4 rested on a steel frame (the company even made a film on it called The Journey of a Piece of Steel to drive home the point), the Mi 4i is unabashedly all plastic. And well, it looks a whole lot smarter to be honest. It has a slightly more boxy look and the back is much flatter than the one on the Mi 4. And while it too is white and smooth, it is not glossy like that on the Mi 4. The front too looks, well, for want of a better word, blacker than the Mi 4. There are steel buttons for the volume rocker and the power/display button on the right and a dual SIM card tray on the right. The top has the 3.5 mm audio jack and the base houses the micro USB port. Oh, and also on the front is a 5.0-megapixel camera while the camera on the back is a 13.0-megapixel one and is accompanied by a dual LED dual tone flash, as compared to the single LED one on the Mi 4. On the lower part of the back is also a speaker grille.
But you will notice all this much later. For the first thing that is likely to strike you about the Mi 4i is just how compact it is. We have kept it next to the Mi 4 and many people have refused to believe that both devices have similarly sized displays – 5.0-inch ones. That is because the Mi 4i is actually shorter and slimmer than the Mi 4 – it is 138.1 mm long as compared to the 139.2 of the Mi 4, and is a mere 7.8 mm thin, as compared to the much thicker 8.9 mm Mi 4. Yes, it is slightly wider at 69.6 mm compared to the Mi 4’s 68.5 mm, but pick up the phone and you will be struck by just how light it is – 130 grammes as compared to 149 grammes of the Mi 4. Let’s get this straight – this is one of the most hand-friendly large screen devices we have seen. It is the same length, a mere gramme heavier than the iPhone 6, which sports a smaller display (4.7 inches). If we have to nitpick, the buttons on the sides seem a bit too loose to our liking, something which can either bother you a lot or you won’t even notice, depending upon how finicky you are with these things.
And while in terms of general hardware, the Mi 4i does seem a notch below the Mi 4 – it comes with a second generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor with 2 GB RAM, as compared to the higher ranked Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 and 3 GB RAM on the Mi 4 – the newer phone scores over its predecessor in a few departments too: it is a dual SIM device with 4G support, runs MIUI 6 over Android Lollipop (as compared to MIUI 6 over Android KitKat on the Mi 4) and sports a rear camera that is on par if not better than the one on the Mi 4, and also has a dual LED dual tone flash, (even though the Mi 4 had a more powerful selfie camera at 8.0-megapixels aaginst the 5.0-megapixel one on the Mi 4i). The Mi 4i also, rather remarkably given its slighter frame, a larger battery than the Mi 4 – 3120 mAh against 3080 mAh. And well, as per Hugo Barra, the Sunlight Display on the Mi 4i adjust contrasts at the pixel level for better sunlight reading – again something that was missing in the Mi 4. Both devices have 16 GB of storage and no option for expandable memory and both also sport full HD 5.0-inch displays.
Yes, it is too early for us to comment on whether the processor and RAM will make a telling difference in the performance of the Mi 4i, but in terms of appearance so far, the Mi 4i does not seem to be a toned down version of the Mi 4. It certainly is not to the Mi 4 what the iPhone 5c was to the iPhone 5s (a comparison that is being made in many quarters), as unlike the 5c, it has a few aces up its sleeve that even the Mi 4 does not have. Just how telling those are and how much of a difference the relative lower specs will make is something we will reveal in our review in the coming days. As of now, we can safely say that the Mi 4i is quite a handsome handset. We cannot comment on its performance yet, but we can assure you that this is one phone that many people will love to hold, simply because it fits so smoothly into your hand.