It has been a busy few months for Xiaomi in India, with the company launching a number of new phones. The period since March has since the arrival of the Mi 5, the Redmi Note 3 (two variants), and the Mi Max, and now Xiaomi has added the Redmi 3S and 3S Prime to the mix in the Indian market. We have had the higher specced 3S Prime (which sports the same design as the 3S but comes with a fingerprint scanner and 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage as compared to 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage on the 3S) with us for a few days now.
And well, it straight away reminded us of the Redmi Note 3 at first glance. It was not just because we had received the gold models of both for review – both phones are clearly cut from the same design cloth, with metal and glass builds. The front is the same, with a slight change in the placement of sensors above the display, the sides curve out to meet a metal back almost exactly like they did on the Note 3, and the volume rocker and power/display buttons on the right, and dual SIM tray on the left (just as in the Redmi Note 3). The circular fingerprint scanner too in on the upper central part of the back. The micro USB port on the base is more central than on the Note 3, and the camera on the back is on the left edge rather than on the upper central part with a single LED flash next to it rather than a double LED one below it, but those small tinkerings apart, this is pretty much the Redmi Note 3 redux in a smaller form factor.
And it is this form factor that is perhaps one of the most endearing features in design terms of the Redmi 3S Prime. At a time when most phones seem to be trying to stretch palms and pockets, it is one of those rare handsets that will fit most easily into both places. It certainly is the most compact of the company’s offerings this year, playing Black Widow to the Mi Max’s Hulk launched in June. The reason for this is simple – the 3S Prime has the smallest display we have seen in Xiaomi products this year, a relatively modest 5.0-inches as compared to the 5.15 inches on the Mi 5, the 5.5 inches on the Note 3 and the positively massive 6.44 inches seen on the Mi Max. At a mere 139.3 mm in length, the Redmi 3S Prime is more compact than even the Mi 5 which was just 144.6 mm long, and bears comparison to the iPhone 6s which is 138.3 mm in length. It is thicker than the Cupertino Kid at 8.5 mm as compared to 7.1 mm and wider (69.6 mm to 67.1 mm), but rather remarkably is only one gramme heavier: 144 grammes to the 143 grammes of the iPhone 6s.
Of course, the hardware is a notch lower than what we have seen on the Note 3 and Mi Max, but that is only to be expected considering the pricing of the phone. At Rs 8,999, the Redmi 3S Prime is the second most affordable Xiaomi device launched this season, surpassed ironically only by its simultaneously launched cousin, the Redmi 3S. For the price, you get a 5.0-inch 720p HD display, the first device in India to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage (expandable if you are ready to sacrifice one of the two SIM slots), a 13.0-megapixel rear camera, a 5.0-megapixel selfie shooter, 4G connectivity (VoLTE and LTE support), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and yes, infra red too. But perhaps the biggest hardware coup Xiaomi has pulled off in the device is packing in a battery that is actually slightly larger than the one seen on the Redmi Note 3 – a 4100 mAh one. Running on top of this is Android 6.0 with Xiaomi’s MIUI interface on it – soon to be upgraded to MIUI 8, we are told.
At Rs 8,999, the Redmi 3S Prime takes its place among the best value for money propositions in the sub-Rs 10,000 market, and even comes within breathing space of the 2 GB RAM / 16 GB version of the its own Redmi Note 3, which packs in a much better display and processor, as well as a camera with a higher megapixel count (16). It also goes up against the recently refreshed Lenovo Vibe K5+, which brings a full HD display and a Snapdragon 616 processor as well as some great sound (courtesy Dolby Atmos and dual speakers) into the fray.
Just how well it fares will be revealed in the coming days. But as of now, we will restrict ourselves to saying “Welcome to the Great Indian Budget Smartphone Party, Redmi Note junior.”