It might not have been a flagship device like the Mi 3 or the Mi 4, but in terms of market impact, the Redmi 1S was perhaps Xiaomi’s star performer last year, pretty thoroughly redefining people’s expectations from a low-cost smartphone (it was launched at slightly over a hundred US dollars). The period following its release was marked by multi-second sellouts and of course, devices from the competition, which claimed to offer as much as more. And now, the company has unleashed its successor, the Redmi 2 in the Indian market. Just how worthy a successor it is will be revealed in our review in a few days, but here are our initial impressions of the Redmi 2.
The Redmi 2 is cut from a different design cloth from its predecessor. Whereas the Redmi 1S was designed with a slightly more edgy look, the Redmi 2 is very curvy indeed, with the sides sloping inwards towards the back, making the front appear more prominent. Xiaomi has released the white model in India, but seen from the all black front, the device looked jet black. The volume rocker and button remain on the right and are metallic, the top has the 3.5 mm audio jack and the base has the micro USB port with the left side remaining totally plain. The back is made of smooth (but not glossy) plastic which will not pick up fingerprints. It has the 8.0-megapixel camera at the top centre flanked by a flash and speaker grille. Peeling it off reveals the battery and microSD card and dual SIM card slots.
Although both devices have similar sized displays – 4.7 inches – Xiaomi have pulled off a design coup of sorts by making the Redmi 2 more compact, slim and light as compared to the 1S. The Redmi 2 is 134 mm long, as compared to 137 mm of the 1S, is 9.4 mm thin as compared to 9.9 mm of the 1S, and is remarkably, even less wide – 67.2 mm to 69 mm of the 1S. And remarkably, although the Redmi 2 has a bigger battery than the Redmi 1S – 2200 mAh as compared to 2000 mAh on the 1S – the phone itself is actually lighter. The Redmi 1S had felt a bit heavy for its size at 158 grammes, the Redmi 2 tips the scale at 133 grammes, which is even lighter than the new Moto E, which weighs 145 grammes.
All in all, the Redmi 2 has got to be one of the most compact phones we have got to use in recent times. The curves make it comfortable to hold and its size means that it will fit most palms (even girly ones) with a degree of comfort. No, it is unlikely to make people turn their heads or dazzle you, but it definitely is a very smart looker. And no, it looks anything but inexpensive. We have seen phones that cost twice as much that don’t look as good.
But if Xiaomi has trimmed millimetres and pounds off the phone, it has also pumped up its innards. The display has the same size and resolution (4.7 inch, 1280 x 720) as that of the Redmoi 1S and like it, comes covered with Dragontrail Glass to protect it from scratches (Hugo Barra made people have a go at it with scissors at the launch and it stood up to the scratchy efforts pretty well), but seems brighter and sharper. The processor behind it is now a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, as compared to the Snapdragon 400 on the Redmi 1S. Graphics have moved up to Adreno 306 from Adreno 306, although the RAM and storage remain at 1 GB and 8 GB (expandable to 32 GB using a memory card in either case). Xiaomi will be releasing a version with 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage later. The rear camera too stays at 8.0-megapixels, but Barra was at pains to point out that its performance was significantly better than its predecessor and even better than some phones that cost twice as much. We will of course be looking at it in our review. The front camera has been bumped up slightly from 1.6-megapixels to 2.0-megapixels, bringing it closer to selfie territory. Connectivity options now include 4G on both SIM cards.
But the biggest different between the 1S and the Redmi 2 and perhaps even between the Redmi 2 and the likes of the Moto E (2nd edition) and the Lenovo A7000 is the presence of Xiaomi’s flavour of Android, MIUI 6 on the Redmi 2. Barra had referred to the MIUI 6 update as one of the biggest undertaken by Xiaomi and it certainly is very different from MIUI 5, with brighter colours and more features than ever before. The fear that many have is whether the device will be able to handle MIUI 6 well, but we will be able to discover that only after a detailed review. For regular tasks like browsing and social networking, it certainly seems to be holding up well, although we once again are noticing that about 600 MB of the 1 GB RAM on the device seems to be always in use, even if we are not running any apps.
Of course, this is but a preliminary glimpse of the Redmi 2. We can report that the form is slighter, the frame is lighter and the hardware heftier. Unlike the Redmi 1S which was sold at Rs.5,999, the Redmi 2 will go on sale for a slightly expensive price tag of Rs 6,999. And well, its looks and hardware certainly do not go with the price tag, in best Xiaomi tradition. How well does it perform? Not just as compared to the Redmi 1S but also the likes of the new Moto E and the Lenovo A6000? We are on it, stay tuned for our reviews and comparisons.