“How is that phone then?”
“That one? It is a year old!”
“Yeah, but it kind of looks good now…”
A year is a very long time in technology. Especially when you are looking at the budget segment of the market, where there are multiple releases every other month. So when a phone that was squarely mid-segment in price gets a fresh lease of interest almost a year after its release (without a significant price cut), especially when that year was not a particularly good one for it either, you take notice.
The phone we are talking about is the Xiaomi Mi A3.
Xiaomi Mi A3: Not the brightest start, and buggy updates did not help
To refresh your memory, it was launched in late August 2019 and was the third in Xiaomi’s A-series, which represents its Android One initiative. The A1 and A2 had done very well and the A2 had won rave reviews for its cameras. The A3 on the other hand opened to very mixed reviews. We called it “a good phone that could have been great” and many others were downright harsh. The reason was simple – although surprisingly compact and possessing good cameras, the Mi A3 came with an HD+ display, a Snapdragon 665 processor, and had slightly iffy battery life (by the standards of the competition). At a starting price of Rs 12,999, it went right up against the likes of the Redmi Note 7 series and the Realme 5 series, both of which were formidable and boasted not just comparable, but even superior specs and performance.
And things got worse for the Mi A3 earlier this year when the one thing the series was known for – regular Android updates – was botched up. The update to Android 10 was by all accounts, not a smooth transition, and in many cases affected devices adversely. So much so that many stopped asking about the Mi A series altogether.
Xiaomi Mi A3: Back in the reckoning. Thank you, Nokia and Moto
So why the interest in the Mi A3 all of a sudden? One year down the line?
The reason is simple – competition. When it was released, the Mi A3 had to go up mainly against non-stock Android competition from its Redmi sibling and Realme rival. However, when the Nokia 5.3 and Moto G9 were recently released, both had price tags and spec sheets that were remarkably similar to the Mi A3. They both sported HD+ displays and while the Nokia 5.3 had the same processor, the Moto G9 had a newer one but from the same family tree, the Snapdragon 662. What’s more, their prices were within touching range of the Mi A3 – the Moto G9 was priced slightly below it, while the Nokia 5.3 was priced slightly above it. And of course, they both ran stock Android, and the Nokia 5.3 was even a part of the Android One initiative, like the Mi A3.
We are sure Motorola and Nokia had no intention of opening the door for one of their rivals, but thanks to their spec sheets and prices, people were making comparisons (we did too – take a look) and the phone that many had written off as a bad experience, is back in the spotlight.
Xiaomi Mi A3: Still worth a buy?
It might be getting attention again, but is the Mi A3 still worth a buy now? Well, its buggy update days seem to be behind it now (we have got the August security patch on it), and it is assured another major Android update at least – assured updates until August 2021. That puts it a slight step behind the Moto G9 and Nokia 5.3, which will get updates till August 2022. But on the flip side, the Mi A3 remains the only affordable Android One device in the market with an AMOLED display and a 32-megapixel selfie camera. Add the fact that its 48-megapixel main sensor is the same as that found on the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus Nord – Sony IMX 586 – and turns in a comparable performance, and we can see people start taking an interest.
Indeed, even non-stock Android fans will like its compact form factor, We still think the battery needs work and the 10W charger in the box is a little sluggish, but if what you are looking for is a pure Android device with a great camera and a great display and assured updates, and have a budget of about Rs 13,000-15,000, the Mi A3 with its starting price of Rs 12,999 for 4 GB/ 64 GB and Rs 14,999 for 6 GB/ 128 GB has suddenly stepped into contention. What’s more, it comes with zero ads, unlike many other Xiaomi phones!
There is a Pathan saying that you get defined by your opposition. They might not have intended to do so, but we suspect the Mi A3’s competition just gave it a new lease of life. For how long, remains to be seen.