Xiaomi Redmi 3s: Review
Today marks 10 years since Apple announced the first iPhone, the smartphone that shifted the expectations of what a phone should do. It certainly wasn't the first phone that could browse the web or it wasn't the first device that could handle e-mail. What it did was bring it all together in a sleek package that made it user friendly.
All that came at a price, however, as it launched at over €499 for the basic 4GB model if you signed an expensive two-year contract with specific mobile providers.
Ten years later and features that were revolutionary at the time, and even some that were completely unheard of for a phone have come down from the premium models to the most affordable models.
Chinese manufacturers have made huge leaps in recent years of cleverly using technology to keep prices down and make affordable smartphones useful.
"There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item."
- Steve Ballmer, former CEO Microsoft, in 2007
One such model is the Redmi 3s from Xiaomi that we received for review, from our friends at GearBest. Packing a CPU that is over three times faster (1.4GHz CPU) and more than twenty four times the RAM (3GB) of Apple's flagship device when it launched. Xiaomi have a 5-inch, 720p screen, fingerprint sensor for security and 13 Megapixel (MP) rear camera and 5MP front-facing camera.
When you compare how far technology has come in that decade, we are constantly amazed that such a device is available for around €150 (off contract).
OK, the specs sound good, but is the Redmi 3s any good?
The short answer is: Yes. Yes it is.
Having used the phone as our daily driver for the last few weeks, we can say that there is much to like about the Redmi 3s. Some may mock a 720p screen in this day and age, but at 5-inches the screen is just right. The only time that we noticed an issue with the screen was when we used it with a VR headset, such as the Mi VR, the screen was good but you could begin to notice the individual pixels in a way that did not occur with a more expensive phone. The screen on the Redmi 3s has excellent viewing angles, even in bright outdoor locations, is very responsive and even supports ten simultaneous touch points.
While it is true that flagship smartphones now have QHD or 1440p screens, but that just eats into the battery life of your phone. Xiaomi have played it very clever with the Redmi 3s, using a 720p screen makes the phone cheaper to produce overall but also battles the battery anxiety that most smartphone owners have, because it uses less power.
Another smart move by Xiaomi is to include a whopping 4100 mAh battery in the Redmi 3s. During our tests we could easily get around two days using the phone between charges. If we enabled the aggressive battery saving options in Android we could have made it last longer. It was refreshing having a smartphone and rarely have to worry if the battery would last.
A nice touch is the Fingerprint Sensor on the rear of the device, positioned nicely below the camera, it is in a spot that the finger naturally sits when holding the device. Unlocking the phone with the sensor was almost always quicker that just sliding to unlock the phone.
You can also designate certain devices to 'Smart Unlock' your phone, so if it detects a Mi Band or similar device such as the Microsoft Band 2 via Bluetooth, it will unlock your phone for you without the need for other authentication.
Running on Android, the Redmi 3s has many of the features that you would expect from a smartphone running Google's mobile OS and integrates well with Google's Play store and services to ensure consistency of experience if you are moving from another Android phone to the Redmi 3s.
The Redmi 3s comes with Android 6.0 installed by default, with Xiaomi's MIUI 7 on top, although an Android 7.x OTA update is promised for later in 2017.
One quirk that we noticed is that certain applications, like Google Play movies or Pokemon Go, would not load successfully. Perhaps this is because of the customisations in the OS, some other devices if they are rooted or some flavours of Android (such as CyanogenMod, can sometimes run into similar behaviour so that may not be unique to the Redmi 3s.
Looking at the Redmi 3s as an affordable smartphone: It is quick, responsive and packed full of useful features. The biometric authentication with the fingerprint scanne, in particular, was always a delight to use.
When compared with the original iPhone that cost well over ten times the price when it originally launched (including the two-year contract), the Redmi 3s is a miracle of modern technology.
Style: For an affordable smartphone, it is unusual to have a metal body. Xiaomi deserve credit for this nice, premium touch.
The Fingerprint Scanner: Quicker to securely unlock your phone than sliding to unlock without a PIN.
Battery: Two day battery life for regular use of a smartphone is almost unheard of these days. It was great to use the phone at will without worrying about if there would be enough battery at the end of the day.
Screen: OK, it's 720p, but for the average user it's fine. Especially considering the speed of response and 10 simultaneous touch points (we had to cram our fingers on the screen just to be sure)
Some Apps did not work: Google Play Movies, Pokemon Go among others thought that the device was rooted and would not work.
No NFC: So no Android Pay.
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