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Goodbye MIUI: Xiaomi’s Mi A1 is an Android One phone with Google Play

Andy Boxall
Xiaomi Mi A1

Xiaomi has launched the Mi A1, a smartphone that is unlike any from the company before, and that is because it doesn’t have the familiar MIUI user interface over the top of Google Android. Instead, the Mi A1 — as the name actually gives away — runs Google’s Android One software, and was the subject of rumor until now. It’s a first for Xiaomi, and while India seems to be the main target market for the Mi A1, it will also be sold in dozens of other countries around the world.

The Xiaomi Mi A1 has a higher specification than the majority of other Android One phones. Google designed the platform for use on affordable phones, and while the earliest models were relatively basic, newer Android One phones have become more technically impressive, and more expensive. The Mi A1 has a 5.5-inch touchscreen with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, hidden under a piece of Gorilla Glass. It’s set in a 7mm thick aluminum unibody with neatly concealed antenna bands.

On the back are two camera lenses: A wide-angle and a telephoto. These work together to take portrait shots with a blurred background, and Xiaomi says its algorithm is adept at understanding edges in this type of shot, for a better defined, more natural image. The telephoto lens provides a 2x optical zoom. The camera app appears to be Xiaomi’s own, rather than the Google camera app we’re used to seeing on Android One phones.

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor powers the Mi A1, there’s USB Type-C charging for the 3,080mAh battery, a fingerprint sensor, and a choice of black — with a fingerprint-resistant coating — gold, or rose gold color schemes. If this specification looks familiar, it’s identical to the Xiaomi Mi 5X, announced recently. The specifications continue to match up with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage space, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera.

It’s Android One that’s the big news on the Mi A1, and its presence means the phone will receive an update to Android 8.0 Oreo before the end of 2017, and be on the list for Android 9.0 when it’s released in 2018. The Android One interface is stock, just like the Pixel phones, has Google Assistant, and comes without bloatware. It also has the Google Play store pre-installed, along with all other Google services. In China, Xiaomi’s MIUI uses Xiaomi’s own application store.

The Mi A1 will be sold in India from September 12 for the local equivalent of around $235, and will be offered in 40 more countries later in the month. These include Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Greece, Poland, Russia, Egypt, South Africa, Columbia, and Mexico. Android One phones aren’t officially sold in the United States or the United Kingdom.