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Xiaomi Redmi 2 unboxing and first impressions: the next big little phone from the Apple of China

|January 20 2015 |Android Phones, Xiaomi, First impressions, Unboxing

“The Xiaomi Redmi 2 is the successor to the budget bestseller, the Redmi 1s”

Amongst the umpteen number of smartphone options that exist in India currently, the Xiaomi Redmi 1s (review) stands out as a great bang for the buck. It’s popularity has a lot to do with the powerful specs it offers at an affordable price, but the feature-laden MIUI platform that it runs, combined with the Lite mode that’s extremely useful for newbies and the elderly also make it very notable in our eyes. The device continues to be a hot seller on Flipkart week after week, despite being out there for a while now. No wonder then, that the Redmi 1s was adjudged as the best budget phone of the year 2014 in the recently-concluded 91mobiles Awards. If there’s one feature that the device lacks, then it has to be 4G support. 4G is the next big thing to hit India, and we expect to see a widespread rollout of this next-gen connectivity standard this year. Brands are also gearing up for this, which explains the slew of new devices across price bands boasting this feature. And with successor of the Redmi 1s, Xiaomi is also bringing the same to the budget segment.

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The device we’re referring to is the Redmi 2, which was unveiled recently in China. The handset hasn’t been launched in India yet, and we don’t have an inkling yet of when it’ll land officially or what it’ll be priced at. If the pricing in China is any indication though, we expect it to be priced quite affordably and go up against the likes of other affordable LTE handsets like the Lenovo A6000 (first impressions). We already know that the next launch from Xiaomi in India will be the loaded Mi 4 (FAQs | review), but there’s no word yet on when we’ll get to see the Redmi 2 grace Flipkart’s virtual shelves. That wasn’t going to stop us from getting hold of one however, so we went ahead and procured a Redmi 2 from across the border so we could play with it and figure out what it’s made of, figuratively speaking. And as you’d be aware by now, each new device in our lab is welcomed with a customary unboxing and a quick once-over. So here goes.

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Before we even unwrapped the package, we were reasonably confident of what to expect inside, and we weren’t disappointed. The Redmi 2 comes in a compact brown cardboard box, exactly like its sibling, the Redmi 1s. With only the Mi branding on top and a label carrying the regulatory info and specs on the rear, the box itself doesn’t look enticing.

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The device rests inside, and as you can see, we got ourselves a white model. The phone is also available in other hues like grey, green, yellow and pink, though it remains to be seen if Xiaomi chooses to launch all of them in India, or just sell the grey model with the option of buying the rear panels separately. Apart from the phone, we found some documentation, a 2,200mAh removable battery (up from 2,000mAh that came with the Redmi 1s), a micro-USB cord and a two-pin wall charger packed inside. As usual, there was no sign of a wired headset.

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Now focussing our attention on the smartphone itself, we can make out that the Redmi 2 looks marginally smaller than its predecessor. Our belief was confirmed when we placed the two devices side-by-side (the Redmi 2 is on the left). The overall design language is very similar, but the Redmi 2 boasts more rounded corners and is encased in a smaller frame. More specifically, the Redmi 1s measures 137 x 69 x 9.9 mm, whereas the newer device measures 134 x 67.2 x 9.4 mm. It’s a subtle variation, but one that could make a big difference for usability and portability.

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The front bears the screen, with three capacitive keys below. These keys are highlighted in red, and just like the predecessor, aren’t backlit. Above the screen, you’ll find the usual mix of earpiece, front camera, sensors and notification LED. The front shooter has been bumped up to 2-megapixels.

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The right spine is where the volume rocker and power key are, while the bottom is home to a micro-USB port. The 3.5mm audio socket is located on top.

The core specs of the two phones are similar too, including the 4.7-inch 720p screen, the 1GB RAM, the 8GB internal storage, the 8MP primary snapper and dual-SIM capabilities. However, inside the Redmi 2 sits the new Snapdragon 410 chip, which features a quad-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz. In comparison, the older model comes powered with the Snapdragon 400 quad-core chip clocked at 1.6GHz. Don’t go with just the clock speed though, since the Snapdragon 410 boasts 64-bit support too. In terms of connectivity options, the Redmi 2 brings in support for 4G LTE as well, and while our unit doesn’t support the Indian 4G band, there’s one more variant in the pipeline that does, and that’s the one that will eventually make its way to India.

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Yet another difference became clear when we opened the Redmi 2’s rear panel, since this baby accepts a pair of micro-SIM cards, while the older model uses the regular mini-SIMs. A microSD card slot is also there for memory expansion. The rear panel on the Redmi 2 sports a matte finish that feels nice to the touch… and holds the rear snapper, LED flash, Mi branding, and the speaker.

Out of the internal 8GB storage, a little over 5GB is available to use… though this could vary slightly when the device launches in India depending upon the preloaded apps. Remember that ours is a China unit and doesn’t even come with the Google Play Store or the other core Google apps, but the Indian units are bound to include these. You do get support for USB OTG, so it’s possible to hook up flash drives directly (or using an adapter in case you don’t have an OTG drive).

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As far as the software is concerned, the Redmi 1s and the Redmi 2 differ significantly… as the former is stuck on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and runs MIUI v5, the new device is based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat and runs MIUI v6.

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The latest iteration of MIUI is even more loaded with features as compared to the older version, and boasts a totally revamped look with a flatter UI. We won’t get into the deets here, but feel free to check out the top six features of the latest version. Do note that MIUI 6 was still in early beta when we wrote that, but is a lot more polished, feature-rich and hopefully, more stable now. And you may be interested to know that the Redmi 2 includes support for themes, and features the same Lite mode we’ve seen on its predecessor and other Xiaomi offerings such as the Redmi Note and the Note 4G (review).

In our brief time with the Xiaomi Redmi 2, we didn’t encounter any lags or freezes and the usage seemed pretty zippy. We had no complaints with the HD screen too – the colours looked good and the touch response was pretty smooth. We’re looking forward to spending quality time with our new baby and see if it can impress us as an overall package. A full review of its capabilities, including details on the camera prowess and battery life is in the pipeline… and we’d be keeping our eyes peeled for that if we were you.



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