New phones are always exciting to get. Taking them out of the box, peeling that little protective over off the parts that can get scratched and of course digging in the box to see what sorts of goodies the manufacturer has packed in for you. Xiaomi unveiled the Redmi 2 almost exactly 1 month ago as its newest budget device, costing only 699 Yuan (about $112) and packing in a set of upgraded specs from the original Redmi 1s. Xiaomi's latest beauty is on sale now and we've got it in house so that you can see it in action before you buy it.
Let's start off with what's in the box. Xiaomi once again has packed its latest phone in a very unassuming brown cardboard box with just the Mi logo on the front and a sticker on the back detailing the specs of the phone. Inside you'll find the phone facing up in all its glory, with a pull tab underneath to save you the hassle of tipping the box over and possibly dropping the phone in the first few seconds of owning it. Underneath that you'll find the standard micro USB cable and wall charger, in addition to a really nice full-color manual that details some basics of the phone for beginning users.
Moving onto the phone itself you might notice that it's extremely similar to the Redmi Note if you've ever seen that phone in person. In fact, it looks identical outside of the size of the phone, which is trimmed down to a compact 4.7-inches for easy one-handed use. The phone seems quite small when coming from a phablet of any kind, but remember 4.7-inches is the size of Apple's latest vanilla iPhone, and many people still prefer a smaller phone that they can one hand over a big device anyway. The front of the phone features the same fairly sizable bezels that the Redmi Note has, as well as a notification LED up top and three capacitive keys at the bottom. Curiously enough these capacitive keys have icons denoting menu, home and back, however the menu button acts like a recents button for multi-tasking unless you press and hold it.
Physically aside from the size difference the only obvious difference from the Redmi Note is the back, which is now made of a much more coarse plastic resembling ceramic over the slippery, shiny plastic on the Redmi Note. On the right side of the phone you'll find the volume rocker situated near the top with the power button located just underneath that. The bottom of the phone features the MicroUSB port and microphone, and the top has your 3.5mm headphone jack. On the back you'll find a single-LED flash, slightly raised camera hump and a speaker right next to that.
Turning the phone greets you with the MIUI 6 OS, Xiaomi's latest take on Android and clearly an homage to iOS 7/8 in terms of style. Even though it's definitely inspired by iOS it doesn't look identical though, and features plenty of powerful features such as full theme support for completely changing the look of the phone, in addition to a number of other big customizations that have made Xiaomi so popular in its home country of China. Users of any other MIUI 6 powered phone will feel right at home as there seem to be no specific customizations for the Redmi 2, however users of MIUI 5 will have a refreshing overhaul of the UI that feels significantly more modern than the old, gradient-laden version.
In the past day that I've had to use the phone I've found it to be super responsive, even with just 1GB of RAM. I got the 8GB version to see just how little RAM MIUI needs to run efficiently nowadays, and depending on the outcome we may just recommend getting the 16GB version in the end that comes with 2GB of RAM, but let's leave that for the full review. The OS is as beautiful as it was when I used it on the Mi4, and honestly feels just as snappy too. That brand new quad-core Snapdragon 410 is most likely the reason for that, although there's plenty going on in the software to help too. The phone is obviously made for the Chinese market too, featuring tons of China-only apps out of the box like Baidu services, Kuaipan backup, Qunar Travel and others that are in Chinese only. Right now I'm not able to add a Google account but I'll likely be able to work that out before the final review, so stay tuned until then!