Xiaomi brings its impressive dual-camera setup and top-notch hardware to the Android One lineup and has another winner on its hands.
Last year, Xiaomi debuted its first Android One smartphone in the form of the Mi A1. It was a pretty popular device in India, and was also well-received in other international markets. Now, Xiaomi is back with its second-generation Android One smartphone, the Mi A2. This smartphone is derived from the Mi 6X and will be sold in China under that name – and as the Mi A2 everywhere else. This time around, it sports a larger and taller display (18:9 instead of 16:9) and a newer chipset, as well as more storage and RAM. Is that enough to make the Mi A2 another top seller for Xiaomi in 2018? Let’s find out in our full review.
There’s a 5.99-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio display on the Mi A2. It’s a full HD+ display, which means it has a resolution of 2160×1080 for about 403 pixels per inch. Under-the-hood, you’ll find the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset, along with 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of storage. There is also a model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There is no micro SD card slot available here, so the storage model you get, is all of the storage you will have on this device. There is a 3000mAh capacity battery inside, which does support Quick Charge 3.0.
On the Mi A2, there are two cameras on the back. This includes a 12-megapixel sensor with a f/1.8 aperture, and a 20-megapixel sensor also with a f/1.8 aperture. The front-facing camera is a 20-megapixel sensor, and it should be good enough for taking the all-important selfies. Xiaomi does include dual LED flash on the backside, but there’s no phase detection autofocus here, unfortunately.
Rounding out the spec sheet, there is also WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, as well as Bluetooth 5.0. Location is tracked using A-GPS, GLONASS, and BDS. There is no NFC nor a headphone jack available, but there is a USB-C connector for charging and using other USB-C accessories like USB-C headphones. Finally, the Mi A2 launches on Android 8.1 Oreo. Xiaomi has said that it will get updated to Android 9 Pie, but the time frame has not been confirmed.
In the Box
Included in the box with the Xiaomi Mi A2, the company includes a clear case for the Mi A2, so you can keep the device nice and clean and protected from the moment you receive it. You will also see the wall adapter included, along with a USB-C cable. There’s also the assortment of paperwork and the SIM ejection tool included. There are no headphones included here, but there is a dongle to bring back the headphone jack.
As far as the hardware here goes, there’s not a whole lot of changes from the Mi A1 last year. The biggest change here is the fact that the camera module is not only larger but also vertical instead of horizontal. Otherwise, you still get an aluminum build, with a glass front. The back is slightly curved, which makes the Mi A2 feel really good in the hand. The cameras are on the left side and do stick out a bit – a bit more than many would prefer. The fingerprint sensor is in the center, and while holding the Mi A2, the fingerprint sensor is just above where your index finger rests, making it easy to reach and use.
On the bottom of the Mi A2, you’ll find the USB-C connector, as well as a speaker on one side and a microphone on the other. The top of the phone is where you’ll find the IR blaster as well as another microphone. On the left side, is the dual SIM card slot, while the right side is where you’ll find the power button and volume rocker. The buttons on the Mi A2 are plenty clicky, which is actually important, believe it or not. By having mushy buttons, they can get stuck after many weeks or months of using the device. So keeping them clicky is a pretty good thing.
When holding the Mi A2 in the hand, the sides do feel pretty thin, it would be nice for the sides to be just a bit thicker. That would make it much easier to hold onto. The metal back does also make this a somewhat slippery phone to hold onto, which makes it a really good thing that Xiaomi did include a clear case in the box, which does add some grip to the device. The Mi A2 looks pretty nice, it’s not as flashy as something like the Galaxy Note 9, but it does have its own design language. Xiaomi does sell the Mi A2 in three colors – gold, blue and black – the gold model that we have here does have a white face, which does make the sensors and the cameras stand out more than it would on the black model.
Typically, Xiaomi puts some really good looking displays on its smartphones, but it doesn’t go overboard with the pixel-count. Meaning that you are usually getting a full HD panel and not a Quad HD panel on smartphones. And that’s the case here with the Mi A2. Though, due to the taller aspect ratio, it’s actually full HD+ here. Despite being 2160×1080, it still looks really good in real life. That still gives you 403 pixels per inch, which is going to be more than enough for most people anyways. It’s an IPS panel, instead of an OLED panel, which would really make this device pop. This panel is still really good, Xiaomi has done a really good job at calibrating the colors here, so it looks pretty accurate. And the temperature of the display is just a tiny bit on the warm side, but it’s really not noticeable to most people. Unfortunately, you can’t change the color temperature of the display here. So you’re stuck with the way it looks out of the box.
Xiaomi is using the Snapdragon 660 chipset here with 4GB of RAM (on our model, there is also a 6GB model available). On paper, that means some pretty good performance and insane battery life. In real life, that’s pretty accurate. The performance of the Snapdragon 660 chipset is still pretty good, even though it is in the 600-series and not an 800-series chipset from Qualcomm. It is able to handle all of the tasks that you throw at it with ease. Whether that’s browsing the web and sending out some Tweets, or playing some games on the Mi A2, it does it all rather well. With 4GB of RAM included, you’re going to have no problems with the phone slowing down. Remember that Android is capable of running on smartphones with as little as 512MB of RAM, so 4GB of RAM is plenty for Android Oreo. Now, if you do want to keep this phone for a few years, it would be a good idea to pick up the 6GB of RAM model, if it’s available in your region.
The performance here is top-notch, and while many will write it off as a “mid-range” smartphone due to that Snapdragon 660 chipset, it really isn’t. The Mi A2 can do just about everything that a Snapdragon 845-powered device can do, and then some. The biggest difference here is that the Snapdragon 660 is clocked a bit slower, but it is also a battery sipper. Allowing that battery to last even longer.
With the Mi A2, you do get the fingerprint sensor on the backside for securing the device. But there’s no facial recognition here. That might be a bit surprising for many, seeing as Xiaomi does have facial recognition on its other smartphones. But this is a stock Android device, in the Android One program, so there are not many changes to the OS here on the Mi A2. The fingerprint sensor is going to be more secure than using the front-facing camera for facial recognition anyways. So it is definitely a good thing to have the fingerprint sensor here.
The speed and accuracy of the fingerprint sensor here is about what you would expect. It’s pretty fast – almost instant – and it is also pretty accurate. There were only a handful of times where the fingerprint sensor was unable to recognize my finger. And considering how often you unlock your device in a single day, that is pretty impressive. Of course, with the fingerprint sensor, you can also use it to authenticate yourself in different apps on your phone like banking and financial apps. Which is something you can’t do with facial recognition just yet.
There’s a single down-firing speaker on the Mi A2 here, which is located to the right of the USB-C connector on the bottom. It’s not the best place you have a speaker, considering it can get muffled while you are playing games and such. But it does work really well and allows you to have more screen real-estate. Xiaomi did not opt to use the earpiece as a second speaker here, so there’s just the one. But it works really well. The sound quality coming out of this speaker is pretty good, it doesn’t sound tinny like some other smartphones tend to do.
Phone Calls & Network
The global model of the Xiaomi Mi A2 does actually work in the US. There are some LTE bands missing, so it won’t work completely in the US, but you can at least get LTE on AT&T and T-Mobile in many areas around the country. The complete band list is located below, but you have bands 2, 4, 5 for AT&T and then bands 2 and 4 for T-Mobile. This means that you won’t get band 12, 66 or 71 on T-Mobile, and no band 12 or 17 on AT&T.
During the review process, we used the Mi A2 on T-Mobile, and it worked perfectly fine. Though the signal indoors wasn’t as great as you might expect from T-Mobile, and that’s because it is missing band 12 – which is T-Mobile’s 700MHz spectrum, and that is what provides great indoor coverage. There’s also no VoLTE or HD Voice available on the Mi A2. That likely isn’t going to be an issue for many people. But if you do want those features, you’ll want to get a different Xiaomi device, seeing as the majority of its other smartphones do sport both features.
GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900
HSDPA 850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100
LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 38, 40
On the Xiaomi Mi A2, we ran a trio of benchmarks. Which includes AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4. On AnTuTu, it picked up a score of 136,174. Over on 3D Mark, it grabbed a score of 1273 in the Sling Shot Extreme – OpenGL ES 3.1 test. On the Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan test, it grabbed a score of 1039. Finally, on Geekbench 4, it grabbed a score of 1,631 in the single-core test, and a 4,706 in the multi-core test. You can see the full results of these benchmarks – and how they compare to other smartphones – in the gallery below.
With the 3,000mAh capacity battery included in the Mi A2, you’ll be able to keep it going all day long. In our testing, we were able to get it to last nearly two days, even with heavy usage. This is a testament to how well the Snapdragon 660 is when it comes to preserving battery life. You likely could get around six hours or more of on-screen time, per charge. Which is pretty incredible, but it is pretty much the average these days, with smartphone batteries. If you use less resource-intensive apps, you could get this one to last even longer, perhaps as much as eight or nine hours on a single charge. To put it simply, the battery is pretty incredible here.
Of course, when it comes to batteries, quick charging functionality is always a big deal. With the Snapdragon 660 chipset here, you are able to utilize Quick Charge 3.0 on this smartphone. Allowing you to fully recharge the battery on this smartphone in about 90 minutes. That was also our experience in using the Mi A2. That is about the same as other smartphones with around 3,000mAh capacity batteries, and a Quick Charge 3.0 charger. Now, Xiaomi has not included wireless charging on the Mi A2, which might be a surprise since it does sell a wireless charger (that was announced with the Mi MIX 2S earlier this year). But Xiaomi has stuck to only offering fast charging, and not wireless charging. Even though there is a metal back here, it can be done, but it’s better not too.
Software-wise, we are looking at Android 8.1 Oreo along with the August 5, 2018 security patch. That means that is running the latest security patch but not the latest version of Android. Android 9 Pie is the latest, and while this is an Android One device, it’s not running the absolute latest. The reason for this is because there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to software updates. Not only does Xiaomi need to wait for Google to ship the stable version of Android Pie – which only happened last week – but it also has to wait for the binaries to come from Qualcomm that support the Snapdragon 660. And since it’s not Qualcomm’s flagship chipset, the update is going to be a little while. But Xiaomi does expect to have it out before the end of the year – it’ll likely be out well before then.
With Android 8.1 Oreo being installed on the Mi A2, you can expect all of the goodies that you’d see on other Oreo-based smartphones running on stock Android. There’s not much here in terms of Xiaomi’s own software. Out of the box, you’ll find Xiaomi’s Feedback app, and the Mi Remote (to take advantage of the IR blaster on the Mi A2). Otherwise, everything that is pre-installed comes in the form of Google apps. The only app that is changed is the camera app. And that is because the camera uses proprietary resources. And if Xiaomi had kept the camera app the same as the AOSP app, the camera wouldn’t take great pictures at all.
There are some gestures here, the ones that you would find on stock Android. But there’s only one. Which is the “Jump to Camera”. This one allows you to press the camera button twice to jump to the camera. Unfortunately, the others are not on the Mi A2, and that might be because they aren’t available in AOSP, and only available on Pixel smartphones. Otherwise, the stock Android features are here, nothing more and nothing less.
Android Oreo on this hardware from Xiaomi is really smooth. MIUI is generally pretty smooth on its devices, but stripping out all of those features and resources means that Oreo can really fly. There have been no slowdowns at all on the Mi A2 during our time with the device. There’s a lot to like here, especially if you are a fan of stock Android. This is definitely the Android One device to pick up.
The camera is perhaps the most exciting part of the Mi A2. It’s an Android One smartphone with, what is likely, the best camera out there. Xiaomi has really improved its camera game in the past few years. If you just think back to the Mi 5 and the Mi MIX, the cameras on those smartphones were not good at all. That was just two years ago, and now Xiaomi has some of the best cameras in the mobile industry. With the Mi A2, Xiaomi is utilizing a dual-camera setup. The main sensor is a 12-megapixel, f/1.8 camera that is capable of getting some great shots. But the 20-megapixel sensor that is included here as the secondary sensor, makes the Mi A2 great at taking photos at night. That sensor is able to switch to a “4-in-1 2μm Super Pixel.” That allows the sensor to take in more light, as it is actually larger. Now on paper, that sounds kind of cool, but in reality, it does its job pretty well. You can see the images we took in low-light situations in the Flickr gallery below.
Xiaomi does have portrait mode on both the front and the back cameras here. On the back camera, you’ll mostly use it as a close-up or macro mode. But on the front, it’s good for taking selfies. And it does take some good selfies. But it’s not as good as the Pixel 2 XL still. Portrait Mode on the front can really blow out the background, as seen in some images in the Flickr gallery. But with beauty mode on, it does look really good.
There are plenty of other modes available on the Mi A2’s camera, which includes slow-motion and time-lapse. The slow-motion mode doesn’t allow you to adjust the fps, so it is stuck at 240fps. That’s pretty slow and does make for a good video. But something higher like 480fps or 960fps would really make the video stand out. That being said, it is still shot in 1080p, so you can see everything in the shot. The Mi A2 does also do really well with HDR. Throughout our review, HDR was set to auto, and it doesn’t slow down the shutter on the camera. That is something we saw on some older smartphones from Xiaomi, like the Mi MIX 2S. So it’s good to see that is no longer an issue here.
The camera on the Mi A2 is really good. Even those that aren’t professional photographers are going to get some really good shots out of this camera, without needing to change any settings. If you were looking for a reason to buy this phone, the camera is definitely one of the biggest reasons to do just that.
No headphone jack
Android One, not running the latest version of Android
There has been an influx of Android One smartphones in the past year, and Xiaomi has gotten some competition in that space from Nokia (HMD Global) and HTC. But the Mi A2 might be the best option for an Android One device. This is largely because of its price and the camera quality on offer. While the camera is not as good as a flagship solution from something like the Pixel 2 XL, it comes surprisingly close to high-end imaging systems. And certainly the closest you’ll get for a starting price of €249.
Should I Buy the Xiaomi Mi A2? If you reside in one of Xiaomi’s markets, then you should definitely buy the Mi A2. It hits all of the right notes here and does a good job with just about everything. The only major issue here is that you’d expect an Android One device to be running the latest version of Android. And it’s not. But the new OS is coming. And a smartphone of this caliber with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space for €249 is a pretty incredible offer.