Xiaomi became the largest handset manufacturer in India at the end of last year, and it was all because of a strong showing in the budget category. Xiaomi now accounts for one out of three sales in the country, and over 95% of its market share comes from the sub-₹15,000 ($215) segment.
It isn't hard to see why Xiaomi is so dominant in this category. Earlier this year, the manufacturer launched the Redmi Note 5 Pro, offering robust hardware in the form of a Snapdragon 636, upgraded cameras, and a massive 4000mAh battery.
The Mi A2 builds on that by offering a Snapdragon 660 — normally featured on devices that cost twice as much — along with even better cameras and an 18:9 screen. The main draw, however, is the fact that the Mi A2 runs Android One, ensuring it receives timely updates.
Honor is also on the rise in India, with the company emulating Xiaomi's strategy. Its latest phone — the Honor Play — is interesting for several reasons.The Honor Play is powered by the Kirin 970, the same chipset behind the Honor 10 and the Huawei P20 Pro.
The Kirin 970 is just as powerful as the Snapdragon 845, and it's incredulous to think that the Honor Play is offering such enticing hardware for the equivalent of $290 (₹19,999). For gamers in particular, there isn't a device that comes close to the Honor Play in this segment.
Xiaomi Mi A2 vs. Honor Play: Specs
|Category||Xiaomi Mi A2||Honor Play|
|Operating System||Android 8.1 Oreo
|Android 8.1 Oreo
|Display||5.99-inch 18:9 FHD+
(2160x1080) IPS LCD panel
Gorilla Glass 5
|6.3-inch 19.5:9 FHD+
(2340x1080) IPS LCD panel
|SoC||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
4x2.2GHz Kryo 260 + 4x1.8GHz Kryo 260
|Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 970
4x2.4 Cortex A73 + 4x1.80GHz Cortex A53
|GPU||Adreno 512||Mali-G72 MP12|
|Expandable||No||Yes, dedicated up to 256GB|
|Rear camera||12MP (f/1.75, 1.25um) + 20MP (f/1.75, 1.0um)
PDAF, LED flash, 4K video recording
|16MP (f/2.2) + 2MP (f/2.4)
LED flash, 4K video recording
|Front camera||20MP (f/1.75, 1.0um)
AI portrait mode
LED Selfie light
|16MP f/2.0 lens, 2.0um
1080p video recording
|Connectivity||LTE with VoLTE
Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0
|LTE with dual VoLTE
Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.2
GPS, GLONASS, FM radio
USB-C, 3.5mm jack
Quick Charge 4.0 (India)
Fast charging (18W)
|Fingerprint||Rear fingerprint||Rear fingerprint|
|Dimensions||158.7 x 75.4 x 7.3mm||157.9 x 74.3 x 7.5mm|
|Colors||Black, Rose Gold, Gold, Blue||Midnight Black, Navy Blue, Violet|
What the Mi A2 does better
The $250 Mi A2 is all about delivering a user experience that's devoid of clutter. Android One drives Google's vision for Android and makes it more accessible across various price points, and the Mi A2 is one of the best examples the program has to offer. For its part, Xiaomi has done a masterful job with its 2018 Android One phone, and if clean software along with timely security updates is a key factor in your purchasing decision, the Mi A2 is one of the best options for under $300.
Neither device is particularly striking on the design front — but the Mi A2 has a slight edge in this area as its back is subtly curved, facilitating better in-hand feel.
That said, the camera sensor on the Mi A2 protrudes quite a bit from the body, making the phone wobble when using it on a flat surface. On the subject of camera, the dual 12MP + 20MP configuration at the back is one of the best in this category. The Mi A2 consistently takes great photos in daylight and low-light scenarios, and the front camera is leagues ahead of what the Honor Play has to offer.
Xiaomi Mi A2 to the left, Honor Play to the right.
While the Honor Play did outshine the Mi A2 in a few scenarios, mainly because of the AI, the Mi A2 is a more consistent shooter that delivers great images in any lighting condition.
What the Honor Play does better
The Honor Play is designed to do one thing, and one thing only: beat every other budget phone when it comes to performance. The Kirin 970 allows it to do just that, and although the Snapdragon 660 in the Mi A2 is plenty capable, it isn't quite as fast as the Kirin 970. In synthetic scores, the Kirin 970 is closer to the Snapdragon 845.
As a result, gaming is a delight on the Honor Play. The phone handles visually demanding games with aplomb, and playing PUBG on the device is loads of fun. Honor is also offering custom haptics in titles like PUBG that enhances the gaming experience.
With a 3700mAh battery under the hood, the Honor Play also delivers much better battery life. The phone consistently delivered over a day's worth of use, and it comes with Huawei's fast charging tech that delivers up to a 50% charge from flat in just 30 minutes.
And unlike the Mi A2, the Honor Play has a 3.5mm jack and a microSD slot.
Which should you buy? Honor Play
With the latest batch of budget phones, it's easy to see that manufacturers are positioning their devices in such a way that there's a single marquee feature. The Mi A2 scores a double whammy as it comes with Android One and great cameras, but on the downside, it's missing out on key features like the 3.5mm jack and the microSD slot.
The Honor Play, meanwhile, is all about sheer performance. You're buying the device for the Kirin 970, and if you're a gamer, there isn't a phone that offers quite as much power. The Honor Play delivers performance that's on par with the likes of the OnePlus 6 for half the cost. That's a huge deal, but then again the camera isn't quite as good as the Mi A2 and you have to deal with EMUI.
Honestly, with so many great options in this segment, it's hard to go wrong with any one pick. Ultimately, it comes to what set of features you value over others. If you're more interested in playing visually intensive games on your phone, then the Honor Play is an easy recommendation. But if you want a clean user interface and fast updates, then the Mi A2 is a better bet.
The Honor Play is available for ₹19,999 ($290) for the variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. That's ₹3,000 ($40) more than what the Mi A2 costs in the country, and the premium is justified when you look at the hardware on offer.
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