Launched earlier this year, the Redmi 4A proved to be incredibly successful for Xiaomi, with the brand selling over four million units in eight months. The company is now looking to continue the same with its successor, the Redmi 5A. At the outset, there isn't a whole lot that's changed from the Redmi 4A: you get the same internal hardware, and while the exterior has been slightly tweaked, the phone has the same design language.
So how else does one differentiate a phone that doesn't stand out from its predecessor? By lowering the price point. The Redmi 5A is available for just ₹4,999 ($77), making it Xiaomi's most affordable phone to date. That's the same tactic the company used to its benefit earlier this year with the Redmi 4A, and by launching the 5A for a whole ₹1,000 less, Xiaomi is continuing to lead the way when it comes to value in the entry-level segment.
Xiaomi is marketing the device as "desh ka smartphone," which translates to the country's smartphone. By making it available for under ₹5,000, Xiaomi is looking to attract first-time buyers that would otherwise be content with picking up a feature phone.
Xiaomi Redmi 5A What you'll like
There really wasn't much wrong with the Redmi 4A from a design standpoint, and as such Xiaomi's didn't radically alter the aesthetic with its successor. The phone retains the 5.0-inch display and plastic construction, but the back has a coating that gives the device a metallic feel. Another subtle change is the addition of subtle curves at the point where the back meets the sides, which makes the phone easier to hold.
The Redmi 5A is lightweight at 137g, and although you get sizeable bezels at the top and bottom, the smaller screen allows you to use the device one-handed without any issues. You get an LED notification light, capacitive navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen, IR blaster, and a speaker located at the back of the phone.
On the hardware front, the Redmi 5A is packing the Snapdragon 425 — the same chipset that powered the Redmi 4A. In fact, the only major change when it comes to the hardware is the battery size, which is a downgrade from the 3120mAh unit on the Redmi 4A. That said, you won't have any issues getting a day's worth of usage from a full charge.
Elsewhere, you're looking at 2GB/3GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of storage, 13MP rear camera, 5MP front shooter, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and FM radio. The phone comes with MIUI 9 out of the box, and all the optimizations carried out by Xiaomi in terms of reducing app load times and improving stability make a significant difference when it comes to using the Redmi 5A on a day-to-day basis.
The Redmi 5A has rock-solid build quality and reliable performance.
I'm using the variant with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and even on the base model performance is generally snappy. That said, the phone isn't ideal if you're looking to play visually-intensive games. There's also the odd stutter when transitioning from one app to another.
The Redmi 5A retains the same 5.0-inch 720p display that was used in the 4A, and while the panel won't win any awards, it is perfectly serviceable. Like all other Xiaomi phones, you get the option to adjust the color balance and use a blue light filter to reduce glare at night.
The full loadout of MIUI 9 features is available on the Redmi 5A, including the Dual Apps feature that lets you run two instances of an app at the same time, new themes and sticker packs, notification pane that has bundled notifications and in-line replies, and so much more.
With the advent of Jio, the number of people using two SIM cards simultaneously has increased. Xiaomi offered a hybrid SIM card slot in its early 2017 phones, with the secondary SIM tray doubling up as the microSD slot. However, with a sizeable portion of the audience requesting a standalone microSD slot, Xiaomi has switched out the usual tray for one with a dedicated microSD slot in addition to two SIM card slots.
That's not the only customization for the Indian market — Xiaomi started bundling a custom wall charger for phones sold in India to withstand the wildly varying voltages seen in most parts of the country, and the Redmi 5A comes with the charger in the box.
Xiaomi Redmi 5A What you won't
The main drawback of the Redmi 5A is the camera. Like the Redmi 4A, you'll have to put a lot of work to get a half-decent image. That's true for all devices in this segment, and the Redmi 5A is no different. Photos taken in daylight look washed out and grainy, and image quality is particularly woeful in low-light shots, with the phone refusing to lock in on a subject on the first try.
The camera on the Redmi 5A isn't worth your time.
The front camera is similarly sub-par, and while the device offers an HDR mode, it takes far too long to process photos.
Xiaomi also missed a trick by not including the fingerprint sensor on the Redmi 5A. Bundling it would've been a significant feature addition — one that would've served to differentiate the Redmi 5A from its predecessor — but that isn't to be.
And while it's great that the phone comes with MIUI 9 out of the box, the custom ROM is still based on Android 7.1.2 Nougat. As of now, there's no information regarding Xiaomi's Oreo update plans, and it'll likely be a long time before the update is available for the device.
Xiaomi Redmi 5A Bottom line
The Redmi 5A once again demonstrates Xiaomi's dominance in the entry-level category. There isn't a single manufacturer that offers quite as much value as Xiaomi in the sub-₹10,000 segment.
While there isn't a whole lot to get excited about on the design front, the Redmi 5A is a reliable phone that should last a few years without any major problems. The 720p display combined with the Snapdragon 425, all-day 3000mAh battery, and MIUI 9 make the Redmi 5A one of the best options in this category.
The ₹4,999 price point isn't permanent, but is valid for just the first five million units. Following that, the Redmi 5A will be sold at ₹5,999, the same price as its predecessor. Even at that price, you're getting a lot of value for your money.
The main competition for the Redmi 5A is Xiaomi's own Redmi 4. Coming in at ₹6,999, the Redmi 4 has a fingerprint sensor, and is powered by a Snapdragon 435. Then there's the Redmi 5, which is set to go on sale in China from later this month. If you're in need of a phone right away, then the ₹4,999 Redmi 5A is a great option. But if you can wait a few months, the Redmi 5 promises to be a worthy upgrade with its 18:9 panel.
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