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Xiaomi’s Mi A1 is a flagship Android One phone for India

Xiaomi’s Mi A1 is a flagship Android One phone for India

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Xiaomi has announced the Mi A1, a new flagship phone largely focused on the Indian market with the tagline of “created by Xiaomi, powered by Google.” It has a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, a metal body, and a dual-camera system that includes a secondary telephoto lens for 2x zooming and portraits with shallow depth of field.

If that sounds familiar, well, Xiaomi isn’t shy about it:

Like the near-identical Mi 5X announced for China recently, the Mi A1 has Qualcomm’s increasingly ubiquitous Snapdragon 625 processor — which we’ve found to strike a great balance between performance and battery life — and a fairly standard 3080mAh battery. The phone charges over USB-C, unlike Xiaomi’s more budget-orientated offerings, and the company is even including a custom 380V charger that it says is designed to handle India’s frequent power spikes.

The most distinctive feature? Stock Android

But the Mi A1’s most distinctive feature is its software: it runs stock Android, not Xiaomi’s own MIUI layer, and is part of Google’s Android One program. Android One launched three years ago with a focus on India as Google aimed to codify the Android experience for low-end smartphones. It hasn’t been a huge success, but Google undoubtedly wants to expand the program to a wider range of products to ensure that people continue to have access to the latest versions of its software and services. 

To that end, the Mi A1 will get Android Oreo by the end of the year, and Xiaomi says it’ll be “one of the first” phones to get Android P — which we haven’t heard anything about — in 2018. 

Xiaomi's brand is strong in India — the Chinese company captured 17 percent of the Indian smartphone market last quarter, according to figures from IDC, placing it second behind Samsung’s 24 percent. The two top-selling phones in that period were Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4 and Redmi 4, helping the company grow its sales 328 percent year on year.

The Mi A1 is significantly more expensive than those phones, starting at 14,999 rupees (about $234) for a 64GB model with 4GB of RAM, but it's less than half the price of something like the OnePlus 5 or a quarter the price of an iPhone 7 Plus. It won't be a top seller for the company, then, but it represents an intriguing upmarket move for the Android One program and a potentially compelling combination of software, hardware, and price.

Beyond India, Xiaomi is releasing the Mi A1 in more countries than usual — a total of 13 markets in Asia, ten in Europe, ten in the Middle East and Africa, and four in Central and South America. It'll be available on September 12th.