Xiaomi has been crowding the budget smartphone market with multiple models and variants at overlapping price points, all with impressive specifications that the competition has struggled to match. At the lowest end, the Redmi 4A (Review) has been a compelling phone ever since its launch in India eight months ago, and we have recommended it to anyone on a water-tight budget. Now, Xiaomi is replacing its entry-level Redmi 4A with the Redmi 5A and making a really big deal about this launch even though there’s very little difference between the two models.
In a sea of patriotically named phones such as Micromax’s Bharat line and the Karbonn A40 Indian(Review), Xiaomi is positioning the Redmi 5A as a desh ka smartphone. What exactly qualifies it for that title is unclear – it might be its low price, the fact that it’s made in India, or its promise of exceptional battery life. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this launch is Xiaomi’s limited-time.
We’re curious to see what exactly has changed, and what buyers stand to gain. Here’s our full review.
Xiaomi Redmi 5A design
There isn’t much to say about the Redmi 5A’s looks if you’ve used any entry-level Android smartphone over the past year or two. It’s all plastic, though the rear has a slightly metallic finish. Xiaomi says it will be sold in Dark Grey, Gold, and Rose Gold, though only the first two are listed as options for the first sale. Our Gold unit had a white front face, and we feel that the Dark Grey option with a black front would be more to our tastes.
The Redmi 5A has a 5-inch screen and there’s quite a lot of plastic above and below it. Still, it’s well suited to one-handed use. Grip is pretty good despite the 8.35mm thickness, and weight is quite manageable at 137g. When compared to the Redmi 4A, the differences are purely cosmetic. The two models vary by less than 1mm in terms of height and width.
There are capacitive navigation buttons below the screen which aren’t backlit, but that’s only to be expected at this price level. In a familiar Xiaomi touch, there’s a status indicator right below the Home button which is completely invisible until it lights up when you’re charging the phone.
The power and volume buttons are on the right, and there are two trays on the left – one for a single Nano-SIM, and another for a microSD card as well as another SIM. The camera at the back has a single-LED flash next to it, and the phone’s speaker grille runs along the entire lower back. There’s a Micro-USB port on the bottom and a 3.5mm audio socket on the top. One interesting touch is the presence of an IR emitter on the top, which you can use to control household appliances.
You get a charger and a Micro-USB cable in the box, but as usual, no headset. Interestingly, the company seems to be moving towards using Redmi as more than just a name for one product line – the box screams “Redmi 5A” on the front, sides and back, while the Xiaomi name and logo are much smaller and are almost tucked away out of sight.
Xiaomi Redmi 5A specifications and software
It’s a bit surprising that the Redmi 5A’s specifications are pretty much identical to those of the Redmi 4A, which it replaces. You get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, with four cores clocked at 1.4GHz. The screen measures 5 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 720×1280. There’s a 13-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, FM radio, and GPS are supported. You can choose between a base variant with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and a more expensive one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
The changes, if you can even spot them, are extremely subtle. The Redmi 5A actually has a slightly smaller battery, at 3000mAh down from 3120mAh. It also has a dedicated microSD card slot rather than the Redmi 4A’s hybrid dual-SIM arrangement. It uses Nano-SIMs rather than Micro-SIMS, and the maximum supported microSD capacity has gone up from 128GB to 256GB. That’s pretty much it – one feature that’s slightly worse, and one that’s a bit better.
Unsurprisingly, with the exception of the IR emitter, the Redmi 5A has no extras compared to its predecessor. Rather than spotlighting one particular feature such as a fingerprint reader, a front flash, a huge battery, secondary rear camera or an 18:9 screen, Xiaomi has chosen to stick with pushing out a workhorse all-rounder at this price level.