Yes, the Xiaomi Mi 4 does look like an iPhone, it’s pronounced “shao-me”, and no, it isn’t terrible.
Forgive us for the presumption, but these are the questions that have been fired at us every time we’ve taken the phone out to take a call, or as we sat down at a table to reply to a text.
There is no denying the visual similarities to the iPhone, but then again we could say that for any rectangular handset with a touchscreen, buttons and a few holes for charging and headphones.
Mimicry aside, there are a few features that set the Mi 4 apart from not only the iPhone, but Android handsets in general.
Me, You, I and the Xiaomi user experience.
The first of these features is the MIUI OS (pronounced me-you-I) which is Android with a skin though it does borrow some elements from iOS.
There is no app drawer and apps are arranged alphabetically so they’re easy enough to find and they can be rearranged to suit your tastes.
Unlike iOS, MIUI can be customised to your tastes through downloadable themes.
Every Friday core UI fixes, bug fixes and other patches are meant to be sent as an over the air update. Over the period we had the Mi 4 these updates were few and far between, but it was the Festive Season and we did get two updates.
Xiaomi has also kept the bloatware to a minimum as well. There were only two apps we would consider bloatware on our review sample. Security, an anti-virus and file cleaning app and Mi Remote which turns your handset into a TV remote thanks to an infra-red sensor on the Mi 4.
What’s inside is tops
While we’re talking about infra-red, lets have a chat about the innards of the Mi 4.
The handset uses a Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdrgaon 801 chipset with a quad-core Krait 400 CPU running at a 2.5GHz base clock speed. The speed is fine, you won’t be getting flawless performance at this pricing point, but you didn’t expect that.
What does make all the difference is the 3GB of RAM Xiaomi has installed. Apps launch quickly and run smoothly as a result of the high memory and even gaming doesn’t feel like as much of a chore as it does on something like the LG G4 Stylus.
For storage the model we have is only fitted with 16GB and no expansion support. This is a peeve that we could overlook but won’t because having to download our music everytime we get a new phone uses too much data and takes too much time. Please let us use our memory cards in your next Mi Xiaomi, please.
Signing up for a Mi Account will give you 5GB of Mi Cloud storage which syncs your contacts, messages, photos and more at intervals that you set.
Of course, this being an Android phone, you could also just use the Google’s services, like Drive, which come pre-installed.
The outside isn’t half bad either
The 5inch IPS LCD display is flanked by two rather thin bezels. We point this out because when holding the handset in some positions your palm may come into contact with the display. The result is that typing can be a bit of a pain if you have big hands.
The plastic at the rear of the handset feels sturdy and as if it could take a knock or two. The stainless steel frame is pretty and gives the handset an almost premium look to it.
We should point out that while the charging point is square, a standard, “trapezoid” microUSB charger will fit, though it might not work.
We had to use the included charger because our other chargers either didn’t charge the battery properly or charged it for a moment before stopping.
Other than that you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone and mic combo input, an unlock button, a volume rocker and a hidden SIM tray around the outside of the phone.
Show off your world
At this point there isn’t really much we can say about 13MP rear camera we can say that you don’t already know. There are settings which allow you to manually adjust the focus but the controls feel a bit clunky in comparison to those we saw in the LG G4 Beat.
The auto-focus works well and you could use the camera to take snaps of your holiday or while you’re out at night, provided there’s a decent amount of ambient light.
Video can be recorded at UHD and Full HD at 30 frames per second while HD video can be recorded at 120 frames per second.
The front camera is pretty awesome.
Xiaomi knows we love selfies and has fitted the Mi 4 with an 8MP f/1.8 snapper that can record Full HD video at 30 frames per second. The images it captures are great and we didn’t need to employ the beauty filter once, though some people would’ve asked us to.
We make no bones about the fact that a good battery life is what is most important to us in a smartphone. Displays that can push UHD resolutions are fine but make no difference to us if they can’t actually be used because they drain the battery.
In our standard battery punishment test the Mi 4 managed to last just over 6 hours before failing to our barrage of HD video on a loop.
Once charging though the battery is full within two hours, with an hour’s charge bringing you up to the 75% mark.
Of course the price paid for this relatively long battery life is the bulk of the handset which measures under 9mm in thickness.
The Mi 4 is by no means perfect but it is a sterling example that Android doesn’t have to play second fiddle to iOS. The UI is well thought out and the handset feels like it was built to last everything but a nuclear attack, we’ve even dropped it once or twice with no damage.
The greatest problem with the Mi 4 is also its greatest feature. The Mi 4 is just a good phone that does what it says on the box, there are no gimmicks, no attempt to do more than it is able and that’s fine and not good enough at the same time.
We would have liked to see something other than a cool UI that sets the Mi 4 apart from the rest of the herd but a good battery life and good camera sensors are nothing to stick our noses up at.
Our final verdict is that the Mi 4 is definitely worth a look and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by what China is doing behind the bamboo curtain, we certainly were.