In this day and age of iterative updates, launching a new smartphone is easier said than done. The stakes are even higher in case X, Y or Z product has tasted success - it becomes tough to follow the act. The Redmi 6A is a classic example. It’s not that the Redmi 6A was a bad phone – it was quite good, and Xiaomi has numbers to back it. It’s just that it wasn’t as good as the Redmi 5A before it.
With the Redmi 7A, it seems, Xiaomi has gone back to the drawing board and tried to fix things for good. The result is a smartphone that’s better in almost every way, over its predecessor, so much so that Xiaomi has the confidence to offer a 2-year warranty on the Redmi 7A – which is a first for any Xiaomi product in India.
The Redmi 7A has a better design, faster performance, improved cameras, and a battery that refuses to die. All this and Xiaomi has still managed to price it the same as the outgoing Redmi 6A. Xiaomi has launched the Redmi 7A in India at a starting price of Rs 5,999 for the base variant with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, while the top-end variant of the phone with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage will cost Rs 6,199. For a limited period – until July end – Xiaomi will be selling the Redmi 7A at a reduced price of Rs 5,799 and Rs 5,999 respectively – to commemorate its 5-year anniversary in the country.
Xiaomi has come a long way, but if there’s one thing that has remained constant – it’s the company’s knack for making good-looking, well-built products. That and the fact that Xiaomi still manages to surprise with its ability to pack high-end features in products that should cost more in an alternate universe – not in this universe though. But more on that later.
The Redmi 7A is a good-looking, well-built product too. But if you were expecting change à la Xiaomi’s other budget offerings, namely the Redmi 7 and Redmi Y3, that’s not happening. Instead, what you get is an all-plastic unibody shell in blue, black and gold colours – sort of like the Redmi Go. The plastic gradually wraps around the front and has this smooth matte finish that feels good in the hands. The Redmi 7A is surely a big step-up from the Redmi 6A in terms of design and build quality.
There’s another thing that has changed though – for better or for worse is something that will depend on how you perceive your ideal smartphone to be. The Redmi 7A is thicker and heavier than the Redmi 6A, and while it’s nice to see Xiaomi putting a larger battery inside it, it doesn’t help that there are other Xiaomi phones with big batteries and slim chassis. You can’t even say, that’s what you get at entry-level pricing, because the Realme C2 has a similarly sized battery and yet, it’s lighter.
Xiaomi makes up for it by applying a layer of nano-coating material on top of its new phone which makes it the first phone in its category to have some sort of splash-resistance. Note that Xiaomi’s isn’t using watertight seals or P2i hydrophobic coating here, but, claims the Redmi 7A can survive accidental spillage better than competing products.
Xiaomi opting for a MediaTek processor in the Redmi 6A raised many eyebrows – the company has had a good run with Qualcomm for as long as one can remember, especially in India, after all. The Redmi 7A sees Xiaomi going back to Qualcomm, one more time, and the results – as expected – are markedly better.
More precisely, the Redmi 7A is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor paired with 2GB RAM and up to 32GB storage which is further expandable via a dedicated micro-SD card slot. Straight off the bat let me tell you that, 2GB RAM does not make the cut for Android anymore – brands should simply start phasing it out already. And it does not help that Xiaomi does not have a 3GB RAM option, at all. Realme does with the Realme C2 but then Xiaomi can always bring the price difference argument to the table – which seems fair.
While I like the core hardware – the Redmi 7A is the most powerful phone you can get at its price point, but also, the Realme C2 with a MediaTek Helio P22 is not very far behind – 2GB RAM is limiting.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about performance. It’s quite good actually, provided you’re aware of its limitations. The Redmi 7A is not a multitasking beast or a phone you can play demanding games on – which means, the phone will slow down every time you have too many apps opened at the same time, and don’t even think about playing PUBG on this one. For everything else, for the basics like making phone calls, WhatsApp-ing, video calling, scrolling through social media and web browsing, and playing light games like Candy Crush, the Redmi 7A should have your back.
Come to think of it, that’s the plan – Xiaomi’s A-series phones have always served as a reliable entry-point for first time smartphone users looking to make a switch from a feature phone, without burning a hole in their pocket. And the Redmi 7A should serve that target audience well.
Battery life is another area where you can say Xiaomi can’t go wrong – the Redmi 6A with its seemingly tiny 3,000mAh battery was no slouch either. But, the confidence that a 4,000mAh battery brings along, well, that’s hard to beat. We all like big batteries, don’t we? The Redmi 7A has a 4,000mAh battery, so, yay?
Jokes aside, the Redmi 7A is easily a one and a half to two-day phone depending on your usage – you'll just have to figure out what you’ll do with all that battery life, to say the least. Being a budget phone means there’s no fast charging – this one takes just over two hours for a full charge.
I know, that’s a big statement but the Redmi 7A is a good start. Smartphone cameras are getting better – it's high time that entry-level phones get their due too.
Unlike the Redmi 7A China variant, the Redmi 7A that will be sold in India has a 12MP rear camera with Sony’s IMX486 image sensor – the same sensor that’s found in the company’s more expensive Mi A2 and Redmi Note 7 phones. So technically, the Redmi 7A has good camera hardware.
While one can argue, smartphone cameras are not all about the hardware, you do need a good sensor so your software can do remarkable things with it – with the photos it captures. You can tweak software; you can’t change the hardware.
Which is where the Sony IMX486 sensor becomes a key selling point for the Redmi 7A. Now I am not saying that the Redmi 7A can capture Mi A2-like photos – it can’t - but it can surely capture better photos than any other phone at its price point, particularly in ideal lighting situations. And Xiaomi can probably make it better in future, through software updates. Not to mention, it should also push rivals to do better – which is when, it would be a win-win for everybody.
As for the Redmi 7A, its 12MP rear camera can capture some good-looking photos in good light with good detail and colours that are mostly true to source – if a little oversaturated. Dynamic range could have been better, but all in all, the Redmi 7A should suffice all your social media posting needs, well. Tricky and low light does take the better of it – which is when it produces soft and mushy photos with noise – but, what you get here is better than anything else in the market right now.
There's one area where the Realme C2 trumps the Redmi 7A though – its dedicated 2MP secondary camera shoots better portraits. The software-induced bokeh you get with the Redmi 7A simply fails to make the cut.
The same is true about the Redmi 7A’s 5MP front camera – it is average at best, although it does take marginally better selfies in low light thanks to its wider aperture.
While I love the Redmi 7A’s cute and comfy form factor, I can’t help but point out that Xiaomi’s phone somehow seems frozen in the past in one aspect – even though all its budget phones have moved ahead. At a time when Xiaomi’s own Redmi 7 and Redmi Y3, and rival phones like the Realme C2, are offering a dew-drop notch display for maximum real estate, the Redmi 7A comes with a 5.45-inch 720p+ LCD display with 18:9 aspect ratio – same as the Redmi 6A.
Top that with its average brightness levels, and the Redmi 7A’s screen starts to falter when you’re out and about in direct sunlight. Also, while the Realme C2 gets Corning Gorilla Glass 3, the Redmi 7A has no protection at all.
Entry-level phones are getting better. The Redmi 7A is a classic example. The Redmi 7A is a no-nonsense entry-level phone that you can bet your hard-earned money on. It looks good, feels good, metes out good performance, shoots nice photos in good light, and has a battery that refuses to die. But it’s not perfect – no smartphone is. Its display is its weakest link and the fact that Xiaomi now serves ads across the lengths and breadths of its MIUI software doesn’t bode well with many. You can of course look at the Realme C2 as a viable alternative, but Xiaomi has a trump card up its sleeve – a 2-year warranty that no other brand offers.
Photos by Saurabh Singh