Xiaomi A1
Xiaomi A1

I've never reviewed a phone before, but the Xiaomi A1 is unique in that it is the first Android One phone available. Android One is awesome as it allows hardware manufacturers to ship a vanilla version of Android. Giving us the best of both worlds, awesome value hardware with a bloat-free Android experience. My main concern was how the coverage would be and what bands the phone would support.

Above, the phone is running Google maps on the Google Fi network. As you can see I'm getting 4G.

Long story short, at just over $200, this is an amazing phone. With a little better US network support, this would easily be my go-to device. As-is, I'm still exploring carrier options, but if you have GSM (e.g. T-Mobile), it should work fine.

I ordered a Xiaomi A1 from China to try out. I have Google Fi. I popped the SIM card from my Nexus 6p into the Xiaomi A1 and it works great! (In the SF Bay Area anyway). I plan to try a few more networks and I will post the results here.

Supported Networks:

T-mobile: 3g/4g
Google Fi (runs on T-Mobile): 3g/4g

I've copied the bands listed in the manual to the table below:

GSM900: 35dBm
GSM1800: 32dBm
UMTS band 1/8: 25 dBm
LTE band 1/3/7/8/20/38/40: 25.7 dBm
Bluetooth: <20 dBm
802.11 b/g/n: 2.4GHz and 5GHz

Unboxing

There was a slight dent in the corner of the box.

Though it does come well packaged.

There's a sticker on the screen.

Back of the phone, the large sticker is designed to be easily removable.

Sim card key.

USB-C cable, charger (which has a European plug unfortunately) and manual.

Notes on the dual sim.

And band information.

Android ONE, booting up.

Setup screen.

Prompt to insert a sim during setup.

Sim holder and my Google Fi sim.

Works!

Updating

It fits great in my Feiyu Tech SPG-C gimbal.

Specs

The display is an IPS LCD, not an OLED but looks great, 5.5" with an 1080 x 1920 resolution, covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

The processor is a last-gen Snapdragon 625, but unless you're doing heavy gaming, you'll probably never notice the difference.

The battery is non-removable and rated at just over 3000 mAh.

It has a rear mounted fingerprint reader and a front facing status light.

Both front and back cameras are dual cameras with 2x optical zoom.

Camera

Though the phone does have dual cameras, the lack of image stabilization vs. my Nexus 6p is noticeable.

Low light photos leave something to be desired and unlike most software on this phone, the camera is made by Xiaomi and not Google since Google's camera app does not yet support dual cameras. As expected, this Xiaomi camera is much less reliable than the Google app.

Focus can be slow or unreliable at times, but the 2x optical zoom is handy. For me, this is especially useful for macro shots. Both of these were taken on the A1

Point and shoot from the Xiaomi A1 vs the Nexus 6p, you can see the A1 is struggling with contrast, an issue I hope will be fixed in software, possibly by using the Google camera app if it should ever support these dual cameras.

6P

A1. Yes, I know it's rotated. It displays correctly on my computer when downloaded, but I believe the metadata in the image is wrong, hence the incorrect orientation in the browser. I'm leaving it this way, because it conveys the type of bugs you're likely to run into with the included camera app. I was holding both phones in the same orientation when these photos were taken.

Manually focusing the camera on the darker part of the image would fix this, but it's unfortunate manual intervention is necessary.

Root

With the war on general computing upon us, Android is unique in that we (the consumer) still have the choice to unlock or lock the bootloader. To root or not to root.

The choose to root or not to root is not even a question in my mind. If you know what you are doing, you should own your device and you should be able to do what you want on it. If you're not limited without root access on your device, no need to follow these directions, but if you say, want a malware and adblocking hosts file, root. Root now.

First, enable developer mode by clicking on the settings about button a bunch of times.

Unlock the bootloader

Reboot into recovery with adb reboot recovery. Ha! and check out the fastboot screen... if this ever comes to the USA, they're gonna have to change this:

Unlock the bootloader with: fastboot oem unlock while in recovery mode

› fastboot oem unlock
...
OKAY [  0.023s]
finished. total time: 0.023s

And reboot it, you'll see the unlocked screen:

Downloads

You'll need:

TWRP installer https://androidfilehost.com/?fid=817906626617943385 (source: https://forum.xda-developers.com/mi-a1/development/recovery-twrp-3-1-1-0-touch-recovery-t3688472, see under downloads)

Note that the zip installer is required, instead of the latest TWRP .img file (e.g. don't flash the .img from here: https://dl.twrp.me/tissot/). The zipinstaller with handle the a/b partitioning scheme.

The Xiaomi A1 recovery-3.1.1-1.img from here https://www.androidfilehost.com/?fid=745849072291685548 (source: https://forum.xda-developers.com/mi-a1/development/recovery-twrp-3-1-1-0-touch-recovery-t3688472, see under downloads)

TWRP

Reboot into fastboot with

adb reboot bootloader

Wait for the word "Fastboot" to show up w/ the bunnie and android again and boot into teamwin recovery with:

fastboot boot recovery-3.1.1-1.img

Enter your password if prompted (same as used when booting)

Swipe to allow modification

Hit Mount and you should see Disable MTP, which means MTP is enabled (enabled is good, that's what we want)

Now from your computer copy the zip over with:

adb push twrp-3.1.1-1-installer-tissot.zip /sdcard/

And on your phone pick Install Zip and pick the file you just copied: /sdcard/twrp-3.1.1-1-installer-tissot.zip

Swipe to confirm flash

Go back to the main menu and choose Restart -> Power Down and choose not to install TWRP when prompted.

After seeing what looks like another boot sequence, followed by a battery icon, your phone will have shut all the way down.

Now press and hold Power + Volume Up to boot into TWRP again

From your computer transfer the Magisk-v13.4-Pixel-beta2-build1.zip file onto the sdcard:

adb push Magisk-v13.4-Pixel-beta2-build1.zip /sdcard/

And choose to install it with TWRP. Choose Reboot System and you have root.

Hope this was helpful. If so, feel free to checkout my YouTube channel, get updates when a new article is posted by following on Feedly and read the the other guides at nathan.vertile.com/blog
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