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META-REVIEW

Exactly why Xiaomi’s new Mi Note is “the best phone you can’t get in America”

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Xiaomi vice president of global operations Hugo Barra holds up a Mi Note
By Stefan Constantinescu
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Xiaomi, China’s fast-rising electronics company, recently released a new flagship phone called the Mi Note. The company is not going to sell it in the US, but several US-based publications have just tested it. Here’s what they thought—emphasis ours.

  • “It looks and feels like a device from a company that’s been doing this for a long time,” but at the same time “it’s generic and sterile,” says The Verge’s Chris Ziegler. The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey Fowler echoes the same thoughts, saying “The Mi Note is the best phone you can’t get in America.”
  • Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo piles on the praise, adding “the Mi Note is impeccably well built with premium materials and construction all around.”
  • How’s the screen? ”Nearly perfect,” according to Ziegler, who is a huge fan of the “glove mode” that’s coming in handy during this particularly cold winter in New York. Fowler said it was a bit dim, though, and he had to “crank it up” to get it to be as bright as that in an iPhone 6 Plus.
  • And what about the camera? Fowler and Amadeo call it the best Android camera phone currently on the market. That caveat, however—“Android camera phone”—means if image quality is your priority, Apple’s iPhone 6 models are probably better options.
  • Pricing is where the Mi Note blows past its rivals. At just $370, it’s half the price of the base iPhone and Samsung’s current flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 4. This is where Xiaomi could be a real threat to the incumbents—value and overall pricing.
  • But you sacrifice things like battery life and performance to get that budget price. Amadeo says Xiaomi’s software is “the clearest, fastest take on Android I’ve seen,” though Ziegler says the web browser stuttered and lagged. Fowler says both Apple’s iPhone 6 and Google’s Nexus 6 provide a zippier experience.

All three reviewers come to the same broad conclusion: the Mi Note is the best phone you can’t buy in America. That’s a situation that won’t be changing soon, though Xiaomi does intend to launch a US online store later this year, where it intends to sell smartphone accessories.

Still, Xiaomi continues to prove that it is a real force in the global mobile industry.

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