First Impressions: Xiaomi Mi3

So, I got the Xiaomi Mi3 yesterday and now that I’ve had some time to play around with it, it’s time for some first impressions.

First off, the packaging. The Mi3 came in a plastic sealed box, which frankly was a surprise – I’m used to getting my electronic devices opened by the store staff. Out of the thin plastic, the box is crisp and has sharp edges. It has a nice feel to it and the fit is so snug I had to admire the workmanship (OF A CARDBOARD BOX).

Admittedly, I was surprised with the Mi3’s size. My previous phone was a relatively small Galaxy Y and well, I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. Anyway, it’s sleek and light (again, a surprise for something big) and its rounded off edges make the Mi3 nice to hold.

What’s in the box? The Mi3, a data cable, the super small charger, and the Quick Start guide… plus a small thingamajig. After consulting the guide, I found that it’s used to push the SIM tray out. So yes, the first order of business was to stab my phone.

I fired it up and was promptly blown away by the screen. Just… wow. The MIUI is so smooth –did I mention the Philippine version shipped with Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box?

I played around with the themes a little bit, and I have to say that checking out the available themes can be an exercise in option paralysis. Most of them mix Chinese characters with English letters, so the fickle can get those out of the way at least. I like the one specially made for the Philippines, especially the clock with a jeepney logo.

The camera is awesome, with HDR, macro, ISO, and exposure options. It can burst up to a 100 shots, but we’ll get into that once I write a more in depth review.

Test shot

The only problems I’ve encountered so far is with the Messaging app which has crashed a lot. I can’t fault the phone for that though, as it seems that it was the theme launcher that was causing the problem.

Anyway, so far, the Mi3 is awesome. Color me, a reklamadora, impressed.

How I got the Xiaomi Mi 3

7AM. I woke up, which is impressive because I typically work at night and am therefore not awake before noon.

8AM. I was online, checking the Mi Philippines Facebook page and reading the comments. Sizing up the competition, so to speak.

10AM. I’m excited. I’m checking out the Mi website, Lazada, and Facebook for updates. There were reports of an exploit, allowing people to purchase the Mi 3 before the 12noon go time. I decide to stay put – knowing that they would be within their rights to cancel my order if I didn’t follow the rules.

11AM. I’m starting to get hungry – and worse still, my hands are sweating. I start counting down the minutes before 12noon.

12noon. I refresh the Mi Philippines website as instructed, click through to Lazada, and go on to purchase the phone. From my order sheet, I had a phone secured by 12:01.

1:35PM. I’m still waiting for a confirmation email.

1:45-ish. The Xiaomi Mi 3 is sold out. (I kept checking to see just how long it would take.)

3:00PM. I still haven’t received an email or text confirmation from Lazada so I called up their customer service hotline to ask whether or not my order came through. I was told that yes, it did and that Lazada Express was the courier used. I was also told to expect it around Saturday. They were extremely accommodating.

4:30PM. I received a call from (what I’m assuming as) Lazada’s fulfillment center. I was asked if I could receive the delivery today. I asked, “Today?” “Yes ma’am,” said the lady on the line. “Today.” I wondered whether it was a mistake, but she had said that a. it was for the Xiaomi Mi 3 I purchased this very afternoon.

6:30ish. I received the delivery, paid the courier, and was holding the phone – barely 7 hours after I ordered it online. I knew Lazada was probably eager to impress their new partner, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT fast.

I’ve been playing around with it since, and I am very impressed with the Mi 3. I’ll come up with a full review one of these days – in the meantime though, I’ll be somewhere else, playing with the new phone.

The Mid-Range Phone Dilemma

How is the Asus smartphone faring in the Philippine market? Not so well, primarily because, hey, they haven’t quite started yet.

Personally, I’ve been following news about their Zenfone line since it was announced at the last CES. Then the unthinkable happened. Absolutely nothing. At least not until April, when they officially announced/released the phones in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia — there was however no sign of it in the Philippine market despite being a Southeast Asian country, apart from a little teaser-ish survey about smartphones that has since been removed from their Facebook page. There is considerable interest, as there was a time when every other post on their wall involved the Zenfone. (They instead kept pushing their newly refreshed phablet, the Asus Fonepad 7.)

In May, PH tech sites reported that though there isn’t a set release date yet, we should expect the Zenfone line to debut in these parts in June. It is June, and no news yet.

I want the Zenfone 5. I’ve wanted it since its debut in China, and I’ve been tempted a couple of times to buy one (two, actually) online and have it shipped or to have an overseas-based friend to buy one for me.

But now I’m torn. I’ve been waiting for the Zenfone 5, but Xiaomi, a Chinese consumer electronics company, has just opened their PH website and their own PH Facebook page. While waiting for the Zenfone, I had stumbled upon the Xiaomi Mi3’s positive reviews. It’s often compared to the Zenfone 5 since they’re in the same size division and the same general price range, give or take a few thousand pesos.

The Xiaomi line (from Xiaomi’s Facebook page)

Compared to the Zenfone, the Mi3 has a higher screen 1080p resolution, a faster 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, more RAM, and a bigger 3050 mAh li-ion battery. Reviews say that the OS can be updated to Android 4.4 KitKat. The higher specced Zenfone 5 (A500CG), the one with a 2.0 GHz Intel Atom Z2580 CPU and 2 GB of RAM, is more comparable but it probably won’t land here any time soon, considering Asus’ seeming disinterest on this part of the Pacific.

Anyway, I’d forgive the Mi3’s lack of an SD card slot if they price it reasonably (it’s actually a flagship phone, but the lower spectrum model is arguably mid-range). According to Xiaomi, they’re going to release their products here one by one. So again, the question goes back to, “When?” I’ve been holding out getting a new (mid-range) phone since the start of this year.

No one seems to want my money.