MyBroadband used the Xiaomi Redmi 9A smartphone for a week, and the experience was far better than expected for a device that costs R1,699.
Smartphone development cycles have accelerated, and technologies used in premium devices quickly filter down to mid-level and entry-level phones.
Affordable smartphones are therefore improving all the time, which raises the question of how these devices stack up against premium phones.
To find out, MyBroadband researcher Wikus Steyn purchased the Xiaomi Redmi 9A and used it for a week.
The Xiaomi Redmi 9A runs Android 10 and features a Mediatek Helio G25 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and an impressive 5,000mAh battery.
These specifications are in line with what flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5 had in 2014.
Here is the feedback from Steyn after using the Xiaomi Redmi 9A for a week.
After using the Xiaomi Redmi 9A for a week, two things stood out — how little of the processing power of my phone I used and how far technology has progressed.
While the Xiaomi Redmi 9A can be classified as slow when you compare it to a modern flagship device, there was nothing in my day-to-day use that it was incapable of doing.
The device only struggled when I was actively navigating with Google Maps and having both Telegram and Whatsapp open, with messages coming through.
Swapping between the windows caused a delay, and it would often have to reload one of the apps as it ran out of RAM.
The biggest downside was not the raw processing power of the smartphone but getting used to the lack of features on the affordable phone.
The absence of a super-fast fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone and banking apps meant I had to resort to face unlock or typing a pin. It was normal a few years ago but now seems outdated.
The camera, which uses a single lens, was also a challenge as I found myself trying to change to a wide-angle camera for a shot.
Speaking of the camera, the 13MP images are good, but they did not compare favourably against photos taken with a high-end device.
I was also surprised to find a micro-USB port for charging, as I only had USB C cables around. While charging on the 9A is not fast, the phone makes up for it in actual battery life.
The combination of the large battery with the low power processor meant that I could easily squeeze out two days of use, even with heavy use, including a lot of GPS navigation.
Battery life may vary depending on use, but my previous-generation flagship device was dead by late afternoon with similar use.
I would have no problem using an affordable smartphone like the Xiaomi Redmi 9A when my main device must go in for repairs or is lost, and I need a temporary replacement.
For a more permanent replacement, however, I would look at a smartphone with more premium features. Though this may well be a mid-range device instead of the next flagship.