Xiaomi Builds the Greatest $100 Android Phone to Date: The Redmi 3

It often gets talked about in tech journalism and reviews as late how Android smartphones in the $200-$300 range are just as good, if not better, than the flagship phones from companies like Samsung that run in the $600-$800 range, and in many cases it seems very true when you consider phones like the ASUS Zenfone 2 that hav more RAM (4GB, to be exact) and onboard storage space (a whopping 256GB onboard, potentially) than almost any other phone out there. And while sub-$200 phones are certainly starting to shape up (consider solid $130 offerings from, of all things, Polaroid), I think this might be the first time that anyone can talk about a phone that costs literally $100, and yet has plenty of power and is plenty of phone for most people, and it’s in a beautiful all-metal package.

The $100 Superphone

Xiaomi recently announced the Redmi 3 smartphone, and it is a $100 phone that seriously delivers.redmi3

While when I started out with the Dark Android Project, I wanted to steer clear of smartphones as I think they are inherently not secure due to the inclusion of the average SIM card. But the feedback I get about my phone reviews and announcements is such that I feel it fitting to talk about certain very special smartphones as they arise and are released, and an impressive phone that only costs $100 is certainly something to talk about.

The 5-inch Xiaomi Redmi 3 (pictured) comes in the now-ubiquitous color options of gold, silver/white, and black, and the MIUI 7 user interface seems to be relatively clean compared to some phones by other manufacturers (such as the terrible custom EMUI by Huawei), which is a nice, but it’s uncertain right now as to what version of Android this device will come with, but most likely it will be Lollipop. It’s not Marshmallow, but for a $100 phone, who’s really complaining about that.

What are the Specs?

Before I get into the other specs, here’s the really amazing thing with the Redmi 3 for the price: It has a 4100 mAh battery! And it’s a mid-sized phone…this thing must last for almost multiple days on a charge! Ha! I wish $800 phones came with a battery that size! The battery alone would have made the Redmi 3 worth $200, but to only cost $100? Well, here are the rest of the specs:

  • 5-inch 720P HD display (also good for battery life)
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor (eight cores!)
  • 2GB RAM (yes, I wish it was more)
  • 16GB storage with microSD card slot (supports up to 128GB)
  • 4100mAh battery with 5V/2A fast charging
  • 139.3 x 69.6 x 8.5mm; 144g
  • 13-megapixel, F/2.0 rear camera with PDAF for fast 0.1s autofocus – 5-megapixel F/2.2 front camera (very respectable camera)
  • Dual SIM (second slot doubles as microSD card slot)
  • All-metal body

That is a powerful phone, even if it cost double what Xiaomi is asking. Many tech commentators have been saying as late that with Android phones it’s a race to the bottom as far as price and still being loaded with all the features that a consumer could need or even want, and I think the Xiaomi Redmi 3 is the first real example of that, instead of it all just being a hypothetical. The dual SIM card feature is great if you are a global traveller (I don’t purchase phones that don’t have at least dual SIM, anymore), and the fact that this thing has an octa-core processor is unbelievable (and a much improved octa-core processor over the Snapdragon 615).

How Could This Phone Be That Perfect?

There’s nothing not to like here…except that it will likely never be sold in the US, and if you rely on carrier-offered phones/plans, you’re likely never going to see this available (really, get away from carrier lockdown and lack of choice, unlocked phones have long been the future). Xiaomi has only recently entered the US market, and they’re certainly not ready to sell all of their models in the US yet, if ever (thought a $100 powerhouse would be a winner in the US market, in my opinion). But if you’re an enterprising person, I’m sure you can find someone selling the Redmi 3 after its January 12th release date in China on either eBay or Amazon (and of course use gyft.com and you’ll be able to buy the phone from either place with Bitcoin!).

The other caveat–though this wouldn’t be a problem if you wanted to use the Redmi 3 for a Dark Android-styled device–is that when you buy the Chinese version of this (don’t worry, it’s easy to change the UI default language to English), it won’t include the Google Play Store. This might be a problem for some, but you’d easily be able to use alternative app stores like the Dark Android Project-recommended F-Droid open source app repository, or even Amazon Underground if you wanted (which would give you access to apps most are more used to). The Redmi 3 will likely get offered in markets outside of China, too (just not the US), and once there, models sold in other countries will likely include the Google Play Store. So if you want to wait for models from countries other than China, feel free to do that.

Is it Worth Buying?

Regardless of those difficulties (and whether these things are actually difficulties really depends on you), you are getting a ton of phone for $100 here, and a beautifully built one with that all-metal body, and I think it’s worth owning, if anything just to experiment with so much for power for so little money. Just a little over a year ago, I think this phone could have cost $400 easy. What a world we live in where such devices cost so little. But keep in mind, this is only a world you can enter if you leave the carrier-locked system of Verizon, Spint, and the like.

Carpe lucem!