And what I’ve normally found interesting are big-screen Android phones, although during the past 12 months I made myself finally use an iPhone long-term (the iPhone 12 mini). For three reasons, that is – to be able to see things from an Apple user’s perspective, to get familiarized with the fabled Apple ecosystem completely, and… well, to finally try a small flagship phone for once.
And while using the tiny iPhone 12 mini was a fun experience, it recently felt like the time has come for me to go back to my roots – big Android phones. So a few days ago I went looking for what’s new. And I don’t just jump onto the mainstream flagships. Everyone already knows them, me included. I usually look for well-priced mid-rangers packing the most features that matter to me.
And I’m happy to report that Android mid-rangers have come a long way. You’ll have to try hard to stumble upon a bad one these days. In any case, here’s what I landed on…
I chose the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus 5G, here’s why…
What a name, huh? Rolls right off the tongue…
Now, my colleagues already know that I’m pretty fond of Xiaomi phones, as in my experience they’ve been well-priced and fairly reliable long-term. My dad still uses the good old Xiaomi Mi Max 2 I gifted him many years ago; the phone is still working fine, despite countless drops.
So now why did I pick this particular 2022 Redmi mid-ranger?
Well, because yes, it has everything I want from a slab phone – or shall we say, almost everything. Nothing’s perfect, right? Here’s what I was looking for, what attracted me to this phone, and what I got…
True dual stereo speakers – a rare sight!
This might be one of those cases where something sounds cool and promising, but it turns out – it’s not that great. This Redmi phone mainly caught my attention for having “true” dual stereo speakers – one on each side of the phone.Now, what are “true” dual stereo speakers? Well, most brands claim that their phones have dual stereo speakers, but what they really mean is one main speaker and a much weaker earpiece doubling as a second speaker. It’s not the same as two, equally powerful speakers on both sides of the phone.
Usually the main speaker provides the lows and mids, while the earpiece just spits out high frequencies. It does give a stereo-ish effect, and it’s better than nothing, but it’s not what I would call “true” dual stereo speakers.
However, this Redmi boasts equal dual stereo speakers, tuned by JBL nonetheless. And yes, since a phone’s sound quality matters to me just as much as screen quality, I was excited. The last “true” dual speaker phone I used was the Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate, and that one sounded top tier! Watching YouTube videos or movies with good speakers is the way to do it.
But on this Redmi… Well, yes, the speakers sound loud and clear, and since they’re on opposite sides of the phone – there’s a satisfactory stereo effect too, but… Even that iPhone 12 mini I was using had more bass.
See, this is an Android phone issue in general – Apple’s iPhones crush the competition when it comes to bass reproduction, and only gaming phones like the ROG measure up to that level, among just a few others (check out our phones with best speakers list). Regardless, the Redmi still sounds better than most Android phones I’ve tried. I still appreciate its even dual stereo sound.
An SD card slot, because I still like to own things, not “rent” them
Remember when you bought movies and music, and you owned them afterwards? Those were good times. Now we pay for subscription services, so not only are we required to remain online to listen to our music or watch our movies, but you have to pay for several services to be able to access everything.For example, a lot of your favorite movies could be on Amazon Prime or Disney+, but some of the newer stuff you want to watch may be on Netflix… So, it’s a bit of a mess.
I still like to own things, and over the last 15 years I’ve amassed a huge collection of show seasons, movies and music, which I’ve backed up from DVDs, just before every laptop and PC I started owning stopped having a DVD player. All of my childhood fits in a 256GB SD card, and I like to keep this content with me at all times.
Needless to say, iPhones don’t have SD card slots. You’re expected to rely on subscription services, and if you want more storage – you’re charged a hefty price for it; you can’t expand it yourself. If your iPhone breaks catastrophically for whatever reason, you cannot “rescue” your content, since it’s not on a removable SD card. I don’t like any of this.
So I’m happy that this new Redmi actually has an SD card slot. And with that big screen and nice dual stereo speakers, when I travel – I can easily watch tons of great content, or listen to countless albums, even if there’s no Wi-Fi or 5G available, like is still the case on some planes.
Wow, a headphone jack in 2022!
No joke – I’ve used plenty of phones in the past eight months, but this is the first time I’m seeing a headphone jack in 2022. It’s like an old friend from highschool you missed a lot at first, but now you had almost forgotten about.
I went fully wireless, but all of my Bluetooth headphones have the option of using a cable too. And wireless headphones are convenient, I’m not going to argue against it. The problem is – I don’t feel like charging countless devices all the time. I have to remember to charge my mouse, my laptop, my phone, my tablet… and now my headphones?
Those I regularly forget about, so if I suddenly feel like listening to some tunes, for example during an unplanned road trip – surprise – no battery. The cable is in my bag, but my iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack… Great…
Well, that won’t be a problem anymore, since the Redmi has one. I admit I won’t be using it regularly, but it’s a great option to have. As they say – better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
A 120Hz display, would you look at that?
The iPhone 12 mini is a nice AMOLED screen – no complaints about how it looks, but it only has 60Hz display refresh rate. This means that what’s happening on screen isn’t as smooth as on most modern flagships, and even many mid-rangers, which have moved on to 120Hz.
This Redmi that I’ve got also has an AMOLED screen, a big one too, and it goes up to 120Hz. I used to think this wasn’t a big deal – an unnecessary gimmick that’s barely noticeable, but after using the 60Hz iPhone I have to admit that it’s a nice upgrade. It makes the phone feel faster in general too.
Long battery life, extremely fast charging
And I mean it, it’s almost scary – 120-watt charging on a mid-range Redmi phone? But yeah, it has that. And Xiaomi was kind enough to give me the actual 120W charger out the box too, whereas Apple and those other folks like Samsung do not.
And while this super fast charging is cool, what matters to me more is the actual battery life. The iPhone 12 mini – and there’s no nice way to say it – has sucky battery life that was never improved via a software update, as I had hoped.
I always had to keep it on a wireless charger, and when I went on a trip for even a day, you best be sure that battery would be dead by the time I came back home. So now I had to lug a charger too, anticipating that the phone wouldn’t even last me through one full day. Without a doubt in my mind – the weak battery life is the biggest reason I gave that iPhone up.
And similarly without a doubt, I knew a Xiaomi / Redmi phone would have great battery life before I even bought it, because they always do. At least all of the many Xiaomi phones that I’ve ever used; they never disappointed. This Redmi one lasts me about two days, or a full weekend, and I’m more than happy with that. It’s acceptable.
And when it’s time to charge it, that on-board 120W HyperCharge, as Xiaomi calls it, tops up the battery from zero to 100% in just about 20 minutes. You can literally just stand there and watch the battery percentage go up. Crazy!
I love the iPhone’s flat-edge design, I didn’t want to give that up
Xiaomi’s other phones like the Xiaomi 12 Pro still have curved edges, which I don’t like the feel of, nor the look of, but this Redmi phone happens to have flat edges, not unlike the iPhone that I was using. So it doesn’t feel like I was giving up on a design that I love.
Although honestly, and likely unsurprisingly to you, this Redmi doesn’t feel as nice as an iPhone. The iPhone’s flat edges are truly flat, you don’t feel any ridges from the corners to the display, but you do here. The corners on the Redmi have small ridges and you can feel where the display starts. So it’s not perfect, but a flat enough design for me to still like it a lot.
Don’t underestimate a phone’s design and feel in the hand! You pick up your phone all the time, it has to feel nice and premium!
By the way, check out our Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G review to learn more about this phone.
The downsides to parting with an iPhone
What follows are the downsides from this switch; ones that I, personally, found annoying. They stem from switching to Android in general, and some are Redmi issues in particular. So you may not experience all of them, especially if you switch from an iPhone to a flagship Android phone. But again, here was my particular experience…The Redmi came with a lot of bloatware. While Apple gives you awesome apps you may actually want with your new iPhone – like iMovie and GarageBand – the Redmi has pre-installed: Amazon Shopping, AliExpress, Booking.com, Facebook, WPS Office, and more. You can uninstall all that, but the last thing I want to do when I get a shiny new phone is spend a long time deleting bloatware.
This is also not a phone that can compete with any modern iPhone in terms of performance. iPhones are pretty much the best-performing phones right now. Even if Qualcomm’s chips start surpassing Apple’s soon, the iPhone also has the advantage of running super-optimized software – iOS. Android phones, however, don’t. Android isn’t tuned to run on just four or five phones – there are thousands.
So this Redmi does stutter from time to time, and things as simple as trimming a video challenge it on occasion. None of this was an issue on the iPhone.
And last but definitely not least – Google… Android’s big daddy, that pesters you to connect your data with it and enable Google Assistant not just once, but twice in the span of your first day of using a new Android phone. And just in general, I don’t feel as confident about my privacy on Android as I am on iPhone.
Obviously there’s more to complain about, like the lesser camera quality, but this is an affordable mid-ranger after all. What it already offers, such as its dual speakers and big 120Hz AMOLED screen are impressive enough.
But there we have it, some compromises I inevitably had to deal with. Win some, lose some, right?
In any case, I’m happy to be back to a bigger form-factor like I’m used to. Modern Android mid-rangers are pretty amazing, and again – you’ll hardly go wrong with any of them, so long as you choose a brand that you trust. And if you need help with choosing, we have countless reviews for you to check out, right here.
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