back to article Chinese takeaway, hold the Google: Xiaomi Mi4 LTE Android

When I reviewed the mid-range Samsung Galaxy A5, I reckoned that Samsung didn't have much to fear from Chinese OEMs who will sell you more phone for less money. Xiaomi Mi4 LTE Android smartphone Xiaomi Mi4 Are the masses really going to be bothered to track down one of these ever so slightly grey Chinese imports, pay …

  1. Lamont Cranston
    Joke

    Fixed battery, no SD slot,

    and a dodgy version of the Google apps APK? Shut up and take my money!

    1. Shades

      Re: Fixed battery, no SD slot,

      Despite the fact that its actually the "Google Services Framework" that is required, not a "Google Apps APK", I don't understand why the reviewer needed to download a "dodgy" APK when the phones own Google Installer app prompts you to download the Google Services Framework when you try to install any actual Google Apps?

      1. Al Taylor

        Re: Fixed battery, no SD slot,

        Those screen grabs are of the "installer APK" that I found on-line. It installed the Google Services Framework and then offered me the option to install the various Google apps. Or you an download them from the Play Store.

        The "Google installer" app that appears in the third screen grab was not pre-installed on our review device.

  2. Jon Massey
    FAIL

    USB

    I can see that type-A connector annoying the tits of anyone who buys this phone. I've got tens of micro-B chargers and cable scattered around the home and office and almost every other device uses them - what could have possibly been the advantage of using a nonstandard one?!

    1. Paul Kinsler
      Joke

      Re: USB - a nonstandard one?!

      Well, what's the point of having a whole /universe/ of different connectors to chose from, if you have to keep using the same boring old one over and over and over again? Defeats the point, doesn't it?

    2. Lamont Cranston

      Re: USB

      My cable draw is awash with mini-Bs. I live in hope that it will one day come back into fashion and displace the popular micro-B (of which most of mine seem to be falling apart).

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: USB

      They'll both be obsolete soon enough, as I'm willing to bet all Android phones will be using USB-C in a year or two.

      I have a feeling even Apple will eventually switch to USB-C as well, though they can't do it too soon after just going through the Lightning change. Maybe they'll wait for a future faster USB standard to make up for USB having half as many data pins.

  3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Oh well, nice concept anyway...

    If you have to replace the entire UI just to get it in a language you can understand, then that's a fairly major strike against it.

    If you then ALSO have to essentially replace it's back end loader so you can interoperate with the major name service that it barely acknowledges as being it's selling point (having a G'Play icon but none of your G'Play installed apps worked?), then that's another major strike against it.

    And having to use a dubious-security third party boot loader to get those first two corrected? Call it "Strike Three" and retire that chump at the hump.

    I *might* have been interested even despite the lack of compatible signal bands, despite the lack of an SD card slot, and despite the limited internal storeage, but tossing those three atop the already growing pile of issues it's already got? That's not merely a "swing & a miss", that's taking the ball to the face & standing there drooling merrily on yourself while the Ump tries to coax you off the field with a squeaky cat toy.

    "Come on little guy, come play with the nice squeak toy... That's right, come on... Gooood boy!"

    1. Shades

      Re: Oh well, nice concept anyway...

      So much nonsense.

      "you have to replace the entire UI"

      The launcher appears to use localistion, apart from, oddly, the pulldown settings WiFi button, which is labelled "Gildas". The Settings menus all appear to use localisation. The main apps all appear to be use localistion and labelled in local language in the MIUI launcher. The only things that appear to be in Chinese (other than the stock browser) are apps that are specific to Chinese services, but would you use them even if they were in English or replace them with something else that you know anyway? Hardly the biggest hardship in the (phone) world.

      "have to essentially replace it's back end loader"

      Have to? Only if you want to use some Google services. And what you're actually talking about is the Google Services Framework; basically an API, not a "back end loader" that, amongst other things, all GApps use to talk to Google servers, rather than that function being coded individually into each and every app. It also allows you to sign in once and all GApps will work, rather than having to individually sign in to each GApp.

      "And having to use a dubious-security third party boot loader"

      Did you just see the words "boot" and "loader" once and thought you'd throw them in here? Again, what you're talking about is the Google Services Framework, which is not a "boot loader" and it seems the article is even wrong or the reviewer overlooked a little detail. There is a "Google Installer" on the phone which, when you try to install any GApps, tells you you need the Google Services Framework and prompts you to install it! So no dubious security, and no third party!

      ---------------------------------------------

      Here's a tip: You know what I do when I don't know what I'm talking about? I STFU, ask pertinent questions or do some research...

      "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." - Benjamin Franklin

      "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

  4. Alex Walsh

    That looks expensive for a Chinese phone. Constantly see bargain websites full of stuff like this:

    Elephone P8000- 3GB RAM, 16GB ROM, 64 bit Octa-core CPU, 4150mAh, fingerprint scanner, Slot for 128GB expandable memory, 2G+3G+4G, 5.5" FHD, Lollipop OS- £110 (with code).

    God knows the quality or the (non existent) after sales support though.

  5. David Paul Morgan
    Facepalm

    What's the Mandarin for Caveat Emptor?

    well,

    something of a hobbyist handset!

    Three years ago, I bought a non-name dual sim chinese handset.

    yes, once I installed the google services and changed the launcher it was really good. Also had a micro-sd slot. Cost me about 100GBP. came with an extra swappable battery too.

    Unfortunately, after 14 months it stopped charging.

    I really hope Xiomi do well in the west. we need an alternative to Samsung over here and Sony seem to be dropping the ball - or at least, advertising that they have the best ball!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the Mandarin for Caveat Emptor?

      What's the Mandarin for Caveat Emptor?

      A set of characters that looks surprisingly like the Roman alphabet sequence: Made in PRC

  6. romanempire
    Coat

    Moto G 2nd Gen

    At least as good and half the price (with UK support and lollipop) :-)

    Just sayin :-)

    P.

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Most of the above commentards are obviously fanbois - Android is there to tinker with and put your own apps in unlike the iPhone (remember, there's no I in iphone, or free will, creativity, individuality etc).

    AOSP is the Google-free Android, supported officially (and unofficially) by most big players - this means they can do what they want without being tied to Google - my own Nexus 5 (from Google) runs AOSP Lollipop with no Google apps at all. For Youtube, Gmail etc I run it on my tablet.

    Also, the 1800 LTE is not really an issue as people have tweaked some phones to run on different bands - the bands are limited mainly by the local phone regulator not the hardware manufacturer

    1. Paul Shirley

      Not so much fanbois as a demonstration of what Google haters try to forget, most western Android users want the Google experience enough to jump through hoops if deprived of it. The few that don't want it just root and remove Google. That and some blatant ignoring this is a grey import from a region that doesn't feel any need for more than the G Play Store on their phones.

      For the professional haters it's probably best to keep quiet, reminding the world that Google has no control over large parts of the Android market doesn't fit the fiction they want to spin ;)

  8. phil dude
    FAIL

    no sd slot..?

    I thought dual sims was the Asian standard...

    FYI, I have cheap Moto-E 4G and 128GB of SDXC works just fine - you need to let Android format it otherwise it complains.

    How does Ted Tso, author of EXT4 work for Google and Android phones will not read EXT4?

    P.

    1. Shades

      Re: no sd slot..?

      "How does Ted Tso, author of EXT4 work for Google and Android phones will not read EXT4?"

      Are you sure about that? I mean, really sure? The Linux Kernel (at the heart of Android) has built-in support for EXT4. Most internal storage on (newish) Android phones is now EXT4. This is also why most (newish) Android phones, when plugged into a computer via USB cable, use MTP rather than USB Mass Storage mode... Windows (love it or hate it, but being the most used PC OS), out of the box, doesn't play ball with EXT4 hence MTP is in, hiding EXT4 from Windows, and Mass Storage Mode is out.

      Also, variants of Android have used EXT4 for many years. I used to use a SD Card with an EXT4 partition to increase the "internal" storage of my (Cyanogen Flashed) HD2, which only came with a measly 512mb of actual internal storage. Cyanogen treated the EXT4 partition on the SD card as an extension of the internal memory for apps, while I could still use the main partition, as Fat32, to store files (and used generally as a dumping ground for all the crap apps downloaded/cached).

  9. Evil Graham

    Another caution

    Getting a broken Mi4 fixed in Blighty is going to be a challenge.

    Getting insurance for your device may not be straightforward either. I've been shopping around recently for device cover (for my clumsy offspring) and many policies won't cover eBay imports. Worth checking the fine print before you buy.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Another caution

      Different brand, but same issues.

      I bought an Umi Zero just before returning to the UK last Christmas, a great phone, but sadly the GPS system wasnt working, so I returned it for an exchange or repair.

      They have JUST told me the replacement will be shipped some time in the next two weeks - so I expect it will arrive in time for THIS Christmas.

      Thats my face, stuck with a stupid, borrowed SIII that keeps insisting my 80MBps fibre connection is "too slow".

    2. fattybacon

      Re: Another caution

      If it breaks, you go on YouTube and work out how to replaces the screen yourself. :) You only paid £160.

      Alternatively, Tesco were selling that basic but great Nokia 105 for a quid the other day. Buy your clumsy offspring a few of them instead.

  10. Ian Emery Silver badge

    PS.

    Why are the forums currently being hosted in Costa Rica ??

  11. Rafael 1
    Headmaster

    Get the Mi4 out of it’s impressive box

    The post is required, and must contain letters.

  12. kartstar
    Thumb Up

    I'm a proud owner of a Xiaomi Mi Note Pro which I bought from honorbuy.com a few weeks ago. It's an amazing phone, so light, thin, and the build quality is amazing - it's better than that of my previous phone, which was a Motorola Nexus 6. I've encountered similar minor issues to the ones described in this article namely with the Google Services Framework needing to be installed, along with some elements of the native Xiaomi apps being in Chinese. Once you get the Google apps installed though there's no need to use the Xiaomi apps.

    Some other pros I've noticed:

    1) Weekly updates. From what I read the developers code away Monday to Wednesday, and then push out those changes to the weekly build which is released on the weekend.

    2) The camera is the best I've ever had on a phone - better than my old iPhone 6 Plus.

    3) The screen to phone ratio is great

    4) The Xiaomi Piston 2 headphones which I got at the same time for US$15 are better than any of the Sony, Sennheiser, or Beats headphones I've had previously.

    5) The permissions model is amazing - e.g. don't want that one app to have location access? You can just block it for that app, rather than either having to turn location services off which affects ever app.

    As of yet I haven't experienced what would be the biggest con of owning a grey-import phone - warranty. Hopefully I won't ever need to experience it. Battery life doesn't compare to my old iPhone 6 Plus either... I'd become used to being able to go through a whole day and night without needing to charge my phone, and now with moderate to heavy use the Mi Note Pro dies at around 8pm or so.

    If Xiaomi ever start releasing their phones in western markets and conduct their business in the same way as they do in China, I'm convinced after a few years their market share will be making significant inroads on the Samsung and Apple dominance.

  13. ahitagni

    It would have been easier for the person reviewing the phone if he had installed the international ROM which is available freely in Xiaomi website. After installing it everything becomes in english language and all the Google Apps gets installed. Xiaomi always offered both the option of with Google in international rome and without Google in Chinese Roms

  14. GlobeTrot

    We use Xiaomi phoned extensively in India, and they come completely localized to meet all local requirements. Try one of those out...

  15. Dave Horn

    No security issues? Really?

    All this faff took about an hour so it’s really no major hardship and the use of a hacked APK doesn't seem to have raised any security issues.

    So you've basically given an app of entirely unknown and frankly dubious provenance pretty much unrestricted access to everything on your phone? How can this not "raise any security issues"?

    Did you go through every permission that the APK asked for? Do you know what you can inadvertently allow dodgy apps to do on your phone? Take a look at this list...

    http://developer.android.com/reference/android/Manifest.permission.html

    To be blunt, I think you might want to consider changing the passwords of any accounts you've logged into on this phone, especially bearing in mind that with incorrectly granted permissions an app could silently bypass two-factor authentication.

    If you want a cheap Google phone, I think you'd be better off going for a cheap Nexus n or, if available, reflash with a custom ROM from someone like Paul O'Brien of MoDaCo fame.

    1. Al Taylor

      Re: No security issues? Really?

      Hence my use of the word "seem". Am I recommending you do this? No.

      As for APK permissions, yes I did go through them. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. If I was planning on using this device as my own, I'd flash a new ROM to be 100% sure.

  16. Al Taylor

    Mi4 ROMs

    Have to put my hands up here, I flat overlooked Xiaomi's MIUI ROM pages when writing this review. If you head over to the MIUI site at http://en.miui.com/download-263.html you'll find a Global version of the Mi4's Android ROM that includes the full Google framework and English versions of most (but not all) the stock apps. Just download the ROM, copy it onto the Mi4 and then launch it using the Update app. That didn't actually work for me, I had to boot the phone intro recovery mode (power/vol up for 5-10 seconds), wipe everything it and then reboot into the new ROM. Once done the new ROM fired up perfectly.

    Cheers,

    Alun

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excellent but beware band support

    The Chinese phones are excellent value for money and if you're prepared to stray further from the main brands there are lots of good choices for significantly less than this Xiaomi phone. There is a good English-language website which can be found quite easily which reviews all the handsets in detail - googling 'Chinese phone reviews' should bring it up. Anyway, fiddling about with Google frameworks is a bit of a faff but do-able for most El Reg readers. Better to have an English firmware but you'll probably only get this from the bigger names. The main issue is watching out for which bands they support - naive me thought the point of 3G was that it would be a global standard, how wrong! I'm on Vodafone in the UK which means 800Mhz, whereas the majority of Chinese phones use 850Mhz. There are some that do 800 but it cuts down the suitable handset choices significantly.

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