Meet Xiaomi’s Redmi 1S

Last November the Moto G came seemingly out of nowhere and very quickly won me over. Despite the skimpy onboard storage (which may not be as much of an issue as you might think) the G was a rarity in the world of low-cost Android devices—it was actually really good!

Fast-forward to this, the year of the Chinese Android smartphone, where there’s a new contender for the title of low-end Android champ. It only supports 3G in Europe and Asia, but it’s so cheap that I got someone to pick one up for me in Hong Kong. I took possession of it last night and will be writing about it for the next few days.

Redmi 1S (with boxes)

Meet Xiaomi’s Redmi 1S.

The Redmi is the second version of Xiaomi’s Hongmi (“red rice”), the phone that was already selling out in China before the Moto G was even released here. With a wider availability its successor seems to be doing just as well, selling out in India within seconds every time a new batch is available.

Redmi 1S vs. Moto G

Here’s a quick and dirty comparison between the Redmi 1S and the Moto G XT1034, which I think is its closest competitor here in the Americas:

Redmi 1S Moto G (XT1034)
Screen 4.7 inch / 720p 4.5 inch / 720p
Processor 1.6 GHz Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400
Storage 8 GB 16 GB
Camera 8 MP 5 MP
Battery 2,000 mAh 2,070 mAh
Data 3G in Asia and Europe 3G, AWS in North America
Roaming 2G in North America 2G in Asia and Europe
Price $999 HKD (mi.com/hk) $249.99 CAD (staples.ca)

And here’s the kicker: at today’s rates, $999 HKD = $143.42 CAD. That’s cheaper than the bargain-basement Moto E—in Canada, anyway.

Redmi 1S Backside

But wait, there’s more… While storage on the XT1034 has been bumped from 8 to 16 GB, the Redmi’s 8 GB can be augmented via micro SD. The Redmi also supports two SIM cards—and though there is a version of the Moto G with dual-SIM support (the XT1033), there is no version of the G with a removable battery like the Redmi has.

When it comes to software and services, however, I can no longer compare these two low-cost heroes directly. Where the Moto G has full support for Google Play Services the Redmi 1S runs MIUI, a made-in-China version of Android where Google has effectively been banned. I’ve used older versions of MIUI on rooted Nexuses in the past, but never on a device built expressly for Xiaomi’s custom firmware. Tune in tomorrow for more about that!