April 26, 2016 at 8:51 am #50591
I had to eventually replace my Nexus 4, the charging port broke. Every time I plugged it in to charge the charging indicator would flash on off, it would turn itself off and on and it seemed to drain power faster than it actually used. I tried the obvious things such as a factory reset, some suggest opening it up and checking the connections but that’s a little beyond my skill level! I struggled on with the phone for a while thanks to wireless charging, but this is slow and at times unreliable. The phone was three years old so I think I got my money’s worth out of it.
So what did I replace my Nexus 4 with? I like good value for money phones, this is what attracted me to the Nexus 4 in the first place! I also like pure Android. The current Nexus phones are just too big for my liking, the Nexus 5X would otherwise be perfect but I just wanted something a bit smaller. The new Nexus 5X is also a little more expensive than I’d prefer.
My attention was then drawn to the new wave of Chinese phones from the likes of Xiaomi and Huawei. The Honor 7 seemed good in terms of high specs for a good price. But again a little more than I wanted to pay. But I’d recommend checking them out if you are looking for mid range with great specs. So next was the Xiaomi Redmi 3.
The stand out feature of the Redmi 3 is battery life. It has a massive 4100mAh battery which is a game changer for anyone who has been struggling with the Nexus 4 battery (I was charging twice a day!). It was the same width, a little thinner, and a little taller, but otherwise a similar size and a bigger screen.
So I took the plunge and bought one from an ebay importer. I don’t have a lot of experience with importing Chinese phones so can’t offer a lot of advise, however, if your phone is shipped from China, you will have to pay import tax which could
add another £20-£30 to the price. I looked for one that was shipping from the UK so I knew there was no hidden charge, this will be priced a little higher of course. There are numerous importer websites too, some have mixed reputations and remember that when buying from outside of the UK you aren’t protected by the usual distance selling laws. GearBest seems to be popular, and they have a UK warehouse too although at the time they had no stock so I ended up on ebay. There is a small risk of buying a fake phone so check seller feedback and remember to verify your phone when it arrives, Xiaomi have a page on their site that explains how.
My ebay experience was positive, the phone arrived the next day and the phone checked out.
So what about Android and the Pure Nexus experience?
So, my new phone came installed with the MIUI Android distribution. This is actually one of the most popular versions of Android. It started out life as an independent project but was taken over by Xiaomi. It is still heavily community driven. Out of the box it is more iOS like than pure Android, that’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to make it more like the Android you are used to on your Nexus.
First recommendation, wipe your device and flash a new image. There is a small chance that your phone has been intercepted in its journey and malware has been installed. I don’t know how common this is but I wouldn’t want to risk it.
You have a couple of options to restore a more Android as it’s meant to be feel to your phone:
- Use an MIUI theme that has the look and feel of traditional Android.
- Install the Google Now launcher.
I tried the latter and was pleased with the results. The app tray is back, the icons are back, Google Now is back! I also installed the Google clock and Google search and it’s really beginning to look like my old phone! In fact I installed the whole suite of Google apps, I can see why they spent time separating things like Google services etc out into apps from core Android, it makes it really easy to come back into the Google fold if that’s what you want.
So if you are looking for a cheap Nexus 4 replacement that beats the old model in every way but costs half the price then I can recommend the Redmi 3, especially the battery life. I have gone from once or twice a day charging to every couple of days. I just went the whole weekend without a charge and I was using it fairly heavily. I have installed all the apps I was told to remove to save battery, I have notifications on for sports and news apps, even GPS. No, it’s not pure Android and I won’t be getting Android M, let alone N, any time soon. But, for £100 phone I can live with that. It is better than my Nexus 4 in every other way (actually, it is missing NFC, which I did use occasionally). The MIUI install does have some nice features, I like the one handed mode, ability to lock apps, the vast array of configuration options.
Note, there is also a Redmi 3 Pro which has 3gb RAM and 32gb storage. I probably would have got that but it was released the week after my purchase!