I've always bought mobile phones outright and in 2013 Google made my choice easy when they introduced their much-lauded Nexus 5 - a powerful, fully-featured phone at a reasonable price. Sadly after 2 years the battery of my beloved Nexus started to give out and so the time came to source a replacement.
I would've likely bought another Nexus 5 but the model no longer receives Android updates. Google's latest offering is the Pixel which is lovely by all accounts but with a starting price of $1079 it was never in the running. I searched for an alternative but a good value option just didn't present itself. That was until I was scouring AliExpress during their annual Singles Day Sale and came across the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 for $229 including shipping to Australia.
Just over a week later it arrived direct from China:
I've been using this phone for a few days and a couple of people have asked if it's any good... so far the answer is a resounding "Yes!".
The Note 4 hardware is truly outstanding. The metal case feels solid and the screen is utterly gorgeous. Perhaps it's possible that the displays of more expensive phones look nicer but I'm honestly not sure how. The camera takes great photos and there's a handy fingerprint reader which far from being the gimmick I first thought is actually a seamless way to unlock the phone.
On the software side Xiaomi have their own Android-based OS called MIUI. I was fully prepared to wade through Chinese menus or scour the 'net looking for ways to flash new ROMs. But it turns out that MIUI has a strong and growing ecosystem. I followed the simple instructions to update to the latest Global ROM which is English language by default and includes all of the usual Google Apps (removed from the Chinese ROM because teh Goog have apparently seriously displeased the Chinese government).
The only confusion I encountered was the lack of an Australia locale setting. This has been requested by several users and so will no doubt eventually make it in to MIUI. In the meantime I told my phone it was in Cuba and then ticked the box to get time and date from the network which did the trick.
After initially being so impressed by the Redmi Note 4 I've been trying hard to find some fundamental flaw which might explain how such a high-quality, fully-featured device can sell for well under 250 bucks delivered. But it's starting to seem like I might not find one...