Xiaomi Mi 4i vs Apple iPhone 6: the weigh-in

Is the affordable Xiaomi phone a match for the popular iPhone 6?

Before you accuse us of blasphemy, stop and consider this: affordability doesn’t mean low quality these days.

Don’t be all elitist and write off the Xiaomi Mi 4i even before the battle has begun. If expensive means better, Vertu would be making the best smartphones in the world.

Xiaomi’s new iteration of an old favourite is chock full of the freshest specs of the season. But is it enough to take down the iPhone 6? Read on to find out.

Big screen worthy

In terms of size, the iPhone 6 loses out by mere inches. It’s got a 4.7in display while the Mi 4i makes for a slightly more cinematic experience at 5 inches. A 0.3 inch difference might not sound like much, but if you’re using your phone to watch video, every little increment of screen estate counts.

But if it’s not a bigger display you’re after, let’s talk about picture quality which boils down to how clear your pictures are showing up. The Mi 4i’s Full HD screen clearly shows up the iPhone 6’s Retina HD display, even though it hasn’t got quite as fancy a name. The former’s pops with 441 pixels per inch while the iPhone 6’s only comes up to 326ppi, a significant contrast especially if you’re after detail.

And that troubling problem about squinting to see what’s on your smartphone’s screen in stark sunlight? Xiaomi’s got an answer to that in the form of Sunlight Display, an automatic pixel contrast-adjusting (not brightness, mind you) tech that will help you see your Mi 4i’s screen colours accurately even on the sunniest of days.

The pixels spell it out; what’s not to love about the Mi 4i’s display?

Winner: Xiaomi Mi 4i

Material world

The iPhone has been constantly heralded as the best looking phone, setting the design standard for smartphones. It was metal before it was cool to be metal, it made gold the new black, and even when it made a plastic phone (the iPhone 5C), plastic didn’t feel or look cheap.

Having said that, the iPhone 6 is sleeker than ever at just 6.9mm thin, a smartphone sculpture of glass and metal, so beautiful that even the antenna bands on its back do nothing to scar its supermodel smartphone status.

At best, the Mi 4i looks like a copy of the iPhone 5C. It’s unapologetically plastic in two finishes: matte and glossy. But you know what’s so great about life in plastic? It doesn’t have as unforgiving a material memory of being dinged by drops and it’s a lot cheaper (more on that later). And if you want to be extra careful, Xiaomi also has a fine selection of cases to enclose your Mi 4i in.

But still, the cold cold feel of metal trumps. Life is sadly superficial like that. We’ve tasted premium and we’re never going back.

Winner: Apple iPhone 6

Picture this

Most people have stopped carrying dedicated cameras around, since smartphone cameras are evolved enough to more than adequately capture every insignificant moment of your life. The iPhone 6 has chosen to maintain the 8-megapixels of its predecessors on its rear camera. What about the Mi 4i? It’s 13 solid megapixels of Sony and Samsung’s photo pedigree.

At this point, you’d probably argue that more megapixels does not make a better photo. So if you’re talking about sensor size, the Mi 4i’s f2.0 sensor trumps the iPhone 6’s f2.2 for better bokeh. Although the two tone flash of the Mi 4i looks suspiciously familiar…

If you’re after the perfect selfie, the Mi 4i’s front snapper also looks the more likely to get the job done. Its 5-megapixel of photogenic quality and built-in Beautify mode will turn out a better profile picture than the iPhone 6’s paltry 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD front snapper (even though it now captures burst selfies).

Winner: Xiaomi Mi 4i

Power up

Powered by an A8 chip, the iPhone 6’s processor is dual-core at best while the Mi 4i’s Snapdragon 615 processor is a multitasking masterly octo-core. The former also runs at a lower speed than the Mi 4i’s speedy 1.7Ghz, but we’ll be testing it out for real world stutter.

In terms of storage, the iPhone comes out tops with its multi-flavoured offerings of 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and the mega 128GB. The Mi 4i only comes in the boring-tasting 16GB flavour, with no microSD slot to boot. So you best be hoarding your files in the cloud, or clearing it out frequently. The Chinese phone company has said that it might be releasing other storage variants in the future if demand calls for it.

Winner: Xiaomi Mi 4i

Battery, battery, battery

Yes, the iPhone 6’s display might be smaller, but if you think about it, the Mi 4i’s battery is disproportionately larger at 3120mAh compared to the iPhone 6’s 1810mAh. And that Sunlight Display tech doesn’t take away from promised battery life because it’s not about changing brightness but contrast instead. We witnessed a teardown of the Mi 4i and saw how its innards like the circuit board had to be redesigned to fit the massive battery yet not give the phone the girth of a binger.

Of course, other factors like charging time comes into play, but based on what we’ve seen, the Mi 4i takes this round for its thoughtful interior design.

Winner: Xiaomi Mi 4i

OS-some

This is where the mirroring of Apple works in Xiaomi’s favour. If you like how simple iOS looks, but still desire the tweakability of the Android system, MIUI is the operating system for you. It chucks the unnecessarily disorganised look of the Android aside for the everything laid out bare layout of iOS 8, a happy marriage of iOS 8 and Android Lollipop.

Yes, iOS 8 is a lot more open than its elders with the addition of widgets and third-party keyboard permissions. But when it comes to giving you full control of your iPhone, there's still a lot left to be desired. 

However when it comes to app quality, the App Store still wins over the less judgemental Google Play Store. By that, we mean it feels like they let every app in, and not in a good way.

Winner: Xiaomi Mi 4i

Verdict

Well, well, what do you know? In terms of pure numbers, the Xiaomi Mi 4i is positioning itself quite strongly against the Apple iPhone 6, perhaps to refute all accusations of it being just a copycat.

And there’s a bigger factor in its favour - the cost. For all of those specs listed above, the Xiaomi Mi 4i is only S$279 (RM755) compared to the significantly more expensive RM2549 iPhone 6 for the same 16GB. It’s your call. Or rather, your disposable income’s call.