[Updated] Xiaomi should fix its Android One software or forget about the Mi A4
New updates are being added at the bottom of this story…….
Original story (published on July 27, 2020) follows:
Caution: Brace yourself as this one is going to be a long read.
Heavily customized skins are often cited as the reason Android vendors take ages to update devices. Perhaps Google saw the introduction of Android One as one way of mitigating this issue, promising “faster access to the latest Android OS updates and regular security updates.”
Besides offering a clean, clutter-free UI, Android One also guarantees three years of software support. Of the three, two years will include updates to a major Android OS and the third year will only bring security patches.
In Google’s own words, Android One is supposed to be smart, secure, and simply amazing, but that’s far from reality. The reality is quite different. The reality is quite painful, sort of.
Take Xiaomi and the Mi A line of devices, for example.
The curious case of Xiaomi Mi A series’ software updates
It’s undeniable that Xiaomi knows its hardware. It’s the reason most people buy MIUI-powered Mi, Redmi, and Poco phones, not just the Mi A series. However, hardware is as good as the software that runs on it and unfortunately, this is where Xiaomi fails. Terribly.
The Mi A software experience isn’t the most pleasant out there, especially its stability (or lack of) for that matter. It doesn’t sit well with what Google terms as “smart, secure, and simply amazing.” It gets even more interesting when it comes to “faster access” to the latest software, more so major OS updates.
Let’s rewind a couple of years back.
Xiaomi Mi A1 software update issues
The Mi A1 launched with Android Nougat pre-installed and currently sits on Android Pie, the second and last OS update as promised by Android One. However, the upgrade process from one OS to another was a painful experience for many.
The release of the stable Android Oreo update only lasted long enough for Xiaomi to roll back the software due to bugs. A patched-up version rolled out a week or so later, but then again, Xiaomi pulled the update due to even more bugs a week or so later.
While it is understandable Xiaomi might have been looking to keep up with Android One’s promise of faster access to new OS updates, it became apparent that this wasn’t necessarily a good idea.
I’d rather wait a little longer than receive a buggy update, unfortunately, this is not true for everyone. Xiaomi seemingly caved in to pressure from device owners to release the Mi A1 Oreo update before it was ready for the masses and ended up paying the ultimate price.
Unfortunately, it seems Xiaomi picked up no lesson while at it and when the time to push major OS updates to the Mi A1 successors came, things worsened.
Xiaomi Mi A2 & Mi A2 Lite software update issues
The Mi A2 and Mi A2 Lite arrived pre-installed with Android Oreo. Although the update to Android Pie had to wait until the following year, reports of bootlooping devices forced Xiaomi to roll it back not long after releasing it.
In the next update that had supposedly addressed the bootlooping issues, Xiaomi introduced another bunch of issues that once again forced the Chinese company to halt the rollout not long after. The patched-up version was re-released a couple of weeks later.
These issues carried on into the most recent updates to Android 10 for both devices. The Mi A2 got it first, but the firmware was pulled back merely a few days later. A new build was re-released about a week later but still buggy.
Xiaomi continues to steady the Mi A2 ship with frequent monthly updates, but annoying bugs still pop up here and there. The story is not so different for the Mi A2 Lite, which got updated to Android 10 in March.
Picking up from where the Mi A2 left off, the Mi A2 Lite Android 10 update came with plenty of bugs, but the standout one managed to brick multiple devices, forcing Xiaomi to halt the rollout a couple of days later.
Xiaomi Mi A2 and Mi A2 Lite may have received their deserved two-OS updates as dictated by Android One, but after the experience many device owners went through while switching from one OS to another, I wouldn’t wish another major OS update on them.
Xiaomi Mi A3 software update issues
The experience some Mi A3 owners had while updating to Android 10 isn’t one they’d wish to come across again. Similar to its predecessors, the device’s first Android 10 stable build was released half-baked.
Another three weeks later, the update was once again re-released to Mi A3 owners, but it didn’t fix many annoying bugs. As a result, unhappy Mi A3 owners demanded refunds from Xiaomi due to the failed Android 10 update attempts.
This demand fell on deaf ears and instead, Xiaomi continued its attempts to address the buggy Android 10 update through OTA fixes, with a more stable version arriving three months after the first stable build was released.
If anything, Xiaomi had the option to delay the initial rollout for another two or three months and release a bug-free Android 10 build, but because the company probably wants to remain politically correct with respect to Android One, it ends up screwing things up.
But given the frequency at which this is happening, one wonders the kind of process the firmware is subjected to behind the scenes before an OTA update is validated for rollout. It gets even more baffling when incidences like where Xiaomi released an OTA update meant for Mexico to the global Mi A3 units.
Amid all these, some Mi A3 owners have signed a Change.org petition for Xiaomi to release a stable Android 11 build and not anything close to what they got with Android 10. And when you look back all the way from the days of the Mi A1 Android Oreo update, this move is understandable.
For a comparison, let’s take a look at Nokia, whose entire Android smartphone catalog is based on Android One.
Nokia & Android One
With the exceptions of 2017 releases and Android Go-powered handsets, the entire Android smartphone catalog at Nokia is based on Android One. This makes the Finnish company one with the most number of Android One-powered devices today.
You got to give it up for Nokia. The company has done a great job so far with its Android One devices. Sure, you don’t get the luxury of day-one software updates like Google Pixels, but you have far much less to worry about regarding stability of the updates.
In addition to providing relatively timely Android OS updates, Nokia seems to know its software much better than Xiaomi. As of this writing, for instance, all but two or so Nokia devices have received the update to Android 10.
Although there were a few hiccups like the Nokia 2.2 missing notifications (fixed), Nokia 7 Plus crackling sound (fixed), Nokia 3.1 Plus notification bug, Nokia 7.2 dual-SIM issue, among others, none of these was as catastrophic as Mi A series Android OS updates.
The company was also swift to address the issues at hand, even though not all issues can be addressed at once, so others keep showing up. But compared to what you get with the Mi A line of devices, Android One-powered Nokia devices are ahead of the curve on software updates and stability.
Not surprising coming from Nokia, though. For a company whose software developers are capable of finding and fixing bugs in software that has yet to be released and actually talking about it openly, you can hardly expect anything less. I wish the same could be said of Xiaomi.
Motorola & Android One
Motorola is another big-name company participating in Android One. The Lenovo-owned company’s Android One devices appear under its new Moto One series, but not all Moto One-branded devices are based on Android One.
Sure, a few bugs are bound to pop up from time to time, but nothing close to what owners of the Mi A devices have been through over the years. Granted, it boils down to the quality behind individual companies’ Android One software development teams and it is evident Xiaomi’s is still wanting.
It’s undeniable that Mi A series devices are some of the best out there, more so when it comes to design, hardware and most importantly, price. But there is more to a device than just looks and specs. The software you interact with on a daily basis is what makes for a complete experience.
Considering the massive experience Xiaomi boasts in software development, I personally expect much better from the company’s Android One team. The devs need to find joy in delivering a bug-free software experience to Mi A devices. Better delay the rollout for weeks but make it worth the wait.
This is especially important at a time when the Xiaomi Mi A4 should be coming out. Previous releases have taken place around July and even though details are still scarce, what is apparent is that Xiaomi has made a huge mockery of Android One and needs to get its act together before releasing the Mi A4.
Poll alert: Cast your vote and share with us whether or not you’d go for the Xiaomi Mi A4?
Note: The poll results will be shared after a week.
Update (August 03)
As promised, the poll results are here with us. Out of 404 votes, a majority (49.3%) will not be buying the Mi A4 while 31.9% are still interested in the Mi A3 successor. As for the rest (18.8%), the decision hasn’t been made yet.
Update (August 04)
It appears Xiaomi has heeded our advice and has indeed dropped its plans on releasing the Mi A4 this year. Of course, that’s a joke, well, at least the part regarding our advice, because a now-deleted post by a Xiaomi mod suggests that the company will not be releasing the Mi A4.
Further, it’s also possible that Xiaomi is planning to ditch the Android One program altogether. See the full story here.
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