Xiaomi has created a new mobile phone brand known as Pocophone. The name sounds quite cute and harmless, but it will cause other manufacturers to sweat, since Xiaomi is aggressively trying to reach customers with the Pocophone F1. There's no competitor that offers so much technology for so little money, at least on paper. After testing the Pocophone F1, it's clear that if Xiaomi continues on this trajectory, rival brands will have plenty to worry about.
- Unbeatable price/ performance ratio
- Full power
- Powerful battery
- Mini jack port
- No water protection
- No NFC
- Just an average display
New kid on the block
There aren't any announced plans to officially bring the Pocophone F1 to the US yet, but it will be available in other regions like India and Europe. If you're in the states, however, you can buy the device unlocked on Amazon. The 64 GB version currently costs $374, and the 128 GB version costs $399.
In Europe, the device became available on August 30, and is selling for 329 euros (6GB/64GB) and 399 euros (6GB/128GB). In India, prices will range from 20,999 rupees (6GB/64GB), 24,000 rupees (6GB/128GB), 29,000 rupees (8GB/256GB), to 29,999 rupees ("Armored Edition" 8GB/256GB).
- Get the Pocophone in the US (or anywhere) for $349
- Should you buy the Pocophone F1? It could be a risk
Colors include Rosso Red, Steel Blue, and Graphite Black in addition to the premium Armored Edition with kevlar. These are truly competitive prices that will make it difficult not only for Poco's main competitor OnePlus (whose philosophy is quite similar), but also to Xiaomi itself and its other devices.
Plastic also has its advantages
The design of the new Chinese smartphone is certainly not the most sought after and unique in the world. You won't find any metal and glass, since plastic prevails on all fronts. The Xiaomi smartphone doesn't look very good, and it isn't exceptionally slim. But the workmanship is good and the Pocophone F1 feels good in your hand.
Of course, the material also has its advantages. The plastic lets radio signals through better than metal and it is much less prone to damage caused from falls. Xiaomi has even put a transparent protective silicon cover in the box. It's certainly helpful, but not only because the plastic back scratches easily. The matte plastic also gets dirty quickly and looks worn out. Everything is more practical than elegant.
It's too bad: the back isn't removable even though it's made of plastic. That would have been quite easy to implement, and that would've allowed the battery to be replaceable. There is unfortunately no waterproof or dustproof protection, so you'll need to exercise a certain degree of caution. The wide and easily accessible fingerprint sensor is located in the middle of the back, under the camera sensors.
On the right side there are two separate volume buttons and the power button. On the left side there is a hybrid slot for two SIM cards or one SIM card and one memory card. The USB Type-C port and speaker are located on the underside, next to the jack port and microphone.
Similar to the Mi 8 in form, but not in substance
The front houses the large 6.18" IPS display with a resolution of 1080x2246 pixels and a display ratio of 18.7:9 due to the presence of a large notch. Seen from the front, it may remind you a lot of the Xiaomi Mi 8, a smartphone that probably has many components in common with the Pocophone F1. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass, but the version has not been specified.
The IPS panel isn't an OLED, but it displays nice, natural colors. The black levels are quite good, but because of the disadvantages of IPS technology, they are nowhere near as good as OLED displays. The contrasts are convincing. All in all, the display is reminiscent of the panel of the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S, which we were already able to test.
The display has some small weaknesses
But there are some weak points in the Xiaomi smartphone's screen. It doesn't light up perfectly uniformly, and some halos will show up. The edges are quite generously rounded and take up a bit too much space, which affects the brightness that isn't particularly high. Together with the quite highly reflective glass on the display, this ensures that the smartphone isn't always easy to read in bright surroundings. The viewing angles also aren't fantastic, especially with the expensive OLED panels of high-end smartphones.
The weaknesses of the display in the Pocophone F1 aren't that serious in themselves, but they add up. The smartphone's screen is likely the greatest weakness of the device. It's not at all bad in comparison to 400 dollar smartphone, but only in comparison to luxury smartphones. For the price, however, the display is absolutely fine.
All our measured values and further details on the display of the Pocophone F1 can be found in our detailed review of the display:
Fast and reliable face recognition
The Pocophone F1 has an infrared sensor to help with face recognition. It functioned very well in our test, the Xiaomi smartphone is one of the fastest and most reliable smartphones when it comes to face unlock. This is true both in good light and in dim lighting. The fingerprint sensor, the second biometric feature, also works reliably and quickly.
A modification of a modified version of Android
Once turned on, the smartphone runs MIUI 9.5 made by Xiaomi and based on Android 8.1 Oreo. Poco has, however, added personal touches like a new launcher and many new optimizations that aim to make the experience fluid, fast and responsive. The team claims to have optimized app launching to up to 28% faster. Compared to what? According to Xiaomi, this data is compared to OxygenOS and Android stock!
At first glance, however, compared to the version of MIUI we known, it doesn't really stand out apart from the launcher. The software on the Pocophone F1 has a modern look in the default setting and can be operated quite easily. Android 9.0 Pie is already on its way and will be released towards the end of the year.
Where did the Microsoft apps go?
There's one interesting detail: when we put the Pocophone F1 into operation, an entire folder with Microsoft apps was pre-installed, including Skype in addition to the Office apps. After we reset the smartphone during the test, the folder disappeared and didn't come back.
Nevertheless, MIUI is quite distant from what Google imagines Android to be. I spent a lot of time searching in the system settings, since many things are strangely sorted. The notifications aren't quite elegantly presented. There are a lot of duplicate apps, including a second browser that doesn't have any advantages over Chrome. The security app looks nice, but has hardly any features that offer more than Android's on-board resources.
It would be perfect if Xiaomi offered the Pocophone F1 with Android One, but that's not an option at the moment.
Fast like an F1
Under the hood of the Pocophone F1 is the Snapdragon 845 AIE from Qualcomm, currently the fastest processor on the market . All the manufacturer's efforts are aimed at making the F1 the fastest and cheapest smartphone on the market - as the slogan "Master of Speed" already shows. Speed is the only thing that counts. Of course, the 6 or 8 GB of RAM also help. There are several variants to choose from in terms of internal memory. With 64, 128 and 256 GB of storage, each version can be expanded by MicroSD card, so there is something for everyone.
The Pocophone F1 is always at the cutting edge in terms of computing and graphics power. The performance can handles games, 4K videos or other demanding tasks. Apps start without delays and everything runs quickly. The device doesn't overheat due to the sophisticated cooling technology, as you can see in the following video:
All benchmark values and more details about the performance of the Pocophone F1 can be found in our performance test:
The sound is bouncing
Even if manufacturers now view it differently, the jack plug isn't dead . On the contrary, many people don't want to do without it. The Pocophone F1 has more than enough space for the 3.5 mm jack, and that's a good thing. The stereo speakers in the Xiaomi smartphone are usable and sufficiently loud, but not really outstanding. With a Bluetooth connection, the Pocophone F1 also offers aptX HD and LDAC.
The camera is fun
Pocophone F1 has two cameras arranged vertically on the back, a 12-megapixel (Sony IMX363) f / 1.9 and a 5-megapixel f / 2.0 camera mainly used to capture the depth of field for AR applications and the artificial bokeh effect.
What is striking is the 20-megapixel f / 2.0 front camera, located in the notch and used for unlocking with face recognition. If it were to prove as fast and reliable as that of Xiaomi Mi 8, it would be one of the best on the market among non-3D solutions. Unfortunately this method of unlocking will come only later through OTA. This is also thanks to an infrared LED located in the notch that will allow the smartphone to unlock even in total darkness.
At this point I have to refer to the price again: the Pocophone F1 is really worth considering for under 400 dollars! The pictures show many details and natural colors, which only sometimes seem a bit pale. The image dynamics and exposure are perfectly in order, along with the sharpness. In slightly dimmer light there are some issues, since the pictures have more noise and aren't really sharp. The expensive flagships can do a slightly better job of this, but that's to be expected.
The front camera of the Pocophone F1 takes pretty nice selfies, which sometimes get a little blurred at the edges, but show a lot of details. But you should make sure that the exposure always fits, since otherwise the Xiaomi smartphones makes selfies too bright. You should also spare yourself the beauty filters, which are adjustable in many ways.
We have more test photos and further information about the Pocophone F1 camera in our detailed camera review:
Battery that endures
On paper, the Pocophone F1's battery is one of the largest you can find in a smartphone . It offers 4,000 mAh, which is quite a lot. Unfortunately, we can't offer a result from our benchmark test at this point, since the test crashed on the Xiaomi device. It's a shame, but there's nothing we could have done about it.
But more importantly, the results in everyday life are clear. Even under tough conditions at the IFA, the Pocophone F1 never tired before going to bed in the evening. Under normal conditions, it lasts one and a half days, so you'll only need to reach for your charger every second evening. I don't like using wireless charging, especially since it supports Quick Charge 4.0.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 technical specifications
The start of something great
The Pocophone F1 is a smartphone like no other, and it will shake up the market. That's not because of the great design or because of special features no other phone has. It's simply the concentrated focus on low-price and really strong hardware. In the eyes of many people, the mid-range price regions have long been the most exciting category in the smartphone market, and the Pocophone F1 is the new big fish in a small pond.
But that of course all comes with risk, and not all customers will like it. Xiaomi has to pay attention to its reputation, since no manufacturer wants to be perceived as "cheap". If Xiaomi inserts advertising on the smartphone in order to keep the hardware prices low, it's also at least questionable for many interested parties.
The bottom line is that the Pocophone F1 from Xiaomi is still one of the most exciting and important smartphones of the year. It's missing some style and had some minor weaknesses, but for under 400 dollars you can't go wrong with the Pocophone F1. Nice work, Xiaomi!