It’s been a year since the change in positioning commenced. The pursuit of premiumisation. We first saw it with this phone’s predecessor early last year. Later, Xiaomi India president Muralikrishnan B spoke to HT about a focused, streamlined smartphone portfolio they intended to curate. Wheels are in motion. Crucial to that would be a renewed push to make a mark at the more expensive price points. A space that Samsung, OnePlus, Vivo and Google have shared, thus far. Xiaomi tried before, but it must try harder this time. It won’t be easy, but it’s a painful bridge they will have to cross, nonetheless. But it must be done in a way, while alienating fewest possible existing customers, when it is time for them to trade in their old phone for a new one.
Price increases are never easy to put across to consumers, but for a business, that leverage of margins and a share of another segment, are equally important. A momentary delve into the past, is needed. Across the board, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 12 series was a step up in terms of pricing, compared with the range that preceded it. Difference in pricing widened as we went higher up the range. Here’s an illustration. A Redmi Note 12 started at ₹17,999 while a Redmi Note 11 could be bought for ₹12,499 onwards. The Redmi Note 12 Pro+ matured the most, with prices starting ₹29,999 compared with the previous iteration that sported price tags of ₹20,999 onwards. That trend continues here, to a certain degree.
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That continues. Three variants of the Redmi Note 13 Pro+ go on sale from ₹29,999 (8GB+256GB). In a way, it reaffirms the Redmi Note 13 Pro+ positioning as a higher mid-range Android phone. At one point of time, it may have been called a flagship killer. Now, not so much. Mind you, the Redmi Note 13 prices start at ₹16,999 while the Redmi Note 13 Pro has a sticker price of ₹ 23,999 onwards. It is a fairly diverse troika, covering many a pricing point across mid and upper-mid bands. Its competition includes, at different points, the OnePlus Nord series as well as multiple Samsung Galaxy smartphone lines.
It is a design that stands out, perhaps a harbinger of what’s to come more often than not, with this year’s new phones. It is a vegan leather finish on the back panel that feels absolutely on point to touch, to hold and show off. Quite rare in phone till now, even more so at these price points. Would it be too much to say that this is the best-looking Redmi phone, in all these years. In particular, the colour blocked pattern which makes it seem like a total of four different coloured segments. The featured image above, illustrates that. Visual brilliance from Xiaomi, and nothing less.
Attention to detail is often missing in phones. Depending on your opinions about the subject, the value of this addition may differ – nonetheless, the Redmi Note 13 Pro+ has IP68 water and dust protection. That’s defined as resistance to being dunked in water at a depth of up to 1.5 meter for a maximum of 30 minutes.
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What else tells you Xiaomi hasn’t cut any corners in terms of specs and features? The 6.67-inch display has curved sides (something that remained a fixture in expensive Androids) and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus layer on it. Fairly capable display, with the sort of brightness levels that work well under bright sunlight, rich colours that remain well separated and Dolby Vision as well as HDR 10+ support for when you decide it is time for some binging.
Even if you are somewhat apprehensive about this, I can safely report back that the MediaTek Dimensity 7200-Ultra mobile processor delivers on the performance and frugality aspects with ease. In fact, the Redmi Note 13 Pro+ is the first phone ever to run this chip. The 4-nanometer process is a strong foundation for the sort of performance that could give most current flagship phones run for their money. We’d still recommend the 12GB RAM variant over 8GB RAM, purely because of the extra headroom while multitasking.
The fact that it delivers on stamina too, makes it an all-rounder. The 5,000mAh battery drops from 100% to around 96% after an hour of HDR video streaming and logged at 80% after almost 6 hours of continuous streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+Hotstar (A variety of Live cricket, made this test simpler). When you do need to top up, this goes all the way up to 120-watt with the adapter that’s provided in the box.
The triple camera setup is led by the 200-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL HP3 sensor, flanked by an 8-megapixel ultrawide and a 2-megapixel macro sensor. There’s no need to beat around the bush – stick to the main (wide) sensor as much as possible for the best photos. With it, you’ll also be able to choose a 50-megapixel photo or a 200-megapixel photo mode (there’s much greater detail to enjoy when you zoom in on these photos). While there’s no Leica influence on this camera setup, the learnings from Xiaomi’s flagships are very apparent here.
And that’s where computational photography comes into play. Of course, artificial intelligence is an underlier. Scene optimisation, colour optimisation, pixel binning and low light results all have the rule run over. You can get some outstanding photos from the Redmi Note 13 Pro+ across varied lighting conditions. Whether it is cloudy, or it is a harsh midday sun. Though everything gets lost in the pollution laden, murky scenes of Delhi NCR.
A constant observation with 50-megapixel and 200-megapixel shots was that if you don’t manually focus when framing somewhat tricky scenes (multiple highlight points, moving elements or uneven light, edges tend to be a tad softer than ideally preferred.
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There will always be some level of resistance, critique and opinion whenever there’s any movement towards maturity and premium pricing. It is true for most things that can be purchased by parting with some money, and phones are no different. The Redmi Note series, for long, defined Xiaomi’s ability to offer better spec-ed phones at truly affordable price points than its competition (no matter how much they tried). Now, these phones are becoming more expensive themselves, and that’s a factor of generational spec upgrades as well as the sort of functionality that perhaps cannot be possible if pricing remains ₹12,000 or thereabouts.
Xiaomi has done well to broaden the Redmi Note 13 portfolio into three different phones, thereby covering a fairly broad range on the price scale. It was a transition that began last year, and it is one step forward this time around. Not only has Xiaomi given design and visual elements their due, but specs have continued to define the segment’s best.
And that’s where it is important to look towards the future. Specifically, their biggest software overhaul in years. The first step towards modernisation, with HyperOS lined up to replace MIUI in many phones and tablets from the company’s portfolio. Quite when the Redmi Note 13 series gets HyperOS, no one knows for sure. But it cannot not be on the roadmap. And that’ll simply make an already impressive phone, truly premium.