Google’s Android One programme was created to do two things — one to reduce software fragmentation of Android wherein there are many devices running outdated versions of the operating system which could also be potential security hazards and secondly for reaching a baseline benchmark for what an Android smartphone should be like. But this programme fizzled at launch because of the likes of Xiaomi which raised the bar for what there should be in a budget Android smartphone by an order of magnitude. Once that was done, with Xiaomi offering basically flagship hardware features, people really didn't care much about what was the software. It also helped that Xiaomi’s Mi UI layer was one of the most innovative Android skins around which was updated at a frightfully fast cadence.
But here we are today, we are getting the best of both worlds as Google’s liquid fluid Android experience is coming to a Xiaomi phone which is offering flagship features for less than Rs 15,000. While there are other OEMs who offer a stock, unadulterated Android Nougat — HMD Global (Nokia), Lenovo and Motorola, the difference about the Mi A1 being an Android One smartphone is that the updates are handled directly by Google. They are promising an update to Oreo later this year and security updates on a timely basis.
At the time of testing this phone, we noticed that the phone was already on the 1st August security update which is there on phones like the Nokia 8 only to be eclipsed by the Pixel running Oreo.
Software wise, this is clean Android with no software modifications of any kind. This means it also comes baked in with the Google Assistant. The one major modification of sorts is to the camera app which is essentially the Mi camera app which supports the dual cameras on the phone.
Overall, software wise the phone is a joy to use as it is simple and uncluttered.