Xiaomi has remained the country’s highest-selling brand for several years now, overthrowing the stronghold of Samsung in the market. But what made Xiaomi such a household name? The Redmi Note series seems to have played an important role. Since 2014, Xiaomi has been unveiling at least one Redmi Note smartphone in India, and in the past few years, that number has increased dramatically. The company is soon going to launch the 12th iteration of the Redmi Note series. As Xiaomi reaches this milestone, let’s travel through time to see the ups and downs of the Redmi’s signature lineup which has made it the formidable smartphone giant it is today.
First, some facts first about the Redmi Note series. In India, Xiaomi has sold over 72.4 million Note devices and this number is 300 million in the global market. The Redmi Note Prime, back in August 2015, was the first phone made completely in India. Apart from that, the Redmi Note 3, in 2016 when Jio was announced, happened to be the first device to support VoLTE service.
Redmi Note 4G
The very first Redmi Note was launched early in 2014 after it had already been out in the Chinese market since March. The starting price of the device in India is of little consequence since the device was discontinued quite quickly with the reason being a patent dispute with Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson. I won’t go into too much detail here but it basically involved the deferral of royalties owed to Ericsson by Xiaomi for the former’s patents on 3G, EDGE, and AMR technologies. Oh and as a part of this, MediaTek chipsets were also banned on Xiaomi smartphones for several years.
To counter that, Xiaomi released the Redmi Note 4G (review) smartphone which was almost identical to the 3G model except for the chipset housed inside. Instead of the MediaTek M6592, the Redmi Note 4G used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 SoC. This made the device, priced under Rs 10,000, one of the cheapest handsets to have 4G technology at the time in India. It just might have jump-started the 4G revolution in India as well. On its inaugural launch day, the handset sold 40,000 units in just six seconds, claimed Xiaomi.
Redmi Note Prime
Exactly a year after the Note 4G, Xiaomi revealed the Redmi Note Prime smartphone at a starting price of Rs 8,499. The device was the country’s first Made-in-India offering and was marketed as such. In terms of specs, the Note Prime took most of its cues from the Note 4G with the exception of the processor which was the upgraded Snapdragon 410. Again at its price, the smartphone’s specs were very competitive. However, not many people got to experience the phone because of what Xiaomi did just a few months after.
Redmi Note 3
With the Redmi Note 3 (review), released just three months after the Note Prime, Xiaomi was doubling down on what it meant to have a performance-oriented phone at budget prices. The Note 3 packed a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 SoC under the hood, putting it on power with devices that were much more expensive. Apart from that the phone also came with a fingerprint sensor on the back, a first for the budget segment.
In addition, the rest of the specs were also power-driven such as a 4,000mAh battery, up to 3GB RAM, and 32GB internal storage. Industry disrupter Reliance Jio was also revealing its Jio 4G services at this point which used VoLTE technology. The Redmi Note 3 was the first phone that could support this feature. All things said and done, at Rs 9,999, which had become pretty much the standard introductory price tag for Redmi Note phones, the Note 3 could be considered the most well-rounded phone. By September, the device had crossed 2.3 million in units shipped across India, making it by far the most popular phone in the country at the time.
Redmi Note 4
With the success of the Note 3, Xiaomi kept the winning formula for the Redmi Note 4‘s (review) unveiling in January 2017. The price was set at Rs 9,999, like previous Note phones, and a few design tweaks were introduced to make the device more premium and durable. The SoC introduced was Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 which was better than the 650 on the Note 3 but strangely got a lower numbering nomenclature. The back camera got a 13MP sensor while the front selfie shooter remained 8MP. This was also the first time Xiaomi introduced a 4GB RAM variant, a big deal for budget smartphones. As the year came to a close, Xiaomi, propelled by the Note 4’s success, had become India’s largest smartphone company by market share.
Redmi Note 5 and 5 Pro
Roll in 2018 and Xiaomi, for the first time, announced two Redmi Note phones at the same time. The Redmi Note 5 (review), a rebranded version of the Redmi 5 Plus, was more or less the Redmi Note 4 but with a few tweaks, of which the biggest was a larger 18:9 display. However, the Pro model introduced dual cameras for the first time on a Note phone along with being the first phone to harbour the Snapdragon 636 SoC.
With its lush metallic build, performance focus, and increased camera versatility, the Note 5 Pro (review) became the best-selling phone under Rs 15,000. The total sales figures for the Note 5 series included 5 million units shipped in just under four months, a testament to Xiaomi’s growing success heralded by its Redmi Note lineup.
Redmi Note 6 Pro
In the same year as the Note 5 series, Xiaomi used the month of November to unveil the Redmi Note 6 Pro (review). This time around, the device was packed with the same exact features as the Note 5 Pro but with a major change in the form of a notched display being introduced for the first time on a Redmi Note. The presence of a notch allowed Xiaomi to put two selfie cameras including a 20MP primary wide-angle shooter.
Performance and battery remained the same which might have left a sour taste in the mouth of fans looking for upgrades. Apart from that the device still used the dated micro-USB port when most of the world was transitioning to USB Type-C. The Note 6 Pro topped out at 600,000 units sold in the first few minutes of its sale. However, the device as a whole was considered a disappointment as it did not match the sales expectations set by previous Note handsets.
Redmi Note 7 and 7 Pro
The Note 7 series was a landmark in Xiaomi’s budget segment of devices. Announced in 2019, the regular Redmi Note 7 (review) had a few noteworthy features of interest such as a waterdrop-style notch on the front which increased the screen real estate but dropped the secondary selfie camera in the process.
It also had an all-glass design with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 present on both the front and back. Also for the first time, the Note series had transitioned to USB Type-C. However, it was the Redmi Note 7 Pro (review) that captured the imagination with its 48MP primary camera and introduction of the Snapdragon 675 SoC. Again Xiaomi became a disrupter in the under Rs 15,000 segment with its aggressive pricing. A few months later the Redmi Note 7S was also released as an upgrade to the Note 7 by introducing a 48MP Samsung ISOCELL sensor for the primary camera.
Redmi Note 8 and 8 Pro
Cameras had become a new focus with the success of the Note 7 series, so Xiaomi upped the ante just six months later with a quad-camera setup on the Redmi Note 8 lineup. Xiaomi stuck to its Rs 9,999 pricing but by this time the cost of parts was definitely shooting up and the device shipped with the year-old Snapdragon 665. You did, however, have a 48MP primary sensor along with 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth sensors.
The Note 8 Pro (review) got a higher resolution 64MP primary camera and also marked the return of MediaTek chipsets on the lineup. It used the gaming-focused Helio G90T for heavy performance tasks while also offering up to 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM. Sales figures remained largely the same as before with a million units of the Redmi Note 8 series sold in the first month of its launch.
Redmi Note 9, 9 Pro, and 9 Pro Max
This time around Xiaomi revealed three phones in its next iteration of the Redmi Note lineup. The regular Redmi Note 9 (review), launched slightly after the Pro versions, started at Rs 11,999 owing to supply chain constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inside the phone, a new chipset could be found which was the Helio G85 and on the outside, the display had been moved to a punch-hole style. However, the rest of the phone largely remained the same. As per our review, the Redmi Note 9’s performance seemed a tad underwhelming when compared to the competition.
The Note 9 Pro‘s (review) pricing happened to be a bit confusing at Rs 12,999. Performance-wise the Snapdragon 720G being implemented was markedly a bit slower than the Helio G90T used last time around. Also, the device had a 48MP Samsung GM2 shooter as opposed to the 64MP on the previous iteration. Apart from that, the display still refreshed at 60Hz while the competition had moved on to 120Hz on their respective panels. The compensation happened in the form of a larger 5,000mAh battery with fast 33W charging support. In the Pro Max version, a few differentiating features included a 64MP camera on the back and a 32MP shooter up front.
With the Redmi Note 9 Pro lineup, it seemed for the first time in a long time that the competition is finally moving ahead in the budget space.
Redmi Note 10, 10 Pro, and 10 Pro Max
With the Note 10 series, Xiaomi moved its focus toward the viewing experience and moved all three Redmi Note 10 devices to Super AMOLED panels. This was revolutionary as only mid-range phones, affordable flagships, and premium flagships were privy to this kind of screen. The two Pro devices were also the first Note handsets to have 120Hz refresh displays which combined with the AMOLED panel provided a visual treat under Rs 20,000.
Also, a set of Dolby Atmos tuned stereo speakers were also introduced in both the Pro phones. Finally, the Note 10 Pro Max (review) also became one of the first phones in the budget category to get a 108MP shooter. The downside to all this was that the Note series had become quite expensive compared to its previous budget roots. Performance was an afterthought as well with most competitors easily outstripping the Note 10 series in terms of benchmarks.
Of course, there were a couple of other Note 10 devices like the Note 10T and Note 10S, but their specs were largely similar to the regular Note 10 lineup to deserve too much of a mention. It became apparent that Xiaomi’s strategy was to crowd the market with several Note 10 variants to increase their market share which is something it continued with the Note 11 series as well.
Redmi Note 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro+
In 2022, high refresh rate screens penetrated all the models of the Redmi Note 11 lineup. A 90Hz AMOLED was present on the regular Note 11 while the Pro variants remained on 120Hz. All three phones actually had different chipsets but only the Note 11 Pro+ (review) was 5G compliant with its Snapdragon 695. However, in terms of actual performance, the Note 11 Pro actually fared better thanks to its more powerful Helio G96. The Pro+ and Pro had a 108MP primary shooter but the former lacked the quad-camera setup seen on the latter. All this made it quite confusing to choose between the two while the Redmi Note 11 was being left behind by better alternatives from Realme and POCO.
Again Redmi introduced different variations of the Note 11 series to counteract the niggles the initial trio faced. Offerings like the Note 11 SE, Note 11T, and Note 11S sowed a lot of doubt in the minds of consumers. I personally felt some of the features introduced by Redmi in the later stages of 2022, should have been part of the original Note 11 series of phones. Overall the Note 11 lineup might have been a letdown for some consumers.
What can we expect from the Note 12 series?
With the Note 12 series around the corner, what exactly does Xiaomi have in its mind this time? Looking at the models it has already launched in China, it can be reasonably assumed that the top-end version in the series will likely be the Redmi Note 12 Pro+. The details will be revealed on January 5th. I sincerely hope that this time around Xiaomi managed to offer a wholesome device that equally focuses on every aspect of a smartphone experience and lives up to the Note legacy.