The Xiaomi Mi Mix is a smartphone straight out of the future. For one it’s a concept phone, and secondly, it’s actually for real. Call it the ghost who walks, if you may. Scratching your heads already? Well, you’re not alone. It is after all a smartphone straight out of the future.
The introduction to the Mi Mix at Xiaomi’s high-profile launch event in Beijing began just like any another prototype demonstration. The concept was simple…Xiaomi had been working, for over 2 years now, to devise a phone without any bezels. The Mi Mix was the best case scenario that it could conceptualise at this point of time by bringing about certain modifications to current-generation technologies. The company did not, however, let it be just another laboratory experiment. It brought it to life, because in the words of global VP Hugo Barra himself, “we wouldn’t build something that our fans can’t have.” Also, it would be “silly to show off a concept phone that isn’t real.”
The Mi Mix, consequently, is a concept phone that is for real.
Designed and jointly developed by renowned designer Philippe Starck, the Mi Mix boasts of a full ceramic body and a screen-to-body ratio of 91.3 per cent: an almost perfect edge-to-edge to be precise. The phone does not have a forehead, just the bottom. It is mostly flat like a pancake and the display — a 6.4-inch IPS LCD — is curved around the corners of the top.
“The biggest challenge was to get rid of the proximity sensor and the physical receiver ear piece where you listen to your phone calls. This wasn’t easy to do,” Hugo explained to India Today Tech. The phone essentially uses an ultrasonic proximity sensor through the display, through the glass, through the whole thing. It senses when you bring your phone to your ear just like an infrared proximity sensor. The technology behind the whole thing — called Inner Beauty – is the workmanship of Elliptic Labs, a privately held company with headquarters in Oslo, Norway and offices in San Francisco, California; and Shanghai, China.
Inner Beauty allows the speaker to be completely invisible by using patented algorithms not only to remove the proximity sensor, but also to hide the speaker behind the phone’s glass screen, according to Elliptic Labs.
“We are thrilled to have our ultrasound proximity software featured in the new smartphone from Xiaomi. Elliptic Labs is the only ultrasound proximity feature vendor designed into a tier-1 mobile handset,” Laila Danielsen, CEO of Elliptic Labs said.
Besides eliminating the hardware sensor, the technology also eliminates common issues with proximity sensors, such as their unreliability in certain weather conditions or in response to various skin colors as well as dark hair, Elliptic Labs claims.
Since the Mi Mix does not have a forehead, the next obvious question would be, “how the heck do I click a selfie with it?” The selfie camera (5-megapixel) is tucked away at the bottom. “When you’re taking a selfie, you look down or simply flip the phone around,” Hugo explained. The ultrasonic proximity sensor understands that you flipped the phone, and changes the orientation of the front camera accordingly. And it does this, very fast.
The Mi Mix — a closely guarded secret inside Xiaomi for over two years now — had reached a level where the company was in a position to build a few units and also ship them to consumers. Since the phone is made via a “very innovative manufacturing assembly process and custom-built components” the company won’t ship it in large quantities, that besides the fact that it will be sold in China only.
It is pretty well-equipped too. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with up to 6GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal memory. The phone is backed by a 4,400mAh battery and has a 16-megapixel rear camera.
The Mi Mix looks like a fabulous device on paper. It looks fabulous too. But, that’s all secondary. It’s commendable how Xiaomi hasn’t just thought about an idea and left it at that. It has actually gone ahead and built it and is also ready to ship it in the day to come. “Once perfected, we will bring these innovations to the Mi product line as well,” Hugo reiterated.
Disclaimer: The reporter’s travel and stay for this event in China have been arranged by Xiaomi.