You've heard of folding phones, but those are so yesterday. Xiaomi thinks it has something better up its sleeve. The Chinese company today introduced the Mi Mix Alpha, a surround-screen "concept" phone with a display that is only interrupted by a camera seam on the back of the device, which sports a 108MP sensor.
While I highly doubt the practical use of a surround screen, it does look stunning in the marketing renders. The display curves all around the sides of the phone and continues on the back seamlessly, prompting Xiaomi to tout a screen-to-body ratio of 180.6%, which is not how math works. There is no word on which material is used to protect the delicate panel; the company only talks about "layers" of protection, careful not to say whether it's glass or plastic. Similarly, Xiaomi mentions neither display resolution nor technology, though it's safe to assume it's using flexible OLEDs to achieve the curvature. The parts of the device that aren't screen are comprised of high-quality materials like titanium alloy and ceramics, while the camera bump/seam is protected by sapphire.
Speaking of the camera, the Mix Alpha comes with a whopping 108MP lens with a 1/1.33-inch large sensor, capable of combining four pixels into one for better low-light performance. Four-axis OIS, ISOCELL Plus, and smart ISO round out the package. Two more lenses join the primary shooter: a 20MP wide-angle camera allowing for macro photography and a 12MP telephoto capable of 2x optical zoom. There's no camera on the front; you're going to have to flip the phone around to take a selfie.
Due to the wrap-around screen, the device doesn't have physical buttons on the sides. It emulates them by relying on haptic feedback and pressure sensitivity, while a round power button seems to sit on the top left of the phone. The small bezel doesn't allow for a traditional earpiece, either, so the company opted for "display acoustic technology" which replaces both a speaker and a proximity sensor.
|Camera||108MP 1/1.33-inch large sensor, 20MP wide-angle, 12MP telephoto 2x optical zoom|
|Price||RMB 20,000 (~$2,800)|
The interior is comprised of similarly high-quality components. A Snapdragon 855+ comes with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of UFS3.0 storage, along with a 5G modem fine-tuned for the Chinese market. The 4,050mAh battery can be charged at up to 40W – obviously, there's no wireless charging here.
It isn't altogether clear which advantages the Alpha's surround-screen has over conventional ones – after all, you can't look at both sides of the phone at the same time. Xiaomi sees the display on the back as a secondary panel, auxiliary to the primary one. For example, you can flip over the phone to activate this part of the screen and interact with a collection of widgets, informing you on the weather, your fitness status, and allowing you to start recording a video. I'd be surprised if that doesn't lead to a couple of accidentally opened apps and sent messages, though. You also probably won't be able to put the phone in a case, and any drop might be the Alpha's last – there's a high chance it will fall right on the unprotected display.
Despite calling this a concept phone, Xiaomi plans on starting a small-scale production in December, just a few months away. It's not clear whether the device will be available for purchase outside of China — no other plans have been shared. The company has only announced the Yuan price of RMB 20,000, which roughly converts to $2,800.
Xiaomi wanted to launch the Mi Mix Alpha in December last year, but that hasn't panned out. The company told Abacus News that it currently doesn't have a date for a release, but that it would share one as soon as it could. It looks like flexible screens are still extremely prone to errors, as already proved by the delayed releases of the Mate X and the Samsung Galaxy Fold.