If you were hoping the smartwatch market would bounce back from its recent slump when a slew of new models hit the market, you’re about to be disappointed. IDC estimates that wearable device shipments grew ever so slightly (3.1 percent) in the third quarter of 2016, but that fitness trackers were almost exclusively responsible for the increase. Fitbit, Garmin and other activity band makers improved their shipments by the double digits, while the smartwatch world actually shrank.
Apple still leads the smartwatch sphere in these estimates, with 1.1 million Apple Watches shipped over the summer. However, that’s a steep drop of roughly 70 percent year-over-year — Apple was moving 3.9 million in the third quarter of 2015. Samsung was a rare star in this field with shipments doubling, although IDC cautions that the numbers are artificially inflated thanks to Galaxy Note 7 buyers who got to keep their free Gear Fit 2 and Gear IconX extras despite having to return the phone. A significant chunk of its shipments came from cellular-equipped Gear S2 watches sold through carriers.
It’s hard to say how much of a decline the smartwatch market is facing, assuming it faces one at all. Apple Watch Series 2 only started shipping two weeks before the quarter ended, and Samsung’s Gear S3 didn’t arrive until mid-November. A recovery was unlikely during the summer — if it happens, it’ll be thanks to holiday shoppers picking up new models. No matter what, it’s clear that smartwatches aren’t as red-hot as companies initially thought they would be.
The day after the Mi Note 2 and Mi MIX launch last week, the flagship Mi Home store next to Xiaomi’s headquarters was packed with visitors. Nope, they weren’t there to spend their yuan, but to simply wait for their turn to play with the new phones. But the real star was clearly the Mi MIX “concept phone.” People were drawn to its near-bezel-less display and fancy ceramic body. Despite this being Xiaomi’s most expensive smartphone ever, I heard many visitors ask if they could buy one immediately, only to be let down when told they have to wait until November 4th. Xiaomi must be doing something right
The Mi MIX didn’t just happen over night, of course; it was a two-year project with contributions from French designer, Philippe Starck. This man is no stranger to the tech world, he’s helped design headphones, hard drives, a smart radiator valve, electric bicycles and, even, the late Steve Jobs’ yacht. Barra described Starck’s role in the Mi MIX project as setting high-level priorities, especially when it came to convincing the Xiaomi team to keep things clean and simple.
Xiaomi’s aim with the Mi MIX is to showcase some of the breakthrough mobile technologies that will eventually trickle down to its mainstream devices. In this case, we have Sharp’s near-bezel-less display which we knew was arriving sooner or later. Hidden underneath that is Elliptic Labs’ ultrasound-based proximity sensor, which replaces the ugly infrared dot and turns the screen off when the phone is placed next to your ear. Last but not least, the full ceramic body is a nice alternative to the aluminum we’re accustomed to. The company hopes these experiments will lead consumers to see Xiaomi as home to serious innovation, rather than a budget brand.
Some would argue that it should be giants like Apple and Google bringing out devices like the Mi MIX. While Barra declined to comment on the iPhone 7, he was happy to praise his previous company’s efforts with the Pixel and even went as far as saying the series “sets a bar for the whole world.” He described Google’s latest phones as being “all-around optimized,” “very responsive” with “great battery life” plus an “awesome camera,” though he did say that they don’t necessarily have the best industrial design — especially with their “very tall chins.”
Could Google have done a phone like the Mi MIX? Barra defended his former colleagues by saying it would have been difficult for them to justify the risk of delivering a phone like this, as it wouldn’t sell in large quantities. The Pixel, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem. “I think they’re gonna sell a lot of Pixels. Every Android enthusiast is going to try what they can to get their hands on one.” Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Barra is still working for Google.
Save for the Mi Home’s strong resemblance to any Apple store, the Mi MIX could have almost peeled the copycat label off Xiaomi for good. Alas, people were quick to compare the Mi Note 2’s 3D curved body to Samsung’s S7 Edge and its discontinued Note 7. Barra was keen to point out that Xiaomi was actually the first company to release a smartphone with a 3D curved glass back — the original Mi Note. The same industrial design was applied to the smaller but more powerful Mi 5.
“I’m not worried about what people are going to say.”
Samsung then combined the 3D curved screen and the 3D curved glass back for the S7 Edge, to which Barra said, “Well, no one is going to give us credit for a curved back, right? They just care about the front.” It wasn’t until the Mi Note 2 when Xiaomi followed Samsung’s suit, courtesy of the flexible OLED display allegedly supplied by LG.
“In how many ways do you think you can design a curved display? Exactly one way,” Barra argued. “I don’t think that anyone can outright claim ownership of that as an invention because it’s kind of like a logical thing. They can claim that they were the first ones to do it, but certainly not the ones responsible for the most incredible idea in the world because it’s just a very straightforward engineering thing: As soon as you can come up with a flexible OLED display, you can design a screen like this.
“I’m not worried about what people are going to say, because we’re pretty confident in our design capability. I think [the Mi MIX unveiling] was a pretty clear demonstration of that.”
October 9th marked Hugo Barra’s third year at Xiaomi, and as its Global Vice President, he watched the company evolve from a China-centric smartphone e-tailer to an IoT ecosystem with a growing international footprint. Xiaomi’s recently entered Russia, Mexico and the Middle East, with Poland, Vietnam, Thailand plus a couple other Latin American markets next on the docket. But the long list is still missing one key region: the US. While the ex-Googler continues to stay mum on a launch date, he did reveal to Engadget that his team has already started testing phones in America. Such commitment is an important milestone ahead of the notoriously tough US carrier lab tests.
You see, US mobile networks use odd bands that aren’t widely adopted in most parts of the world. So, to ensure compatibility, the local major carriers are notoriously tough when it comes to testing phones that want to be deployed across their networks. The well-established mobile companies are happy to oblige, of course, because selling their devices through the big US carriers guarantees sales volume due to their channels and customer base. More importantly, they’re already familiar with the process and requirements; whereas Xiaomi, a relatively newcomer, is not.
A US launch may happen as soon as 2017.
This means Barra and his team have to practically start from scratch, in the sense that they have to learn everything about the testing methods and be physically set up shop in the US. The company has embraced the idea of going global under Barra’s guidance, and Xiaomi is finally willing to make the investment, but he reckoned it will take a year or two before the company is ready for the US. Barra didn’t reveal when exactly his team started this project, but based on his mention of a couple of test devices, my guess is that a US launch may happen as soon as 2017.
“Earlier this year we had a special version of Mi 5 that we made just for testing in the US, just so that we can start testing and doing small-field trials to sharpen our chops, if you will,” Barra said. “And now we have Mi Note 2 which is another device that we can use for some field testing in the US. That’s again just another small step in the right direction or in the direction of being able to launch full-on products there.”
Of course, Xiaomi could just follow other Chinese brands and sell directly to US consumers. After all, Xiaomi is already offering its accessories and 4K Android TV box in its US online store (and also Walmart for the latter). But judging by Barra’s emphasis on the carrier lab tests, his company appears to have already made up its mind. To make his point, Barra brought up how a Chinese brand — no names mentioned here — launched a phone in the US almost a year ago, but “it ended up being a complete flop.” The reason was simple: It lacked Band 17 which is used on AT&T’s LTE network, but said brand wrongly assumed that it wouldn’t be an issue at the time (so it’s pretty obvious which phone that was). Had that company worked more closely with either AT&T or T-Mobile, it would have been a completely different story.
“We’re not going to launch something until we’re ready,” Barra said in reference to the technical preparation and team bandwidth required for a US launch.
While today officially marks Halloween, we’re sure you’ve already made, worn and irreversibly damaged your costume over the weekend. That’s fine; we all have to come back to reality some time. And at least there are dinosaur brains, rep-counting headphones and a tour around Xiaomi’s HQ — the world’s next tech giant — to soften the blow of those Monday blues.
Clever girl.This brown lump was once a dinosaur brain.
Scientists say they have discovered the first known example of a dinosaur brain tissue fossil. It’s a particularly rare find: the researchers think they got lucky, theorizing that the dinosaur’s brain was preserved in highly acidic water (possibly from a bog or swamp), protecting its form before the whole animal was buried. It’s already offered a better insight into how dinosaurs’ brains differed from reptilian and bird gray matter.
Foodie TV without restriction.Alton Brown’s internet cooking show is the spiritual successor to ‘Good Eats’
If you were a fan of ‘Good Eats’, it’s time to get excited about Alton Brown’s new internet cooking show. As he revealed on a live Facebook chat, Brown will be looking to explore cooking beyond the constraints of mainstream TV broadcasting. That might include rabbit and sous vides — and that’s just the entree.
C’mon, just two more pull-ups.These headphones count reps so you don’t have to
Jabra’s new Sports Coach earphones can measure and coach not only your running but also cross-training style bodyweight exercises. Well, most of the time. Mat Smith struggles with push-ups in this heartwarming tale of man vs. gravity vs. sports headphones.
But wait, there’s more…
- Touring Xiaomi’s HQ – and its Apple-esque store
- Teen arrested for sharing an exploit that almost brought down 911
- Apple’s MacBook Pro isn’t the touchscreen laptop it ought to be
Xiaomi was quite a different animal when I first visited back in August 2011: It only occupied three floors in a small building, the cubicles were tight, security was loose (I literally just walked in almost every time) and people were working crazy long hours almost seven days a week. That was right after the company launched its very first device, the original Xiaomi Phone, which set a new definition for affordable flagship smartphones in China. Fast-forward to today and you’ll find yourself looking at a global brand that has gone well beyond mobile and online, while its latest smartphones — namely the Mi Note 2 and Mi MIX — are looking better than ever. To see for yourself, check out our photo tour around Xiaomi’s latest headquarters and a Mi Home store nearby.
While everyone was privy to the launch to the Xiaomi Mi Note 2, Xiaomi took everyone by surprise at their press event in Beijing a few days ago with the introduction of a near bezel-less smartphone. Granted, this isn’t the first of its kind that we’ve seen, but Xiaomi has definitely improved on what was available before with devices like the Sharp Aquos Crystal, in terms of design, aesthetics, specifications, and features. We go hands on with the Xiaomi Mi MIX!
There being practically no bezels on three sides of the display including above it brings up some interesting questions with regards to the proximity sensor and the speaker to listen to calls. Xiaomi has managed to circumvent their need by using a sonar-based sensor and by placing the speaker below the display and using ceramic vibrations to allow for the audio from a call to be heard. Everything else has been placed below the display, including the front-facing camera, resulting in a more upward facing perspective when using it because of its placement.
Of course, it’s all about the screen with this device, with the Mi MIX featuring a 91.3% screen to body ratio. The device comes with a 6.4-inch IPS LCD display with a 2048 x 1080 resolution, and anyone looking for additional screen real estate for work or play will have no complaints with this phone. The display and the phone are truly a sight to behold, and is certainly going to garner a lot of attention.
The Mi MIX is built with ceramic, which gives it a very elegant and shiny look. The phone is a touch unwieldy however, not only due to its size, which actually isn’t all that bigger than other smartphones that feature much smaller 5.5-inch displays, but because the ceramic makes the phone very slippery. Xiaomi has included a high quality soft leather case in the box that helps provide a lot more grip.
Under the hood, the Mi MIX packs what you would expect from any current generation flagship smartphone, including the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, backed by the Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM depending on which version you opt for. The premium version visually differs from the standard iteration by featuring 18k rings around the camera unit and the fingerprint scanner on the back.
The former also comes with 256 GB of internal storage, compared to the 128 GB that is available with the latter. Regardless of which version you pick, performance should not be an issue with either, and the storage in both cases should be more than enough to store all your apps, files, photos, and videos. The device doesn’t come with expandable storage capabilities, but very few people, if any, will miss this feature.
The Mi MIX comes with a 16 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front-facing unit, and keeping everything running is a large 4,000 mAh battery. We can’t wait to put this device through its paces, and luckily, we do have a review unit already, so you can expect a comprehensive review to be available shortly.
The Xiaomi Mi MIX will be available in China from November 4, priced at RMB 3,499 (~$519) for the 4 GB of RAM and RMB 3,999 (~$593) for the 6 GB of RAM iteration. However, with this device being a concept phone, it will be manufactured in limited quantities, and it is unfortunately quite unlikely to make its way to other markets around the world. You may still be able to import it, but you will have to make sure of network connectivity before doing so.
While its lack of availability is unfortunate, Xiaomi is certainly paving the way for what the future hopefully holds, and in a year where smartphone design hasn’t caused much excitement, the Xiaomi Mi MIX is a breathe of fresh air. Stay tuned with Android Authority for the in-depth review of the Xiaomi Mi MIX, and more on the company’s other big launch at the event, the Mi Note 2!
We’re used to surprise announcements at Xiaomi events, but this time, it’s a rather special one. After showing off the Mi Note 2, the company unveiled the Mi MIX “concept phone” — one that’s headlining with a cool 6.4-inch, edge-to-edge 1080p LCD (even at the top two round corners, and without using the old optical illusion trick). The high-end device also features a glossy full ceramic body and buttons, with no earpiece or proximity sensor, allowing for a cleaner look on the device’s top edge. And, naturally, as flagship phone it has flagship specs. For a moment there, we were wondering why Xiaomi would spend so much time talking about a concept phone, but then, as a final surprise, we learned it’s something people will actually be able to buy.
According to Global VP Hugo Barra, the Mi MIX was kept under wraps before launch, to the point where CEO Lei Jun didn’t even use the relevant slides during rehearsal. It’s no wonder, then, that were no leaks about the device. The closest I got was a rumor — which turned out to be false — about Xiaomi launching two versions of the Mi Note 2: one curved and one flat.
Xiaomi’s collaboration with famed French designer Philippe Starck on the Mi MIX was another surprise. Barra said the project started in 2014, with Starck’s main contribution being that he helped set the high-level direction for the team. Later on, he was heavily involved in guiding the device’s look and feel. While sharing the stage with Lei, Starck took the opportunity to express his fondness of the ceramic edition Mi 5, which was Xiaomi’s first attempt at using this fancy-looking material. By comparison, the ceramic edition Mi 5 was apparently more difficult to manufacture than the Mi MIX, due to the body’s 3D curve.
Going back to the Mi MIX, you’ll see that the earpiece and infrared proximity sensor have been removed from the top to make way for the edge-to-edge display. It’s so expansive, in fact, that it occupies a whopping 91.3 percent of the available surface space. These features are replaced by a cantilever piezoelectric actuator behind the glass to produce both audible sound for phone calls. There’s also ultrasound for proximity sensing — a first for smartphones. The latter is powered by Elliptic Labs’ cunningly-named “Inner Beauty” software solution (because it contributes to the device’s outer beauty, get it?), but as simple as it sounds, this Norwegian startup has been working on this technology with Xiaomi since the end of 2014.
“Qualcomm tried to do this but they pulled out of this market,” Elliptic Labs CEO Laila Danielsen told Engadget. “We know that many other smartphone manufacturers have been trying to do that, but they’re not able to because it’s really difficult,” she added, referring to how you’d need a sophisticated algorithm to address the distortion when the signal travels through glass.
Danielsen believes that a Norwegian company like hers is more likely to succeed in this field thanks to the local expertise on ultrasound technology, which is used in the region for fishing, healthcare and seismic analysis. Now, with the launch of the Mi MIX, Elliptic Labs is apparently already 16 to 18 months ahead of the competition as it has the automatic testing tools plus scalability. Its next goal: to bring ultrasonic gesture control to smartphones as well.
The rest of the Mi MIX is just as impressive. This Android phone features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset clocked at 2.35GHz, along with either 4GB or 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 128GB or 256GB of UFS 2.0 storage, a massive 4,400mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support, a fingerprint reader, NFC, HD audio playback, a 16-megapixel main camera and a tiny custom-made 5-megapixel selfie camera (the module is half the size of conventional ones). Like the Mi Note 2, the Mi MIX also supports LTE Cat 11 with download speeds of up to 600Mbps using tri-carrier aggregation.
Combining these great specs with such an ambitious design, it’s only fair for Barra to call this phone the “Formula One” product from Xiaomi. Still, there’s no doubt that the Chinese company will also continue to serve the mainstream market — after all, it does have some catching up to do if it wants to gain Chinese marketshare. Even so, devices like the Mi MIX feel refreshing at a time when the market for phones — and the rate of innovation, for that matter — is otherwise slowing.
The Mi MIX will be available in China on November 4th. The base model costs 3,499 yuan (around $516), while the top-end model — which sports 18-karat gold rims around the main camera and fingerprint reader — is priced at 3,999 yuan, or about $590. These cost a good deal more than what Xiaomi usually asks for, but given the unique design and specs, the price is still reasonable compared to other phones, and will probably indeed sell well in a country where Xiaomi has already won many fans.
It was only last month when Xiaomi launched the Mi 5s and Mi 5s Plus, but the Chinese company is already back with yet another flagship model. What we have here is the Mi Note 2 which, as you can tell by the name, is all about its large 5.7-inch 1080p display and generous 4,070 mAh battery. If it weren’t for the missing stylus, you’d easily confuse the Mi Note 2 with the Samsung S7 Edge or Note 7: It comes in a familiarly gorgeous body design with curved glass on both sides, and yes, much like Samsung’s offerings, the Mi Note 2 features a flexible OLED screen that lightly wraps around the edges, though it’s just for looks for now. Not bad for a phone that starts from 2,799 yuan or about $413.
As a flagship phone, the specs should come as no surprise: Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 chipset (2.35GHz; same as the Mi 5s Plus), from 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, from 64GB of UFS 2.0 storage, NFC, Quick Charge 3.0 and HD audio playback (192kHz/24 bit). Xiaomi is pitching the Mi Note 2 as a “business flagship” so roaming support is obviously very important: It does LTE Cat 11 with up to 600Mbps downlink using tri-carrier aggregation, and its top model supports 37 bands (22 of which are LTE) which matches the iPhone 7 Plus and beats the Huawei P9 Plus’ 32 bands.
On the photography side, the Mi Note 2’s main camera has opted for a higher resolution — using the 22.56-megapixel Sony IMX318 sensor — instead of larger pixels like the Mi 5s series has. While it doesn’t have optical stabilization (nor laser auto-focus for that matter), it does offer electronic image stabilization for 4K video capture. As for the front-facing camera, we have an 8-megapixel f/2.0 imager with Sony’s IMX268 plus auto-focus — which is still a missing feature on many selfie cameras. Not only does this come with Xiaomi’s third-gen beautification software, it also has a cool feature which makes sure everyone in the shot isn’t blinking: This is achieved by taking burst shots, and then the software picks the best shot and also replace the faces of whoever blinked with the correct ones from other shots.
Due to the more complicated manufacturing methods for this design, the Mi Note 2 costs a little but more than Xiaomi’s typical price points. The base model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage is going for 2,799 yuan or about $413, then the next model up with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage costs 3,299 yuan or about $490, and finally we have the ultimate model with the same specs but also with global bands asking for 3,499 yuan or about $516. It comes in Piano Black and Glacier Silver, but the latter won’t be available for another two to three weeks. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to buy this phone in the US, but you’re bound to find one from online importers.
Xiaomi unveiled its latest phablet phone, the Mi Note 2, at an event in Beijing today, with the clear intention of filling the void left by the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
The Note 2 is the newest model in Xiaomi’s premium Mi line and features a 5.7-inch flexible OLED display that sits under a panel of wraparound glass and curves around the sides of the handset.
On the rear is a 22.56-megapixel camera with support for 4K video, backed up by a dedicated 3-axis gyroscope to enhance image stabilization. An 8-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture features on the front.
The Note 2 is powered by a 2.35GHz Snapdragon 821 processor and comes with up to 6GB RAM and 128GB storage capacity. There’s also a 4,070mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support, plus cellular support for 37 bands worldwide.
The Mi Note 2 starts at 2799 yuan ($413) for 64GB storage/4GB RAM, going up to 3499 yuan ($516) with 128GB storage/6GB RAM, and will be available in China first before hitting other Asian markets and presumably other parts of the world.
#MiNote2 – front & back 3D curved glass, 5.7” flexible OLED display, SD821 2.35GHz, 37 global bands, 22.56MP camera, RMB3499 pic.twitter.com/4kfCR6ELjx
— Hugo Barra (@hbarra) October 25, 2016
Xiaomi’s focus on its premium range of phones comes on the back of a shift in consumer interest away from discount devices in the Chinese smartphone market, with buyers seeking out high end phones that can go toe to toe with models from the likes of Apple and Samsung instead.
Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo are three Chinese brands that all offer premium phones now costing over $300, leaving Xiaomi’s inexpensive Redmi handsets looking less attractive to savvy buyers with more disposable income.
Tags: China, Xiaomi
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Xiaomi surprised at its Beijing event today by announcing the Mi Mix, the “world’s first edgeless display” phone, alongside the company’s new Mi Note 2.
Designed by French designer Philippe Starck, the Mi Mix is a 6.4-inch device that features a 2040×1080 pixel, 17:9 aspect ratio borderless display that takes up 91.3 percent of the front of the handset. The only significant bezel sits at the bottom of the screen, but it doesn’t have a physical button, with all the controls existing onscreen.
The all-ceramic phone uses a piezoelectric ceramic driver for the earpiece which uses the metal frame to generate sound, while the proximity sensor has been replaced by ultrasound. Both innovations are hidden under the display. The design also uses a mortise and tenon joint for attaching the display to the body, rather than glue or other adhesives.
Powering the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, with 4GB RAM for the 128GB capacity model and 6GB RAM for the 256GB model, which also features gold trim, with 18K gold accents on the camera lens and fingerprint sensor on the back.
The rear camera boasts a 16-megapixel resolution and 4K video, while the front camera is 5 megapixels. The phone is also said to have dual SIM connectivity and a 4,400mAh battery with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support.
#MiMIX Edgeless display (world’s 1st), 93% screen-body ratio, piezoelectric ceramic earpiece speaker, behind-display ultrasonic proc sensor pic.twitter.com/33dywzDxKG
— Hugo Barra (@hbarra) October 25, 2016
Depicting the Mi Mix in promotional videos reminiscent of the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Xiaomi called the device a “concept phone”, and yet offered both a price and a release date. The 4GB/128GB model costs RMB 3,499 ($515) and the 6GB/256GB model is RMB 3,999 ($590), with both handsets set to launch on November 4th in China.
The phone may give us some idea of what Apple’s next phone could look like. Apple has a major iPhone redesign planned for 2017, with a glass body and edge-to-edge OLED display that includes an integrated Touch ID fingerprint sensor and front-facing camera. The handset is expected to lack bezels, meaning there will be no Home button. Jony Ive is said to have wanted to introduce an iPhone that looks like a single sheet of glass for several years, and 2017 may be the year that becomes possible.
Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)
Tags: China, Xiaomi
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