Everyone is talking about the Galaxy S8 this week, but Xiaomi is trying to take some of the attention away from Samsung’s juggernaut. At an event in Beijing, the company took the wraps off its own flagship handset, and it clearly has the S8 in its sights.
The Mi6 bucks the large-screen trend somewhat with its 5.15-inch display, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a premium handset. Under the hood, the phone is powered by the Snapdragon 835 chip, making it just the third phone to feature the next-generation processor. However, with Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium not shipping until June, it will be the first to hit shelves after the S8.
And with a price tag starting at around $360 (a bit higher than Xiaomi’s usual flaghips but still very affordable), it looks like an attractive alternative for budget-conscious buyers drooling over the S8. You’ll get 6GB of RAM, a giant (for this size phone, anyway) 3,350 mAh battery, dual stereo speakers, and an attractive, S7-inspired design. While there isn’t a wraparound screen on the Mi6, it does feature four-sided 3D glass to create the illusion of an edge display and an under-the-glass fingerprint scanner below the screen. There's no headphone jack.
But where the Mi6 really shines is with its camera. The phone features a 12MP dual rear camera, matching the specs on Apple’s iPhone 7 and besting the S8’s single shooter. Xiaomi uses its twin lenses to offer a wide-aperture portrait mode, along with a 10x digital zoom, 2x lossless zoom, and optical image stabilization. It remains to be seen whether the camera will take pictures as well as the iPhone or the S8, but on paper it’s quite impressive.
Now for the bad news. When the Mi6 goes on sale April 28, it will only hit shelves in China. Xiaomi says an international launch will follow in select markets, but U.S. buyers shouldn’t hold their breath. Xiaomi’s attempt to break into the States with the Mi5 last year wasn’t exactly well-received, and with the departure of Hugo Barra earlier this year, it seems as though the company is sticking to its roots with the Mi6.
The phone will come in blue, white, silver, and black and will cost $360 for the 64GB model and $435 for 128GB. The higher-end capacity also comes in a special ceramic edition with an 18-karat gold-lined camera for a few dollars more.
Why this matters: Even though we likely won’t be able to buy an Mi6 in the United States, it's a good sign of things to come. With the Galaxy S8 landing, the age of the Snapdragon 835 chip can finally begin. It's a new era for smartphones, with svelte, curved designs, killer cameras, and amazing battery life. And if mid-range phone makers can follow Xiaomi’s lead here, you might not have to spend a bundle to get the best.