Samsung did not make any big announcement and Huawei delayed the launch of its flagship P30 series for a separate event in March. This gave Xiaomi ample opportunity to own Mobile World Congress in 2019. The Chinese smartphone maker, as one would expect, made the most of it by launching not one but two flagship smartphones for the global market. The company, which is losing market share fast in its home market and faces new challenges in the Indian market is now looking at Europe to steady the ship. At MWC 2019, Xiaomi made that clear by launching the Mi 9 and Mi MIX 3 5G for Spain and other European markets. The company not only prioritized these markets, but also announced a price that sets new benchmark for the industry. The importance of this young Chinese company became relevant even before the event started, where seats were filling real quick and the hands-on area had people flocking over products.
I got a chance to try both the Mi 9 and Mi MIX 3 5G and my takeaways are quite simple: Xiaomi has brilliantly created two devices that share a common platform and yet, sport a distinct DNA. The Mi 9 is the most accessible of the two devices since it supports 4G network, which is widely available around the world. It sports a 6.39-inch display with a Full HD+ resolution of 2340×1080 pixels and 19.5:9 aspect ratio. While previous Xiaomi smartphones have featured a wide notch, the Mi 9 is the first to offer a U-shaped notch. Compared to those wide notches, which don’t serve any purpose on Android phones, the U-shaped notch is bearable to say the least. There is aluminum casing with glass back, which allows for wireless charging.
Watch: Xiaomi Mi 9 First Look
The Mi 9, during my limited time with the device, felt premium and built similar to every other flagship Mi series before it. The real deal, however, is the support for fast wireless charging rated at 20W. In comparison, the Google Pixel 3 supports 18W fast wired charging and 10W wireless charging and with double the power output, Xiaomi Mi 9 users won’t feel bad about using wireless charging more than wired charging. Under the hood, there is Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, the most powerful mobile platform yet from Qualcomm and is paired with Snapdragon X24 LTE modem. In Europe, Xiaomi is offering two variants with 6GB RAM and option for 64GB or 128GB storage. The company also showed the Mi 9 Explorer Edition, which has a transparent back, 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.
The standard Mi 9 with its Huawei-inspired triple rear camera setup and gradient finish looks practical but the explorer edition with its transparent back revealing fake component layout is what doctors would recommend to geeks. The Mi 9 is packed with features and there is no denying that it is the most powerful flagship Mi device from Xiaomi yet. However, it wants to be known for its triple rear camera setup as well. Xiaomi, like Huawei and Samsung, has chosen a combination of wide-angle, ultra wide-angle and telephoto camera. The main camera is the 48-megapixel shooter, which we liked on the Honor View20 and it is paired with a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera.
I don’t want to judge these cameras based on what I saw at the event since the lighting was rather unbelievable. But they definitely looked promising for a Xiaomi flagship. There is also a 24-megapixel camera at the front for selfies. At a retail price of €449 (around Rs 36,250) in Europe, the company is undercutting every other flagship smartphone one could imagine. The Mi 9 ticks the boxes at least for being the first Snapdragon 855 smartphone that adheres to traditional form factor and for one being the one most people could buy. The only disappointment is that Xiaomi has never focused on India’s premium smartphone segment with its Mi flagships but it should change that stance with the Mi 9.
The second smartphone from Xiaomi, announced at MWC 2019, is the Mi MIX 3 5G. The Mi MIX 3 5G is basically the 5G version of last year’s Mi MIX 3, but it becomes a completely new device with changes under the hood. The MIX 3 5G is powered by Snapdragon 855, like the Mi 9, but uses Snapdragon X50 modem to enable 5G mobile connectivity. The device is important not because it competes with Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, ZTE Axon 10 Pro, Oppo and OnePlus’ upcoming 5G flagships but because it is the only 5G phone with a retail price and availability information.
Xiaomi punched all other 5G smartphone makers by announcing that Mi MIX 3 5G will start at €599 (around Rs 48,350) and will become available from May via Mi Store. Even if 5G networks are not ready by May, consumers can use the Mi MIX 3 as a 4G smartphone and upgrade to 5G whenever your carrier supports it. Announcing phones and showing proof of concept is a fine but revealing price shows seriousness and readiness for a market that has no clear idea about 5G and how much transformational it will be in their day to day life.
In terms of design, the Mi MIX 3 5G features a truly bezel-less design at the front thanks to the slider mechanism which houses the front camera array. It shares the same 6.39-inch Full HD+ display seen on Mi 9 but looks nicer thanks to the screen being devoid of any notch or cut out. There is ceramic back as opposed to glass back on Mi 9 and the touch feel is so superior that you wonder why all phones are not made of ceramic back. It comes with 6GB RAM and option for either 64GB or 128GB storage, which is a standard affair. It sports dual 12-megapixel rear camera setup which acts as wide-angle and telephoto lenses. In case you care, DxOMark rated it 103 in its test so it should be decent if not the best. The mechanical slider houses a 24-megapixel selfie camera paired with a 2-megapixel depth sensor. It runs MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie and is backed by a 3,800mAh battery.
Xiaomi demonstrated 5G video call on Mi MIX 3 5G on stage but it did not show live network running on the smartphone during demo. It just goes on to show how unprepared we are for this 5G era. With 5G, there is promise of high throughput and low latency, which demands a complete redesign of antenna structure. It also means that the phones powered by 5G could drain battery faster than their 4G counterparts. Whether the 3,800mAh battery is capable of lasting through a work day will decide it’s success and failure.