Hit or Miss: Xiaomi Mi Mix Concept Phone

6.3tech score

Last year Xiaomi decided they were sick of seeing the completely bezel-less Apple and Samsung “leaked concepts” and decided to make their own. However, unlike these “concepts”, the Mi Mix is 100% real. 6.4” screen real-estate, 6GB Ram, 4400 mAh battery, a gold plated fingerprint scanner and the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, Xiaomi truly are pushing the boundaries on what people perceive as the quality of Chinese manufacturing.

Xiaomi is one of the Chinese technology companies really coming into their own in recent years, along with the likes of LeEco, Vivo, et cetera; and even looking back only a few years it’s clear to see the astonishing rate at which they are growing and improving. Admittedly Xiaomi originally fell more into the category of your average Chinese company, simply ripping-off other companies designs and producing them at a cheaper cost; with their android UI, ‘MIUI’, starting life as a very cheap looking IOS knock-off and transforming into MIUI 8, which although still aesthetically still looks rather similar to IOS, it is one of the most customizable android distribution, not only through the massive list of settings that Xiaomi give you to play with, but also through the fact that Xiaomi allows their users to unlock the bootloader of their devices, and install custom Roms, something that is usually frowned upon by larger companies.

That’s not to say the Mi Mix is Xiaomi’s first high-end flagship, with the Mi5, Mi5s, and Mi5s plus all being similarly spec-ed. What was truly surprising with the Mi Mix is that it is extremely unique. With most Xiaomi phones you can often pick them apart, and find where each piece of the design was ‘taken’ from, however the Mi Mix stands out among any current flagship and for the most part would stand out when compared with any other phone (other than the Sharp Aquos Crystal and Aquos Xx series and possibly some other bezel-less concepts). This sort of innovation is positive not only in the sense that it shows Xiaomi are becoming more independent/unique with their designs, but it is also positive in the sense that when a company like Xiaomi takes such a risky initiative if it was to sell well, it would give the ‘big competitors’ a much-needed shake out of their complacency.

Even Though it May Not Be as High Quality as Some More Modern Flagships the Mi Mix’s Camera is by No Means Poor.

The phone, of course, is not only beautiful in design but also in function. The 14MP camera (although not as good as some) performs amazingly well, the screen is vibrant and bright, the build quality is good, and with all the internal specs it boasts, it is no slouch in terms of performance. However, this doesn’t mean the Mi Mix is without fault. The screen, although quite beautiful, is LCD rather than OLED, meaning much a much lower contrast ratio; the camera is good, however for the price of the phone it should at least be on par with high-end flagships and it isn’t; the phone itself is not only too big (in terms of ergonomics) to use the candy bar form factor it possess, it is also extremely heavy and in terms of a £1000 piece of tech, heavy and awkward to hold is a worrying combination. A final negative which to a degree is irrelevant, is the fact Xiaomi have gold plated the fixtures, which although helps sell it to the Oil rich luxury market, for the general consumer this is a useless addition that does nothing but drives up the price (and probably plays a part in the phone’s weight).

In day to day tasks, although the performance of the phone is exactly what you would expect from a high-end flagship, the battery drains rather quickly due to the size of the screen, and it’s simply not viable to use in the same way you would use say a Galaxy S7 for casual browsing. Overall I think the Mi Mix is a step in the right direction, in terms of unique innovation, however Xiaomi have tried to make a luxury phone by covering it in gold rather than giving it a UHD screen (or even QHD for that matter), or an OLED panel, and I think this means the phone is slightly a case of wasted potential, however, it’s good to keep in mind that this is a concept phone, so it was never really going to have the same level of polish/refinement as a mass marketed phone.

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Hit or Miss: Smartwatches

6.6tech score

Since the Pebble was successfully crowdfunded in 2012, every big name has tried taking a slice of the pie so to speak, with Samsung releasing their gear watch in 2013 and Apple being somewhat slow to the party releasing the Apple watch in 2015 (with LG, Motorola et cetera getting on the wagon in the meantime). Since then the term ‘smart watch’ is somewhat of a household name, even if it is thought of mainly as a bit of a gimmicky tech. More recently ( Dec 2016/Jan 2017) Samsung have announced that their gear watches would now be supporting iPhones, and the company has been praised for this as if they are taking actions against anti-consumer ecosystems however I really don’t think this is the case and think it points more so towards just how poorly the market is doing at the moment.  

The concept in essence is perfect for anyone who wants a watch. Easy to replace bands, literally thousands of custom faces that you can change at any time whenever you feel bored with the previous one, it can tell you the weather, the date, can remind you of any events or reminders you set, and can for the most part control your phone without having to pull it out of your pocket every few minutes. So you might wonder, why does anyone buy a standard watch anymore? The answer is actually a lot simpler than you may think. The watch industry is an established market, already having option for each segment of the market, with names carrying a lot of weight in the luxury bracket. Realistically, due to this, the ultimate downfall of the smartwatch initiative was the pricing.

smart watch

A good example of this is the Apple Watch 2. The Apple Watch 2 is currently priced at £370 after being released September of last year. At this price bracket for most goods you would expect this to be cutting into the high-end or luxury sales, however within a market where you can pay upwards of £20000 for a Rolex Yachtmaster II this is a relatively low-end product. However, you can also go pick up a any old watch for £30, so the Apple watch can’t necessarily fit into the budget category either. So where exactly does it fit?

Smart Watches (although functional and actually a good product) for the most part fall into the ‘show-off’ products for those people who a Yachtmaster is out of reach for. With the Apple watch mainly, it seems people will buy one simply to mention owning one which, if it was a Rolex, may be slightly less obnoxious, but for a sub £500 item is rather unnecessary. Of course there are people who genuinely do get use out of smartwatches and I am in no way discrediting the usefulness of owning a smartwatch I just feel it’s a piece of tech which isn’t receiving any love, and simply can’t/won’t break into the Mass market (i.e. one per household at least) with a £370 price tag, which is only likely to rise in the next iteration.

What we are yet to see and something I am genuinely excited for is the integration between our smart devices and metropolitan IoT. If you could raise and lower bollards from your wrist, or be able to view what spaces in the car park will be free before you pull in via alerts on your phone or watch. Of course for the most part we are going to need for 5G (and thus 5G compatible devices) for a true City scale IoT set-up.

Overall I think Smartwatches are a good technology, and can be very helpful when you travel across busy streets and need to take calls without having to pull your phone out your pocket just to have it knocked out your hand by a passer-by. However, the tech has been let down by the people pushing it charging what are realistically quite extortionate prices for tech not much more advanced than a Razer Phone. If I were to have to recommend a smartwatch it would likely be a Samsung gear simply for the fact that you can use it with both android and IOS devices meaning no matter what phone you get in the future you won’t have to buy a new watch.

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