As much as I would love for it to be true, this is not a photo of the iPhone X with a fingerprint sensor on the back.
The phone you’re looking at is Xiaomi’s newest Mi Mix 2S. Yes, it’s an Android phone that looks like an iPhone X knockoff from the rear. No, it doesn’t have a notch on the front. And yes, it’s a damn nice phone.
China’s Xiaomi has been on the up and up the last few years and it has plans to launch its phones in the U.S. sometime in the near future. The first Mi Mix dazzled with its forward-facing bezel-less display, ultrasound speaker tech, and sleek ceramic body. And Xiaomi followed up on it with the hotter Mi Mix 2 last fall.
Now, six months later, the third-largest phone maker in China and sixth largest worldwide, is releasing the Mi Mix 2S.
Mi Mix 2S screen (right) still looks great compare to Mi Mix’s (left).Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLEThe Mix 2S is not a redesign from the ground up, but rather a half-step upgrade. It’s a “S” model the same way Apple has released “S” models every other year for the iPhone. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any sweet updates.
Xiaomi’s made three key changes for the Mix 2S. First, the phone’s powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 chip. Second, there’s now dual cameras on the rear. And third, it supports Qi wireless charging.
No shame in the same
Everything else about the phone’s pretty much the same as before. Xiaomi’s stuck with an aluminum frame and ceramic back, and the speedy fingerprint sensor’s still on the back where it should be. There’s no unibody ceramic version this time.
No notch here.Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLEThe 5.99-inch screen (2,160 x 1,080) resolution is still pretty large, bright and dang sharp. The phone’s not quite bezel-less — there’s still a “chin” below the screen — but close enough.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera is still tucked into the lower right corner so you’ll still have to turn the phone upside down to get a proper selfie that isn’t aimed up your nose.
Front-facing camera is still in the corner. Ugh.Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLEThe headphone jack is still gone. There’s still no water-resistance. There’s still only a mono speaker. And the battery’s the same 3,400 mAh capacity.
Just as with the Mi Mix 2, I have no complaints about the build quality. The phone’s a manageable size to use with one hand thanks to its slim bezels and the ceramic is still slippery but feels so good.
New and improved
As I mentioned earlier, much of the new stuff is under the hood. The new Snapdragon 845 chip makes Android 8.0 Oreo with Xiaomi’s custom MIUI 9 interface smoother. The pre-production Mi Mix 2S I’ve been testing comes with 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, but it also comes with 6GB of RAM paired with 64GB or 128GB of storage.
Xiaomi also says the phone supports Google’s ARCore right out of the box so developers won’t have any issues getting their augmented reality apps optimized for it.
I knocked the Mix 2 for not coming with dual cameras when even affordable premium phones like the OnePlus had them and Xiaomi remedied that on the Mix 2S.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 (left) and Mix 2S (right).Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLEOn the rear, you’ll find dual 12-megapixel cameras. The main camera sensor’s an IMX363 image sensor with f/1.8 aperture made by Sony and the second is a 2x telephoto image sensor with f/2.4 aperture from Samsung.
The cameras work exactly like they do on an iPhone 7 Plus/8 Plus/X. And there’s also a portrait mode for taking photos with blurred out backgrounds. I haven’t had time to take any in-depth photo comparisons to see how the Mix 2S’s dual cameras stack up agains the iPhone X or Galaxy S9+, but early photos look promising even without optical image stabilization.
And like so many other flagship Android phones, the camera is also infused with some AI. Xiaomi says it uses AI to intelligently detect a person’s outline and then blur the background out. And that applies to portrait mode for selfies, too. Similarly, it can detect the scene and adjust the camera settings for better exposure, color, etc.
iPhone X (left) and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S (right). They look pretty similar.Image: raymond wong/mashableWireless charging is — well, it’s convenient.
Stiff competition everywhere
Xiaomi hasn’t announced pricing, but a spokesperson told me it’ll cost roughly the same as the Mix 2: about $420. The Mix 2S will launch about a week from today in China and global versions will follow soon after. And yeah, it supports 4G in the U.S. on AT&T and T-Mobile (sorry Verizon and Sprint users, but your SOL).
Chinese companies used to have to push out new designs with every model, but these days it seems like smartphone saturation has given them a little bit of wiggle room.
The improvements on the Mix 2S are incremental, but so too are the ones on the Galaxy S9. I really wish the backside didn’t look so much like an iPhone — camera bump and all — but I guess it’s something I’ll need to come to terms with since everyone’s copying it.