Mi Mix Alpha Hands-on: Xiaomi’s crazy phone with a wrap-around display

Xiaomi launched the first device in the Mi MIX lineup all the way back in 2016, featuring a revolutionary bezel-less display. The device was launched as a concept phone that only intended to showcase what smartphones could look like in the future. But its success triggered the launch of a new series from Xiaomi that showed off innovative technologies like the piezoelectric earpiece solution on the Mi MIX and the slider mechanism on the Mi MIX 3. Late last year, Xiaomi launched another concept smartphone as part of the Mi MIX series, taking innovation to a whole new level. The Mi MIX Alpha features a wrap-around pOLED display that continues over the edges all the way around to the back, giving the smartphone an unbelievable 180.6% screen-to-body ratio. We recently got a chance to experience the Mi MIX Alpha first hand at a media briefing in New Delhi and here are our first impressions of the device.

At first glance, the Mi MIX Alpha looks like a smartphone straight out of science fiction, with its wrap-around display and bezel-less design. Its display seamlessly wraps around the titanium alloy frame, leaving just a narrow strip on the back to house the triple camera module. Unlike the frame, this strip is made up of ceramic and it has a sapphire glass at the top to protect the cameras from unwanted scratches. I personally can’t comment on the in-hand feel as Xiaomi didn’t allow any of us to touch the device, however, the materials used lead me to believe that the Mi MIX Alpha would definitely feel premium.

Mi Mix Alpha

In order to achieve this futuristic design, Xiaomi has packed in a number of innovations in the Mi MIX Alpha. To accommodate the nearly bezel-less wrap-around display, Xiaomi has made use of a liquid crystal polymer (LCP) antenna design with a clearance of just 0.8mm, piezoelectric speakers to replace the traditional earpiece, and ultrasonic proximity sensors that are embedded under the display.

Now with a curved display that goes all the way over the sides, it’s quite natural for users to be worried about accidental touches. This is one major gripe I’ve had with smartphones that feature a curved display. To overcome this issue, Xiaomi makes use of multiple sensors and artificial intelligence on the Mi MIX Alpha. The device features precise screen usage detection that automatically deactivates inactive areas to avoid accidental touches.

In the camera department, the Mi MIX Alpha features the 108MP Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX S5KHMX primary camera with 1/1.33-inch sensor size, f/1.69 aperture, 7P lens, and four-axis optical image stabilization (OIS). We’ve also seen this camera on the Mi Note 10 and it’s capable of taking ultra-high resolution (12032 x 9024) images and it can also capture 4K video with OIS.

The primary sensor is accompanied by a 20MP ultra wide-angle camera with a 117-degree field of view, 1.28-inch sensor size, f/2.2 aperture, and a 6P lens. The camera setup is rounded off by a 12MP telephoto camera with a 1/2.55-inch sensor size, f/2 aperture, 6P lens, and dual PD autofocus. The device doesn’t include a selfie camera because it simply doesn’t need one. You can just turn the device around and the camera app flips to the display on the back, allowing you to take high-resolution selfies with the 108MP main camera.

On the inside, the Mi MIX Alpha features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855+ SoC, coupled with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage. The device features dual SIM 5G support and it’s backed by a 4,050 mAh nano silicon cathode battery with 40-watt fast charging. As you’d expect, the port selection is minimal with the smartphone featuring a single USB Type-C port on the bottom flanked by the SIM slot on one side and a downward-firing speaker on the other. Up at the top, the device has a physical power button that is needed to power on the device, but not for screen locking and unlocking.

Mi Mix Alpha

Thanks to the unique form factor, the Mi MIX Alpha runs a custom version of MIUI that enables some really handy features like the selfie camera mode and the accidental touch detection feature that we just talked about. The device features pressure-sensitive virtual side buttons on the edges of the display, which is the main reason why the physical power button is not needed for screen lock/unlock. The software power button stays on even when the display is turned off. Xiaomi claims that these buttons are customizable and can switch positions depending on the orientation of the device.

Mi MIX Alpha

But that’s not the only thing that changes with the orientation. The software can automatically detect when the user flips the Mi MIX Alpha over to the back, allowing the phone to display useful information on the right half of the display on the back. The software makes use of real-time AI scenario detection to display this information. So if you have booked a cab, flipping over the device will show you details about your booking. This feature can also be used to display information about your flight or train bookings and it can also be used to control your smart home devices on-the-go.

Mi Mix Alpha

Additionally, the edges of the Mi MIX Alpha show crucial information like the battery percentage, network coverage, alarms, and other information that you’d usually see in the status bar on a traditional smartphone.

The entire edge also glows whenever you receive a new notification, which is definitely a nice touch. But the coolest thing about the Mi MIX Alpha is its charging animation. When the device is plugged in, the entire screen lights up indicating the current battery percentage. As you can see in the video below, the animation keeps moving up the display as the device charges and the color goes from red to green depending on the battery level.

Now that we’ve addressed all of the unique features of the Mi MIX Alpha, it’s time to talk about pricing and availability. The device was launched in China at a staggering CNY 19,999 (~₹2,05,690) and since Xiaomi just has one specialized production line in China that can produce this device, the company claims that the price could shoot up to ₹2,50,000 keeping in mind India’s customs duties and tariffs. While this definitely is a fair price for a device that’s this innovative, Xiaomi currently has no plans to bring the device to the Indian market. The phone has yet to go on sale in China too, but we can cut it some slack keeping in mind the challenges involved in mass-producing such a phone.

Xiaomi does plan on showcasing the Mi MIX Alpha in select Mi Home stores across India. As of now, the device is running an early beta build of MIUI and Xiaomi still has a long way to go before the software is polished enough to be displayed at a Mi Home store near you. Xiaomi hasn’t revealed a timeline for the same, but we’ll update this post as and when we receive more information from the company.

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