Technology: Xiaomi Challenges Samsung With Its Own Foldable, the $1,500 Mi Mix Fold

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China’s largest smartphone maker is finally joining Samsung and Huawei in the flexible phone market, and while it isn’t the mysterious tri-fold device that Xiaomi teased awhile back, but the company’s new Mi Mix Fold is here.

screen of a cell phone © Screenshot: Xiaomi

Priced at 9,999 yuan (around $1,520), the Mi Mix Fold is significantly cheaper (though still relatively expensive) than both Samsung’s $2,000 Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Huawei’s recently announced $2,800 Mate X2, while still sporting a bunch of high-end features and a very similar design.

Like the Z Fold 2 and the Mate X2, Xiaomi settled on an inward folding flexible 2480 x 1860 OLED screen that measures 8.01-inches diagonally, but unlike its competitors, Xiaomi saved a few bucks by limiting the screen to just 60Hz instead of 90Hz or 120Hz like you get on the Mate X2 and Z Fold2, respectively.

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When closed, the Mi Mix Fold comes with a 2520 x 840 6.52-inch OLED screen on the exterior of the device, so you can perform simple tasks like respond to texts, check a map, or skip a track without fully unfurling its interior display. And unlike its main screen, the Mi Mix Fold’s exterior display does support a faster 90Hz refresh rate.

graphical user interface, website © Screenshot: Xiaomi

Around back, instead of the Samsung ISOCELL GN2 sensor Xiaomi picked for the Mi 11 Ultra’s main cam, Xiaomi gave the Mi Mix Fold a 108-MP main cam featuring a Samsung HM2 sensor, a 3-MP ultra-wide cam, and an 8-MP telephoto cam with a 3x optical zoom that comes equipped with the liquid lens Xiaomi teased last week.

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Xiaomi says the Mi Mix Fold’s liquid lens allows the telephoto camera to achieve a super close minimum focusing distance of just three centimeters, which means the telephoto cam can also double as a macro shooter. And to make sure that liquid lens is controlled properly, Xiaomi even created an in-house ISP called the Surge C1 chip to deliver even better low-light, autofocus, and white balance performance.

graphical user interface, website © Screenshot: Xiaomi

Inside, the Mi Mix Fold sports flagship-level specs, including a Snapdragon 888 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and as much as 512GB of onboard storage. Xiaomi also wisely included a large 5,020 mAh battery that’s split into two different sections, allowing for better weight distribution and faster charging speeds of up to 67 watts.

The Mi Mix Fold also includes quad speakers tuned by Harman Kardon and an optional ceramic back for increased durability. Xiaomi said that the Mi Mix Fold’s hinge has been tested to withstand up to 1 million bends, so longevity theoretically shouldn’t be an issue, though real-world testing may offer different results.

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a screen shot of a computer © Screenshot: Xiaomi

However, my favorite new development on the Mi Mix Fold is Xiaomi’s inclusion of a dedicated PC Mode that turns the phone into a mini laptop complete with a real task bar, windowed apps, and more. Seeing foldables makers embrace the hybrid nature of these devices is something I’ve been hoping to see more off, especially as foldable and non-foldable phones begin to head down slightly different development paths catered toward different types of users.

The big bummer is that, like Huawei’s Mate X2, the Mi Mix Fold is not expected to have a global release and will probably be limited strictly to the Chinese market. That means in the U.S. and other parts of the west, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2's reign as the foldable of choice is going to continue unchallenged, at least for now.

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The increased volume of Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 rumors indicates that we’re just a few months away from Samsung’s Unpacked event where the Korean firm will introduce its 2021 foldable phones. The handsets will be more durable than last year’s versions, featuring hardened Ultra Thing Glass (UTG), water and dust resistance, as well as improvements to the hinge mechanisms and overall design changes. That’s what we hear out of almost every leak detailing Samsung’s new foldable handsets.

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