Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun unveils the Mi Mix Fold foldable smartphone at a virtual event on Tuesday, March 30, 2021.
GUANGZHOU, China – Xiaomi launched its first foldable phone on Tuesday as it seeks to push further into the premium segment of the smartphone market and challenge Samsung.
The Mi Mix Fold has an 8.01 inch screen when fully opened. And when closed, it has a screen on the back. It also contains the Surge C1, Xiaomi’s first internal camera chipset.
Other key features include:
- Four loudspeakers manufactured by Harman Kardon.
- A Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 mobile processor.
- 5G connectivity.
- Triple lens camera.
The Mi Mix Fold will start at 9,999 Chinese Yuan ($ 1,521) and rise to 10,999 ($ 1,673). A special version of the phone with a special ceramic casing will cost 12,999 yuan ($ 1,978).
Xiaomi follows a number of smartphone makers, including Samsung and Huawei, in the foldable phone category.
Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, said the sheer number of foldable smartphones “reflects the urgency” of phone makers to differentiate their high-end devices.
“This remains a highly experimental segment where Samsung is leading the charge and it’s interesting to see all the different approaches from different players,” said Wood.
“Foldables remain an experimental niche. Although there is a lot of interest in Xiaomi’s new device, it is still unclear how to bring the design concept to mass market consumers. I await several more generations of experimentation.”
Xiaomi camera chip
The Mi Mix Fold contains a camera chip called Surge C1 which was designed by Xiaomi. It is the Chinese firm’s first image chip and CEO Lei Jun says it “greatly improves” the image quality of photos taken with the foldable device.
He spoke about the possibility of taking pictures in low light.
Lei said Xiaomi had been working on chips since 2014. In 2017, the company released the Surge S1, its first smartphone processor that ended up being used in a mid-range device called the Mi 5C.
Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun unveils the company’s first camera chipset, the Surge C1, at an event on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. It will feature in the company’s Mi Mix Fold smartphone.
Xiaomi joins Apple and Samsung to focus on chip design. While it still uses Qualcomm processors in its high-end phones, the launch of the Surge C1 highlights its ambitions in the semiconductor field.
The trade war between the United States and China has accelerated Beijing’s efforts to become more self-reliant on semiconductors. A number of Chinese tech companies, including Baidu and Alibaba, have focused on semiconductor design.
Xiaomi’s Lei hinted that more chips would come from his chip unit.
“We want to climb to the top of innovative technologies … and we will not stop our exploration (of chips),” Lei said in Mandarin, according to an official English translation.
Xiaomi’s high-end push
Xiaomi has made a name for itself and has grown by selling high-end phones at low prices. But now it is entering the high end segment of the market.
The Mi Mix Fold is part of that effort and follows the launch of the Mi 11 Pro and Mi 11 Ultra on Monday.
Xiaomi now has smartphones priced at 3,299 yuan to 12,999 yuan, according to Lei.
This could help the company attract a wider range of users across different price segments in its attempt to challenge Apple and Samsung, the two biggest smartphone players.
Xiaomi tries to entice users with premium services that go with the Mi Mix Fold. Buyers of the foldable device will be able to enjoy perks, including cheaper screen repair for the first break and a dedicated customer service assistant.