Xiaomi aims to be more than king of the budget smartphones

The day after the Mi Note 2 and Mi MIX launch last week, the flagship Mi Home store next to Xiaomi’s headquarters was packed with visitors. Nope, they weren’t there to spend their yuan, but to simply wait for their turn to play with the new phones. But the real star was clearly the Mi MIX “concept phone.” People were drawn to its near-bezel-less display and fancy ceramic body. Despite this being Xiaomi’s most expensive smartphone ever, I heard many visitors ask if they could buy one immediately, only to be let down when told they have to wait until November 4th. Xiaomi must be doing something right

The Mi MIX didn’t just happen over night, of course; it was a two-year project with contributions from French designer, Philippe Starck. This man is no stranger to the tech world, he’s helped design headphones, hard drives, a smart radiator valve, electric bicycles and, even, the late Steve Jobs’ yacht. Barra described Starck’s role in the Mi MIX project as setting high-level priorities, especially when it came to convincing the Xiaomi team to keep things clean and simple.

Xiaomi’s aim with the Mi MIX is to showcase some of the breakthrough mobile technologies that will eventually trickle down to its mainstream devices. In this case, we have Sharp’s near-bezel-less display which we knew was arriving sooner or later. Hidden underneath that is Elliptic Labs’ ultrasound-based proximity sensor, which replaces the ugly infrared dot and turns the screen off when the phone is placed next to your ear. Last but not least, the full ceramic body is a nice alternative to the aluminum we’re accustomed to. The company hopes these experiments will lead consumers to see Xiaomi as home to serious innovation, rather than a budget brand.

Some would argue that it should be giants like Apple and Google bringing out devices like the Mi MIX. While Barra declined to comment on the iPhone 7, he was happy to praise his previous company’s efforts with the Pixel and even went as far as saying the series “sets a bar for the whole world.” He described Google’s latest phones as being “all-around optimized,” “very responsive” with “great battery life” plus an “awesome camera,” though he did say that they don’t necessarily have the best industrial design — especially with their “very tall chins.”

Could Google have done a phone like the Mi MIX? Barra defended his former colleagues by saying it would have been difficult for them to justify the risk of delivering a phone like this, as it wouldn’t sell in large quantities. The Pixel, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem. “I think they’re gonna sell a lot of Pixels. Every Android enthusiast is going to try what they can to get their hands on one.” Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Barra is still working for Google.

Save for the Mi Home’s strong resemblance to any Apple store, the Mi MIX could have almost peeled the copycat label off Xiaomi for good. Alas, people were quick to compare the Mi Note 2’s 3D curved body to Samsung’s S7 Edge and its discontinued Note 7. Barra was keen to point out that Xiaomi was actually the first company to release a smartphone with a 3D curved glass back — the original Mi Note. The same industrial design was applied to the smaller but more powerful Mi 5.

“I’m not worried about what people are going to say.”

Samsung then combined the 3D curved screen and the 3D curved glass back for the S7 Edge, to which Barra said, “Well, no one is going to give us credit for a curved back, right? They just care about the front.” It wasn’t until the Mi Note 2 when Xiaomi followed Samsung’s suit, courtesy of the flexible OLED display allegedly supplied by LG.

“In how many ways do you think you can design a curved display? Exactly one way,” Barra argued. “I don’t think that anyone can outright claim ownership of that as an invention because it’s kind of like a logical thing. They can claim that they were the first ones to do it, but certainly not the ones responsible for the most incredible idea in the world because it’s just a very straightforward engineering thing: As soon as you can come up with a flexible OLED display, you can design a screen like this.

“I’m not worried about what people are going to say, because we’re pretty confident in our design capability. I think [the Mi MIX unveiling] was a pretty clear demonstration of that.”

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3D-printed ‘Pokémon Go’ cover aims for you, obscures screen

Catching monsters in Pokémon Go sounds deceptively simple: find a creature, and throw an imaginary ball at it by swiping up on your phone screen. The reality is a lot more frustrating — if you don’t flick your finger in a perfectly straight line, the throw will curve to the side and miss. There are two solutions to this. You could practice, or, you could 3D-print a ridiculous phone-cover that takes away all of the challenge. Jon Clever chose to do the latter.

We tease, but Clever’s Pokéball Aimer is actually a clever little tool. The custom phone cover fits over an iPhone 6 and creates a trench that guide’s the player’s finger up the center of the screen for the perfect Pokéball throw.

Unfortunately, it also obscures a good deal of the screen — offering only cut-outs for on-screen controls. There’s a Pokéball shaped window that allows the player to see the target, but the case is only really useful on the game’s capture screen. This means it has to be removed for battles, menus and the game’s GPS-guided walking mode. It also makes advanced moves, like the curve ball, impossible. Still, tedium is a small price to pay for catching Psyduck. Want your own? You can get the plans for free on My Mini Factory.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: My Mini Factory

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Simple Habit aims to de-stress you with 5-minute meditations

Yunha Kim knows a lot about stress. She founded Locket, an app that put ads on the Android lock screen, which was eventually bought up by the shopping app Wish. Starting and running her own company, naturally, was a stressful proposition, so she turned to meditation as a way to center herself. Now, she’s hoping to do the same for everyone with a new iPhone app called Simple Habit. It offers five-minute guided meditation sessions that you can do from practically anywhere, each targeted for specific situations.

While there are plenty of mindfulness apps out there — even Apple is getting in on the meditation bandwagon with Breathe in WatchOS 3 — Kim says Simple Habit differs by adopting a Netflix-like model. The app is free to install, and there’s also a quick introductory session that shows you what the experience is like. But to get access to all of the meditation lessons, you’ve got to pay $ 4 a week, $ 15 a month or $ 120 a year.

It might seem counterintuitive to pay up front for mindfulness training, but it looks like you get a lot for your money. (And it’s not as if meditation lessons are always free.) Kim has around 30 experts contributing lessons to the app, which from very specific (at work and stressed) to fairly general (morning meditation). With this many contributors, Simple Help should be able to keep its selections of lessons fresh, something that other relaxation apps often have trouble with. Kim is also working with a Harvard psychologist to ensure the lessons actually help you relax.

While sitting at my desk, I went through the “Improve Focus at Work” session. A calm and pleasant British woman guided me to sit down, stretch my shoulders, and then focus on my breathing. Over the course of the five-minute session, she had me focus on my left hand, every single digit and repeat the process for my right hand. Yes, it doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s the point. It’s a simple way to clear your thoughts, focus your mind and hopefully make yourself feel less stressed

Simple Habit also has sessions going all the way up to 30 minutes, which will be helpful if you really get into the habit of meditation. Honestly, it’s not that hard to start meditating for free on your own, with some light research. That’s how I’ve been de-stressing for the past few months. But Simple Habit’s targeted sessions makes it easy for people with far less patience to relax. Eventually, you might find that you don’t need the app anymore for your meditation fix, but your time with it will have been well worth it.

Source: iTunes, Simple Habit

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