The iPhone 8’s glass back costs way more to repair than the front

Over the last couple of weeks, the price of AppleCare+ has gone up for Plus model iPhones and screen repair for the 6s and newer models has gotten $ 20 more expensive. However, while screen replacements for phones under AppleCare+ warranty are still $ 29, that’s not the case for replacing the back glass of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, according to AppleInsider.

A number of Apple employees have told AppleInsider that the back glass isn’t covered under screen repair and is instead qualified as “other damage,” the fee for which is $ 99. This is likely because removing the glass back is markedly more difficult than swapping out a screen. Unlike the front glass, the back glass is glued in really well, requiring much more effort to remove. AppleCare+ allows for two incidents of accidental damage, after which your repair price jumps up to $ 349 for the iPhone 8 and $ 399 for the Plus for anything other than a screen repair.

So be careful with that iPhone 8. Between higher AppleCare+ costs and higher damage repair fees, that new phone could turn out to be much pricier than you bargained for.

Source: AppleInsider

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AppleCare now costs more for larger iPhones

Are you eyeing a larger-screened iPhone, like the iPhone X or 8 Plus? Unfortunately, it’ll cost you extra to extend the warranty. Apple has quietly raised the price of AppleCare+ coverage for bigger iPhones, with the price varying depending on what you’re getting. If you want to protect any Plus model, it now costs $ 149 instead of the $ 129 you continue to pay for mid-size iPhones. And brace yourself if you’re getting an iPhone X: it’ll cost $ 199 to get your device covered.

The increase is somewhat understandable. A larger phone typically means a more expensive display, and device-specific parts like dual cameras are bound to involve pricier fixes. However, this still means that you’re paying at least $ 20 more than before for what’s ultimately the same service. It raises the effective price of handsets that already carry a premium.

Follow all the latest news from Apple’s iPhone event here!

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Apple

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The Galaxy Note 8 vs. the competition: More than just a stylus

With phone screens getting bigger and bigger, the Galaxy Note doesn’t quite stand out the way it used to. The Note 8’s 6.3-inch screen is only a tad larger than the 6.2 inches boasted by the Galaxy S8+, and both devices share the same Snapdragon 835 processor. Still, the Note 8 has a few things to set itself apart, including a new dual camera setup like the one on the soon-to-replaced iPhone 7 Plus. Check out the table below to see what Samsung’s latest large-screen handset is packing under the hood versus other notable flagships, and check back for our full review of the Galaxy Note 8 in a few weeks.


Galaxy Note 8 Galaxy S8+ HTC U11 iPhone 7 Plus
Pricing Starts at $ 930 (off-contract) $ 675 (off-contract) $ 649, $ 729 (off-contract) $ 769, $ 869, $ 969 (off-contract)
Known dimensions 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm (6.40 x 2.94 x 0.34 inches) 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm (6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches) 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm (6.06 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches) 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 195g (6.9 ounces) 173g (6.1 ounces) 169g (5.96 ounces) 188g (6.63 ounces)
Screen size 6.3 inches (160.02mm) 6.2 inches (158.1mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm)
Screen resolution 2,960 x 1,440 (521ppi) 2,960 x 1,440 (529 ppi) 2,560 x 1,440 (534ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi)
Screen type Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Quad HD Super LCD 5 Retina HD
Battery 3,300mAh 3,500mAh 3,000mAh 2,900mAh
Internal storage 64/125/256GB 64GB 64/128GB 32/128/256GB
External storage microSD microSD microSD None
Rear camera Dual cameras:
12MP, f/1.7 (wide angle)
12MP, f/2.4 (telephoto)
12MP, f/1.7 12MP, f/1.7, 1.4μm pixel size Dual cameras:
12MP, f/1.8 (wide angle)
12MP, f/2.8 (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 8MP, f/1.7 8MP 16MP, f/2.0 7MP, f/2.2
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K at 30fps
NFC Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth v5.0 v5.0 v4.2 v4.2
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Apple A10 Fusion
CPU 2.3GHz octa-core 2.3GHz octa-core 2.45GHz octa-core 2.34GHz quad-core
GPU Adreno 540 Adreno 540 Adreno 540 PowerVR Series 7XT GT7600 Plus
RAM 6GB 4GB 4/6GB 3GB
WiFi Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac
Operating system Android 7.1.1 Android 7.0 Android 7.1 iOS 10
Notable features Iris scanner, fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C Iris scanning, fingerprint sensor, IP68 certified, USB Type-C Fingerprint sensor, IP67 certified, USB Type-C Touch ID, IP67 certified, Lightning connector


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Apple’s HomePod firmware spills more details on the smart speaker

Apple unveiled its Siri-powered HomePod speaker hub at WWDC back in June, and despite a hefty $ 350 pricetag and the inevitable comparisons to Alexa devices, it actually sounds pretty good. In the lead up to its release this December, Apple pushed out the hub’s firmware, revealing that it runs on iOS — basically like a screenless iPhone or iPad. But in its current incarnation, the HomePod won’t support third-party apps and programs, according to developer Steve Troughton-Smith’s analysis.


Obviously, that’s not to say the device never will. Since it runs on a full iOS stack through a shell app called “Soundboard,” they could always patch in the ability for third parties to load up their software later. If things don’t change before launch, it’s an odd move to make, especially given how late the HomePod is to the voice-controlled assistant game. Both Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices allow and encourage companies to make apps that enable custom interactions (Alexa has 15,000 of these “skills” and counting). It would also be a huge surprise if the HomePod didn’t integrate at launch with the IoT HomeKit system Apple keeps trying to make happen.

Otherwise, the firmware reveals a few things about the HomePod’s interactions. In keeping with Apple tradition, the device will support accessibility features including VoiceOver. Troughton-Smith believes the top touch surface is an LED matrix that could display shapes and symbols, not just big LED lights. Onboard controls are limited to activating Siri, adjusting volume and alarms on the HomePod — the bulk of which we discovered during our hands-on back in June.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will report if we hear back.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Steve Troughton-Smith (Twitter)

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HTC U11 review: More than just gimmicks

Even die-hard fans have been ready to write off HTC for years now, and I can’t blame them. The company’s phones have fluctuated between greatness and mediocrity while its competitors have improved by leaps and bounds. So, what’s a company in a kind of existential peril supposed to do? Well, making a phone like the new U11, for starters. It’s shiny, laden with gimmicks, and — spoiler alert — the whole thing falls short of perfect for a few reasons. Even so, HTC has gotten enough right in this ostentatious package that you should definitely start (or re-start) paying attention.

Hardware and design

Chris Velazco/Engadget

With the U Ultra, HTC overhauled the design of its high-end smartphones. Forget those sturdy metal unibodies: from now on, it’s all about lots of sparkly, pretty glass.

The back of the U11, in particular, is sure to grab attention — HTC calls the finish “3D liquid glass” and it was crafted to catch light in unexpected ways. The Solar Red model is only really “red” sometimes. Under the right light, the phone turns bright gold and it’s pretty trippy. Even better, all of the edges just sort of melt into each other — no rough seams in sight. This shock of color is enough to make the phone’s face, with its 5.5-inch Super LCD5 screen and big black bezels a little underwhelming.

Phones swathed in glass can be tricky, though. I couldn’t put the U11 down on the arm of my couch without it skittering to the floor. You can forget about taking calls with your phone wedged between your neck and shoulder, too, unless you’ve got sandpaper shoulder pads. Glass also cracks more easily than metal. While we were shooting our review video, the U11 tipped over from its standing position and smacked into our glass studio table. Countless phones have done this over the years and they were never worse for it — the U11 is the first that cracked.

There’s a fast, accurate fingerprint sensor below the screen, wedged between two capacitive navigation keys. The headphone jack is over, so you’ll use the USB C port on the bottom for charging and audio playback. In the SIM tray, you’ll find a spot for a MicroSD card to supplement the 64GB of onboard storage.

You can’t see them, but the U11 also has multiple pressure sensors baked into its sides. We’ll dig into Edge Sense a little later, but you can squeeze the phone to trigger predefined actions like launching the camera. Plus the whole thing is IP67 water resistant, which means it’ll handle dips in up to 1 meter of water for around 30 minutes.

Display and sound

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The U11’s screen is good, but pretty standard. We’re working with a 5.5-inch Super LCD 5 at Quad HD. That works out to a density of about 534 pixels per inch. Colors aren’t quite as vivid as on an AMOLED display, but solid clarity and color reproduction put it in the same ballpark as its rivals. I only wish the screen was a little brighter. It’s a little dimmer than the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7 Plus, making it tougher to read under harsh daylight.

The U11’s speakers, on the other hand, are very, very good. It’s been a long time since HTC’s BoomSound heyday, but the U11 is louder and clearer than any other smartphone I’ve tested recently. In fact, while I was testing the speakers at the office, I had to deal with more than the usual amount of stink-eye from non-Engadgeteers because of the volume. (To my knowledge, no HR claims have been filed.) You’ll need more oomph for, a party, but the U11’s built-in sound system is good enough for gathering people around a YouTube video.

Without a headphone jack, you’ll need to use Bluetooth cans or HTC’s pack-in USonic Type-C earbuds. They’re a little too heavy on the bass for me, but they’re comfortable and offer a more welcome surprise: active noise cancellation. Even better, they don’t need batteries since the earbuds draw power from the phone. While handy, these pack-ins are nowhere as good as isolating noise as, say, a pair of Bose QC35s. The U11 can also tailor the way the phone plays audio through those earbuds. Each audio profile is specifically tuned for your ears, and mine made my music sound noticeably crisper and brighter — good stuff.

Software

When the company launched the 10, it also revealed an approach to Android that felt cleaner and fresher than before — Sense UI’s visual noise was dialed down and extraneous apps were killed in favor of Google’s own. These were steps in a positive direction and led to a mostly uncluttered version of Android 7.1 Nougat for the U11. In general, it runs very, very well, but it feels a little stale when compared to updated interfaces from rivals like Samsung.

Rather than revamp the interface, HTC focused its efforts elsewhere. The U11 comes with support for three — three! — virtual assistants right out of the box, which is a little insane. Most of you are probably familiar with Google Assistant, and it works the way it always does: either long-press the Home button or get its attention with “OK, Google,” then fire off a request.

HTC’s Sense Companion is much less vocal, offering up notifications and reminders based on what it knows about you and your environment instead. Is it going to rain? It will suggest you pack an umbrella. Once it gets late in the day, it’ll tell you how many steps you’ve taken and even remind you to charge your phone when it knows you have plans later. Essentially, HTC’s assistant tries to stay subtle while being proactive — it’s meant to slide into your life when you need it and disappear when you don’t. In general Sense Companion plays it safe by only occasionally surfacing notifications. I would’ve preferred it to be a little more in-my-face and but there isn’t a way to make the Companion offer handy tips more regularly.

Then there’s the newcomer, Alexa. Amazon’s voice interface is available on a few smartphones right now, but the U11 is the first to give it a proper home. You just say “Alexa” and she’ll spring to life. The U11 lacks the Echo’s far-field voice recognition, so it occasionally takes a couple tries to rouse it. Other than that, it’s the same solid performer you expect. Alexa has access to all the skills I’ve enabled on my home Echo, and the U11’s great speakers mean audiobooks and music from Amazon come through loud and clear. In fact, Alexa’s only true failing is that when she can’t tell what you’re saying, the app window and screen stay active until you dismiss the app or try again. If you’re not paying close attention, a failed Alexa conversation could leave the U11’s display lit up, burning precious battery.

Edge Sense

Don’t forget that you can squeeze this phone to make it do things. For all the hype, Edge Sense is very simple. The best way to think of it is as an invisible convenience key with two settings: a squeeze performs one action, and a squeeze-and-hold performs another.

Getting Edge Sense up is simple: just clench your way through a demo. You’ll have to enable the advanced mode to get access to the squeeze-and-hold gesture, though, for reasons beyond comprehension. By default, the squeeze action is set to launch the camera, with a second squeeze snapping a photo once everything is in position. Thankfully, none of those actions are set in stone. Rather than launching the camera, you can set a squeeze to launch an app, take a screenshot, toggle the flashlight and even fire up the mobile hotspot.

Frankly, I kind of hated it at first because I couldn’t consistently get my squeeze pressure right. Things changed once I dialed down the amount of pressure needed — lighter grips meant less time wondering why things weren’t working properly. (This also means Edge Sense is easier to trigger by accident, but I don’t mind.) Now I instinctively squeeze the U11 every time I need to grab a quick photo and get a little frustrated when other phones don’t work the same way. Granted, Edge Sense doesn’t do anything that a dedicated button couldn’t, and it’s easily disabled for anyone who doesn’t want it. It’s handy, but it’s no game-changer.

Camera

Chris Velazco/Engadget

When I reviewed the U Ultra earlier this year, I was let down by its camera. Not because it was bad, mind you, but HTC’s cameras still hadn’t caught up to the competition. Well, this year is different: the U11’s 12-megapixel camera is a highly capable all-around shooter, with image quality in the same league as Samsung’s. My test shots consistently came through with lots of detail and accurate colors, save for a few cases where outdoor shots where the green looked a touch bluer than expected.

Other than the occasional color temperature issues, the U11 has been an excellent everyday shooter. It’s fast to focus thanks to an SLR-style dual-pixel system, and the near-instantaneous HDR Auto turned multiple shots into a single vibrant photo with ease. This kind of algorithmic enhancement helped Google’s Pixel capture excellent photos, and it’s doing great work here too. There’s a hint of shutter lag after you snap a photo though, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to capture subjects in motion.

The U11’s camera is also surprisingly good in low light thanks to its wide aperture (f/1.7) and improved 5-axis optical image stabilization. Before taking the camera through its paces, I was a little concerned because the pixels on the 12-megapixel sensor are smaller than in HTC’s other UltraPixel cameras. I shouldn’t have been: dark photos came through crisper than expected, though you’ll still find your share of grain. That said, I still think the S8s have a slight edge over the U11.

Videos shot with the U11’s main camera were similarly impressive, especially at 4K. There’s hardly any distortion and the level of clarity puts the U11 right up there with the best of them. Given the phone’s attention to sound quality, the inclusion of a 3D audio recording mode makes sense. It’s meant to make videos sounds more immersive, and it does to an extent — just make sure you’re wearing headphones or all nuance is lost.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera actually shoots at a higher 16MP resolution, and with a wide-angle lens, it’s capable of some seriously nice selfies. The relatively wide f/2.0 aperture also means the sensor gets to suck up more light — I only needed the screen flash in near-pitch black situations.

Performance and battery

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The U11 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipsets paired with 4GB of RAM and the Adreno 540 GPU. You know, just like basically everyone else. Still, there’s no denying that the 835 delivers some serious horsepower The U11 feels fast whether you’re jumping between multiple apps or plowing through beautiful games like Afterpulse and Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Hardly anything I threw at the U11 over the course of a week gave it pause. There’s a rare stutter, but the U11 is one of the most consistently snappy smartphones I’ve tested this year.

Battery life, however, was just average. Like the U Ultra before it, the U11 packs a 3,000mAh battery. But, this time it’s paired with a more powerful processor and a smaller screen. This balancing act of components worked out better than expected. In our video rundown test, the U11 looped an HD clip for just north of 13 hours before it finally needed a recharge. That’s much better than the U Ultra’s 11-odd hours, and in line with the Galaxy S8. The S8 Plus and the OnePlus 5 are still the phones to beat, though: they both lasted for a little over 15 hours before giving up the ghost.

When it comes actual use, expect to get just over a day on a single charge, and closer to a day and a half if you actually put your phone down once in a while. Again, this is average for this year’s flagships. People’s charging habits seem to be changing though, so the inclusion of Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3 tech is handy (if not quite as fast as the newer QuickCharge 4 stuff). Using the included power adapter and cable, the U11 went from bone-dry to 90 percent full in a little over an hour.

The competition

The U11 is a very strong option for smartphone shoppers, but don’t forget about all the other great devices released this year. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are arguably at the top of the pack — they both have gorgeous “Infinity” displays, not to mention excellent cameras and similarly impressive performance. The S8 Plus is the better choice thanks to its significantly bigger battery, and its larger size is mitigated by Samsung’s brilliant, bezel-less design. That said, you’ll have to deal with a highly customized software experience.

If you’re looking for pure horsepower on a budget, the OnePlus 5 is also worth looking at. It uses the same Snapdragon 835 chipset as other 2017 flagships, but pairs it with 6GB of RAM for truly stunning performance. Despite being slightly smaller and lighter than the U11, the OnePlus also contains a bigger, 3,300mAh battery which lasted noticeably longer in our rundown tests. Then again, the U11 has a much better camera and offers more in terms of software creature comforts than the mostly-stock OnePlus 5.

Wrap-up

HTC didn’t get everything right with the U11, but it nailed a whole lot more than I ever expected it to. That’s a big deal. After the mess that was the U Ultra, I was honestly unsure whether the company would ever drag itself out of its doldrums. The U11 is proof that, yes, there is still hope for this company. While gimmicks like Edge Sense and the stylishly fragile glass back make the U11 seem too eager to be different, underneath all that is a very good, very fast phone that’s worthy of your attention.

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iOS 11 could use the iPhone’s NFC chip for more than Apple Pay

Apple may have an awkward history of avoiding and then embracing NFC in the past, but new developments at this week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference indicate those days are long gone. Apple already announced new NFC functions coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 4, but according to documents for the upcoming iOS 11 release, the iPhone’s NFC chip might also be handling much more than just Apple Pay transactions and Passbook check-ins.

Although the feature didn’t get any airtime onstage Monday, iOS 11 Beta adds support for Core NFC to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. (And presumably future hardware as well.) In release docs, Core NFC is described as “a new framework for reading Near Field Communications (NFC) tags and data in NFC Data Exchange Format.” At the moment, the iPhone’s NFC chip is useless for anything other than Apple’s in-house payment system, but the new framework appears to let the chip in the latest iPhones read any tags — not just Apple Pay tags — and take action on them based on the phone’s location. NFC could open up more ways for iOS apps to communicate with connected devices and iPhones could also replace NFC-based keycards or transit passes like London’s Oyster card and the Bay Area’s Clipper card. In theory, Core NFC could also enable functions like tap-to-pair Bluetooth speakers — something Android users have been enjoying for awhile now — but it’s possible Apple could block such features to keep the “magic” pairing experience limited to AirPods and other devices with its proprietary W1 chip.

On the other hand, opening NFC could also invite potential privacy issues onto iOS. Like Bluetooth Beacons, NFC tags allow for seamless, location-based interactions for better or worse. While the ability to tap your phone to a movie poster and instantly bring up the trailer might seem magical, even anonymous data gathered from those sorts of interactions can paint a startling clear picture of a consumer.

Get all the latest news from WWDC 2017 here!

Via: WCCFTech

Source: Apple Developer

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Google adds voice typing, Doodles and more emoji to Gboard on iOS

Google’s powerful Gboard app might now be on Android, but it’s the iPhone version that is receiving most of the updates. As part of its most recent overhaul, the search giant has extended support to 15 new countries*, and also added a number of new features that make it easier to say what you have to say.

As of now, users have access to all of the latest emoji in iOS 10. If you don’t remember, one of the most useful Gboard features is the ability to search and find the perfect emoji, allowing you to decorate texts and emails without scrolling through endless lists of icons.

By incorporating search into its keyboard, you don’t need to visit Google.com to find what you’re after and share it. Keeping with this theme, the app now also hosts Google Doodles, notifying you of new additions via the animated “G” button. If it’s moving, hit the icon and Gboard will display more information about the Doodle on that particular day.

Perhaps the most useful feature is voice support. Like the native keyboard, all you need to do is press the microphone and talk. If you’ve used Google’s voice services before, you’ll know that they are pretty reliable, so it might come in handy when you have your hands full or need your eyes fixed on something more important.


*Supported languages include: Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Catalan, Hungarian, Malay, Russian, Latin American Spanish and Turkish. They can be selected by opening the Gboard app and choosing “Languages”, then “Add Language.”

Via: Google Blog

Source: gBoard (App Store)

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Apple’s next custom Mac chip could do a lot more

Intel processors have powered Apple’s Mac computers for over a decade now, but Apple has also found success designing its own A-series ARM-based chips for the iPhone and iPad. While the company isn’t going to dump Intel chips in the Mac any time soon, a report from Bloomberg indicates that Apple at least intends to put its foot in the water and test out designing its own silicon for the Mac.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Ian King, Apple is building an ARM-based chip that’ll offload the Mac’s “Power Nap” features from the standard Intel processor as a way to save batter life. Power Nap currently lets the Mac run software updates, download email and calendar updates, sync to iCloud, back up to Time Machine drives and a number of other features while the computer is asleep. Some of these features only work when plugged in, though — perhaps with a chip that consumers less energy, Power Nap’s capabilities could be expanded.

This could also be a first step towards a move away from Intel processors entirely, although Bloomberg says such a move would not happen in the immediate future. But Apple has invested a lot of money in its own series of chips since 2010 and could have more freedom to update the Mac without having to rely on Intel’s schedule.

It’s worth noting that this rumored Power Nap chip wouldn’t be the first Apple-designed chip to make it into a Mac. That honor would go to the T1, an ARM-based chip that showed up in the new MacBook Pro last fall. That chip controls the laptop’s Touch Bar and the Touch ID sensor but otherwise doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting. Apple has been pretty quiet about the chip, but it seems that the next MacBook Pro could have another ARM chip — maybe the T2? — that takes more tasks away from the main Intel processor. If that’s the case, we probably won’t know for a while, as Apple probably won’t update the MacBook Pro lineup again until this fall.

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GarageBand on iOS is now a more capable music production suite

Apple’s GarageBand is a good place to get started with recording, but it’s useful for more advanced skill levels as well. The company just revealed an update to the iOS version of the app that gives the software a few more tools for tracking on the go. First, the powerful Alchemy synthesizer from Apple’s pro-grade Logic software is now available as an instrument in the mobile version of GarageBand. It includes over 150 patches capable of producing sounds for a range of genres.

Inside the app, Apple has tweaked the sound browser to make it easier to find the so-called Touch Instruments you want to use on a project. The company made the recording process easier as well, thanks to a new Multi-Take feature. Just like in a studio, you can use the tool to capture multiple takes before auditioning and switching between them to see which one works best.

There’s also an updated audio recorder that allows you to employ vocal effects with a single tap. A few of the widely used options are available here, including pitch correction, distortion and delay. More advanced users can expect some new audio processing tools as well. Those include a graphic EQ that handles sound adjustments with the swipe of a finger and the ability to use third-party Audio Unit plug-ins for even more options.

GarageBand for iOS version 2.2 is a free update for anyone with a new iOS device. If you’re still rocking an older iPhone or iPad, you can download the app from the App Store for $ 5.

GaragBand Video iPad (30 sec) Pro Res 422

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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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