Slider phones are making a comeback! The quest to maximize smartphone screen space has created all sorts of strange compromises in the design of slab phones. The screen can only get so big before it encroaches on the space meant for the front-facing camera, and then what? Lately the answer has been to carve out a chunk of the screen to make room, but what if you just didn’t put the front-facing camera on the front? A new trend is arising that puts the camera on a slide-out or pop-up mechanism.
With no camera to worry about, the front of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 can house a 6.39-inch, 2340×1080 Samsung-made AMOLED display and… not much else. The screen is rectangular with no blemishes or interruptions. There’s a speaker grill on the top edge of the phone and then the bezels rapidly fall off, leaving you with basically an all-screen phone. Xiaomi says the Mi Mix 3 has a 93.4-percent screen-to-body ratio (although the company has provided inaccurate measurements of this stat in the past).
Just like an old-school Palm Pre or Nokia N95, the Mi Mix 3 is split vertically down the side into a front and back portion. The front half contains the screen and not much else, while the bottom half contains the battery, cameras, and processors. There’s a slider mechanism in between the two halves, so you can slide the screen down and the body up to reveal a new chunk of real-estate for the front camera. The slide-up area houses a 24MP front camera plus a second 2MP sensor to capture depth information for things like bokeh effects. The slider portion also seems to house the earpiece, and, presumably, it just passes through the speaker grill on the top.
Oppo really went overboard with the Find X slider, making it rise up and down with a tiny whirring motor. Here the slider needs to be started by hand, but after the initial push it becomes magnetically assisted. Here’s how Xiaomi puts it:
Mi MIX 3’s patented slider incorporates neodymium magnets that have been carefully calibrated. Once the screen is pushed down, the magnetic mechanism immediately kicks in and finishes the opening in a snap with just the right amount of force. Xiaomi has dedicated substantial resources to the production process to ensure the slider has a life expectancy of 300,000 cycles in lab tests.
It sounds like Xiaomi is not only bringing the slider phone back but also including a sweet snap action when it opens and closes. The top slider portion houses the earpiece for calls, so you slide the top part up to answer incoming calls. Hopefully this means you can also dramatically on a call by slamming the slider down. (Please, Xiaomi!) When you’re not in a call, it appears the slider action is customizable, and you can have it open the selfie camera, start an app, or launch a shortcuts drawer.
The specs start about where you would expect: a 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845 (that’s 100MHz faster than normal!), 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 3200mAh battery. There’s 10W wireless charging (with a charger in the box!), a rear fingerprint reader, and a dual 12MP camera setup in the rear. There’s no headphone jack. Like the first Mi Mix, rather than a glass back panel, Xiaomi is using ceramic.
This starting spec will run RMB 3,299 (~$475), but if that’s not enough RAM for you, you can upgrade to an 8GB model for RMB 3,599 (~$518). If that’s not enough, the highest-end model, called the (deep breath) “Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 Palace Museum Edition,” has 256GB of storage and a whopping 10GB of RAM for RMB 4,999 (~$719).
If you haven’t guessed from the pricing yet, this phone is destined for China at launch, with other markets to be announced later. The Mi Mix 3 launches in China on November 1, and a “5G” version will supposedly launch some time next year.