After a leak in February, Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Ultra went official today. This phone’s main claim to fame is the inclusion of a second screen tucked into the camera bump. And now that the official specs are out, we can see that “the world’s largest camera bump” also houses one of the world’s largest smartphone camera sensors, the Samsung GN2.
The basic specs are on the high side for a high-end 2021 Android phone: a 120Hz, 6.81-inch, 3200×1440 front side OLED screen; a snapdragon 888; 12GB RAM; 256 GB storage space; IP68 dust and water resistance; Android 11 with MIUI; and a 5000 mAh battery. Xiaomi offers 67W wired and wireless charging, which, along with OnePlus, is a level above most other phones. Xiaomi touted the 5000 mAh battery as a “silicon-oxygen” battery, although the company did not indicate any serious benefit from its new battery formula. There’s also Wi-Fi 6E, which greatly expands the capacity of Wi-Fi by adding 6GHz spectrum in addition to the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
On the back, you get a 1.1-inch, 126×294 screen with touch support. Xiaomi says the rear display will support an always-on display mode with the time, date and notifications. It can also act as a small viewfinder for selfies with the rear camera. There are three cameras on the back, but the big news is that the main camera has a Samsung GN2 sensor. This is a massive 50MP, 1/1.12″ sensor, with a 1.4μm pixel size and quad-pixel binning. The 1/1.12″ sensor size means that modern smartphones are finally starting to match the hardware of the Nokia 808, a groundbreaking camera phone released all the way back in 2012. The 808 also had a 1/1.12″ sensor with a 1.4μm pixel size, and despite being 9 years old, it still stands up to modern devices.
Since the launch of the Nokia 808, modern image stacking techniques and newer AI models have enabled smartphone manufacturers to squeeze more and more photo quality from a smaller camera sensor. Those are all improvements in the camera software, and if phone makers gave up their obsession with thin devices, there would be big strides to be made in camera hardware as well. There was nothing magical about the Nokia 808 – Nokia only prioritized camera hardware in the 13.9mm thick body. Xiaomi seems to have followed a similar strategy: it lists the Mi 11 Ultra at 8.3mm, but it appears that measurement is without camera bump. With the camera bump, the phone appears to be 2 or 3mm thicker. Samsung isn’t the only company pushing bigger camera sensors – the Sony IMX800 is said to be a 1″ sensor.
No phone today can go out without multiple cameras on the back, so the device also packs what appears to be standard 48MP wide-angle cameras and 5x optical zoom cameras, both with the Sony IMX 586.
The camera bump is not the only special thing about this phone. The device has a rare ceramic back – a feature we last experienced on the Essential Phone. We cannot say that ceramic has huge advantages over the usual glass back. It is often said to be more scratch resistant, but it is just as prone to shattering. Xiaomi also says that the phone’s Harman Kardon stereo speakers (a Samsung brand) are “the loudest in the industry”.
The Mi 11 Ultra will go on sale internationally (Xiaomi’s press release doesn’t say when) for €1,199, or about $1,411.
List image by Xiaomi