I’ve reached a breaking point with Xiaomi. The Chinese tech company has made some real strides in mobile with its Mi Mix phones, but they’re still not available for purchase in the U.S.
Xiaomi keeps stringing everyone along, saying it has plans to launch phones in the U.S; last we heard they’re still planning to sell a phone proper in States by the end of the year (maybe).
But at a certain point, if you can’t buy the phone without jumping through a bunch of hoops, it’s not worth the effort to try.
At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the Mi Mix 2S for its predecessor. From the front and sides, the Mix 2S looks identical to the previous model.
It’s only when you flip the phone over to the back that you can see the only major physical change: the camera hump. It looks just like the one on the iPhone X, large and protruding.
Besides the new dual-camera system, the Mix 2S’s most important changes are all ones you can’t see. It packs Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, and features wireless charging.
These upgrades are by no means insignificant — improved photos, faster performance, and wireless charging are definitely always great — but like Apple’s “S” iPhone models, they’re far from revolutionary and don’t force competitors to stay on their tippy-toes.
Still looks and feels great
Say what you want about the design — Xiaomi didn’t put any effort into a revamping the look, which I’m sure is what a lot of people will complain about — but I don’t really mind it.
The ceramic back and aluminum frame worked well for the Mix 2, so why change it for change’s sake? It still feels great in the hand and it’s still super slippery.
Pretty much everything, design-wise, is unchanged from the Mix 2. That includes all the pros and cons.
Pro: The screen stretches to the edge on the left, right and top of the phone.
Con: There’s still a chin below the display, and the front-facing camera is still positioned into the corner, making it impossible to take a good-looking selfie unless you rotate the device.
Pro: The 5.99-inch display is still excellent. It’s bright, the 2,160 x 1,080 resolution is crisp, and the color reproduction is still very vibrant.
Cons: The Mi Mix 2S still doesn’t have any kind of IP-rated water or dust resistance, and there’s no headphone jack.
Pro: The fingerprint reader on the rear is quick and responsive.
Con: The phone doesn’t have a memory-card slot to expand the storage.
At these are all arguably minor complaints. And the pros still far outweigh the cons, so I don’t think many people will see them as deal-breakers, especially when you consider the price of the phone.
Looks like iOS, but it’s Android
If you’re not a fan of iOS, you’re not going to like the look of Xiaomi’s flavor of Android.
The phone’s running Android 8.0 Oreo skinned with Xiaomi’s own MIUI 9 interface. And you don’t need to dig deep to see it’s heavily inspired by iOS.
It’s totally fine for what it is. There’s nothing wrong with MIUI 9 — it’s not like the old days where a skin would slow down the underlying Android core — but it’s just so unoriginal at this point.
Some of the tweaks, like the way recent apps (looks just like the multitasking on iOS 7) appear horizontally on the screen just don’t work as well as the vertical carousel on other Android phones. I also dislike that there’s no app drawer.
I still prefer stock Android above all — it’s one of the main reasons why I prefer the Pixel 2 to the OnePlus 6 — but don’t forget that you can still install a different Android launcher, such as the popular Nova Launcher, to get a cleaner and purer-looking version of Google’s mobile operating system.
iOS cloning aside, the Mi Mix 2S is actually quite speedy and snappy. The Snapdragon 845 chip is a performance champ, and all of the apps I use on my other devices all ran pretty well thanks to plenty of RAM: the Mi Mix 2S comes with either 6GB of RAM with 64GB or 128GB of storage or 8GB of RAM with 256GB of storage.
Battery life is roughly the same as on the previous model; the 3,400 mAh battery powered me through a day and a half of usage. Quick Charge 3.0 is around for a quick top-off. And this time around, there’s wireless charging, which is handy if you’ve got a couple of pads at home or at the office.
The Mi Mix 2 didn’t have dual cameras, so Xiaomi remedied that on the Mi Mix 2S. On the rear, the dual-camera system consists of two 12-megapixel sensors. The main camera is your standard wide-angle lens with f/1.8 aperture and the secondary lens is a 2x telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture.
To keep it short: They take OK photos which are neither terrible nor spectacular. Most photos are sharp, dynamic range is fine if not a little too muted, and they look acceptable when posted to Instagram.
But will the photos knock your socks off? Probably not. Does the portrait mode blow away the iPhone X, Galaxy S9, or Pixel 2’s? Absolutely not. Is the silly age guesser trick still fun? Oh, you know it is!
Same goes for the 5-megapixel front-facing camera— selfies look decent.
Generally, I found I could get the photo results I wanted with a little editing in Google Photos or Snapseed. They’re just not quite punchy enough the way iPhone photos or Samsung Galaxy photos are.
That said, Xiaomi recently said a future firmware update will improve the Mi Mix 2S’s cameras so that they’re on par with the new Mi 8’s. Both phones use the same dual-camera system, so it’s technically possible the Mi Mix 2S’s cameras could get better with a firmware. I’ll update this review once that firmware’s released.
The Mi Mix 2S is a good phone, but when there are so many phones that are equally as good or better, it’s really hard to recommend one that Americans can’t even buy.
If you live in Europe or Asia, sure, go right ahead and get the Mi Mix 2S. It’s only about $500 and you’ll get a long of bang for your buck.
But if you’re an American and importing is your only option, I don’t think it’s worth it, even if the phone does work on AT&T and T-Mobile (still doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint), unless you really, really bleed Xiaomi. Who knows, maybe that’s you!
I’d buy a OnePlus 6 over the Mi Mix 2S; the cameras are better, the screen’s bigger, there’s a headphone jack, the performance is faster, and OxygenOS is as good as stock Android.
But the OnePlus 6 has a notch! Yes, but so does every new phone coming out this year. It doesn’t have wireless charging! It’s a nicety on the Mi Mix 2S, but not an essential by any means.
Xiaomi’s aspirations to break into the U.S. phone market (the company already sells other products like the Mi TV and Mi Band) remain just that. Lots of talk, but nothing to show yet. Until the company finally makes good on its plans to launch a phone in the U.S., they’ll continue to be hard to recommend over other devices made by Chinese players such as OnePlus.