The Xiaomi Mi MIX Phone Takes Ceramics To The Next Level


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Jul 21, 2023

The Xiaomi Mi MIX Phone Takes Ceramics To The Next Level

(Image: Creative Commons) What is the Xiaomi ceramic phone and why is it

(Image: Creative Commons)

What is the Xiaomi ceramic phone and why is it important? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Brian Roemmele, Alchemist & Metaphysician, on Quora:

"Ceramic is a magic poetry. It is from the deepest place of our humanity. Ceramic is everything."—Philippe Starck, 2016

The Xiaomi Mi MIX smartphone is a new Android based system that is designed around a jet black Zirconia ceramic back side and front lower edge. It is the first smartphone to use Zirconia ceramics and it is a revolutionary design that is stunningly beautiful.

The Mi MIX will be available in China beginning in early November 2016 and sell for less than $600. Xiaomi is called the "Apple Of China" as a compliment and also as an insult.

What Are The Details On The Xiaomi Mi MIX?

Xiaomi is marketing Mi MIX as a concept device (like Apple TV was "only a hobby") only available in China, but this is certainly designed to create even more excitement and demand for the Mi MIX and confirmed millions can be produced per month if demand exists. This is astoundingly brilliant demand generating marketing. The argument "ceramics can not scale" is ill-informed and contrary to reality. There is abundant ceramic production in China and Japan. At a less than $600 price tag this device was priced to be sold in volume, otherwise it would be a less than $1,000 smartphone.

Tech Specs

The Xiaomi Mi MIX is not only innovative in the use of ceramics but also in the way the engineers designed the front of the phone. The first thing that is noticed is the screen is in an infinity format, where the bezel is almost completely gone. It is an engineering and design master achievement. A stunning 93.1 percent of the front of the phone is useful screen. This introduces 23% more display area.

The front of the Mi MIX also uses a unique and almost magical cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology to send sound through the front of the phone with no speaker opening usually found top center. The camera was thus moved to the lower right and allows the entire upper portion of the phone to be 100% screen.

The Mi MIX uses a new ultrasonic proximity sensor hidden behind the display. It replaces the traditional infrared proximity sensor found on a majority of smartphones. The proximity sensor allows for the device to detect if the user has the phone near their ear so the screen can be dimmed along with other functions.

The Mi MIX also uses Soft keys and a auto-hide Quick Ball controller to maintain a minimalist design.

The Mi MIX is an Android phone and it may be one of the most cutting edge and beautiful phones that has been produced thus far. In a space that is dominated by very similar devices, the Mi MIX stands out, perhaps surpassing Apple's iPhone 7 in industrial design. The award winning industrial designer Philippe Starck was directly involved in every aspect of the design of the Mi MIX.

Philippe is considered on par with Jony Ive at Apple and they share many ideas, philosophies and design language. It is no accident Mi MIX stands out significantly from any other Android device and this is almost entirely related to the involvement of Philippe Starck. In this video, we can see similar ideas that Jony Ive presents in Apple videos, yet Philippe presents perhaps a deeper more humanistic ethos:

I have been studying the potential of an iPhone from Apple using Zirconia ceramics for quite sometime. I wrote to this in great detail earlier this year [1]. In this posting I said:

"Apple will create an iPhone primarily from ZrO2 - Zirconian ceramics

The journey Apple has taken to adopt Zirconia ceramic as the their fundamental design material translates like an epic movie plot. We will begin at the end."

This was a contrarian and controversial posting that incited sometimes well meaning and sometimes angry experts and debunkers resorting to name calling and insults to present the "facts" that no production phone will be made of Zirconian ceramics. The reasons the debunkers cite are numerous ranging from the materials being too fragile to some back of the napkin math that proves only a few thousand could ever be produced [2]. Here is what an otherwise brilliant engineer and inventor, whom I have great respect for wrote:

"For the 2 hours of hard ceramic machining to finish the case details, Apple would need to go from 20,000 CNC machines, to 250,000. They would need another 200,000 employees to perform the 2 hours of hand polishing to "bring out the strength and luster."

Of course this is an educated guess by experts (and some "debunkers") based on a series of assumptions. One of the largest assumptions is Apple would only produce Zirconian ceramic iPhone and the new iPhone would closely resemble the same design used today. I assert that on both accounts, they will not. Apple will choose to completely re-engineer what we think is an iPhone component by component and it may not even closely resemble the iPhone we know today. One future version most assuredly will be mostly transparent for a completely new take on Augmented reality. What Apple creates will no doubt be stunningly beautiful in its own right.

The presence of the Mi MIX at a mid price of less than $600 presents a case that at least one of the top manufactures of smartphones in China disagrees with the experts and debunkers. I assert Apple disagrees also. Xiaomi may or may not have known about Apple's plans on using ceramics in future devices. There is no doubt they at least for the moment captured the lead in stunningly beautiful industrial design in a smartphone.

There will be more debate, there will be more heated opinions, there will be more pronouncements about Zirconia ceramics, Apple and the future. Yet after today, these will be more or less academic debates. The Xiaomi Mi MIX is not a theory from "some guy on Quora," it is a finely crafted and affordable smartphone available in a few weeks.

No matter what one may think about the technical aspects of material science, one thing is certain: the Xiaomi Mi MIX is a stunningly beautiful phone and will likely influence devices that succeed it.

[1] Brian Roemmele's answer to What will the iPhone 8 be made of?

[2] iPhone 8's most revolutionary rumored feature probably isn't happening

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Answer by Brian Roemmele, Alchemist & Metaphysician, on Quora: