Deconstructing Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Ultra—and the Consumer Tech Claims Surrounding It
Xiaomi claims the Mi 11 Ultra is the "world’s best photography smartphone." With few technical specs published, how do designers approach such claims?
While Xiaomi has a history of designing high-performance smartphones, the company is also known to make debatable claims about its hardware innovations. For instance, many engineers were understandably skeptical when Xiaomi claimed it had successfully commercialized long-range wireless charging technology.
Teardown of the Mi 11 Ultra. Image used courtesy of XYZone
It was no surprise, then, when Xiaomi announced that it has designed "the world’s best photography smartphone," the Mi 11 Ultra. Does the company include the technical specs to back such claims?
Notable Features of Mi 11 Ultra
The Mi 11 Ultra seems to follow a well-worn path of generation-to-generation improvement—namely, in adding bigger (and more) cameras. Xiaomi reports that the new camera leverages Samsung’s ISOCELL GN2 camera sensor, which is said to be the largest smartphone camera sensor that is currently available on the market.
The new camera can achieve 50MP resolution with 2.8 μm pixels and includes "Dual Pixel Pro" technology. This technology allows left and right as well as top and bottom photodiodes to receive light separately for enhanced autofocus. Xiaomi says this is further bolstered by the Sony IMX586 sensor, allowing it to achieve a 128-degree field of view.
The ISOCELL GN2 camera sensor, which includes "Dual Pixel Pro" technology. Screenshot used courtesy of Samsung
The Mi 11 Ultra also includes a rear display feature—a so-called first of its kind in smartphone designs. The rear display is an always-on display designed to show dates, times, and notifications while also functioning as a selfie mirror. While an interesting concept, a design engineer might wonder if this increased cost in parts and power consumption is worth an experimental feat in user experience.
From a more hardware-centric perspective, the phone is centered around a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, features up to 12GB of RAM, utilizes a 6.81’ AMOLED front display, and is powered by a 5000mAh battery, which is said to support 67W of turbocharging.
Keeping Designs Cool
With so much functionality integrated into one device, one might wonder how these many working parts affect thermal design power (TDP).
To keep the device at tolerable temperatures, Xiaomi says the Mi 11 Ultra takes a completely new approach to cooling with “three-phase cooling technology.” This technology works by using a macromolecular phase change material in place of the processor’s original thermal paste. The material has the ability to change phases between solid, liquid, and gas in order to conduct heat away from the processor.
The concept is similar to that of vapor chamber cooling, which is often used for GPUs in high-power applications like data centers.
Concept of vapor chamber cooling. Image used courtesy of Tech Power Up
But according to Xiaomi, this new technique—a first in smartphones—may increase thermal conductivity performance by 100%.
Unlike semiconductor manufacturers, consumer technology giants like Xiaomi often don't publish extensive technical documentation about their products to protect IP. With those details obscured, how do you, as a product designer, approach sweeping consumer product claims like ones from Xiaomi? Share your thoughts in the comments below.