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Fast Charge: The Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha may be the silliest phone ever made

2019’s been no stranger to bizarre smartphone designs. Over the last nine months we’ve seen everything from pop-up cameras, à la OnePlus 7 Pro, to foldables, like the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, hit the scene.

But for me Xiaomi’s latest beast takes the cake for silly smartphone concepts. I speak, of course, of the newly unveiled Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha.

For those out of the know, the Mi Mix Alpha is a “concept” phone Xiaomi unveiled in China earlier this week. On paper, it’s actually a very interesting smartphone, being one of the first to feature Samsung’s shiny new 108-megapixel SOCELL Bright HMX sensor.

This is awesome because, based on Samsung’s marketing material and the sample images Xiaomi showed off, the sensor should be a big step up on the 48-megapixel Sony snapper seen on most 2019 flagships, like the new OnePlus 7T.

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But for me there’s no getting round the fact it looks ridiculous and is completely impractical for one key reason: its wrap-around all-screen design. When I say all-screen, I don’t mean bezel/notch-free, like the OnePlus 7 Pro – I mean it actually is all screen.

Look at it! The screen wraps round the sides and back giving you a literal all-screen handset. This sounds cool and looks all right in the promotional images, but think about the practicalities of having a phone like that as your main blower.

For starters, there will definitely be durability issues. Phones with regular glass backs get scratched and scuffed quickly enough. Having one with an actual display panel all the way round will be even more delicate. On top of that, if you want to take advantage of the extra screen real estate, you’ll have to forgo the protection of a case, which means you’ll always be one drop or bump away from disaster.

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If that hasn’t put you off, then take a moment to ask yourself what actual benefits the design will offer. This isn’t like a foldable, where the atypical screen actually has a serious benefit, letting you turn your phone into a tablet on the fly.

The Alpha’s all-screen concept is pointless. Even Xiaomi was hard-pressed to sell the concept at the Alpha launch. The best it could offer as a justification for it is that you could use the rear screen as a viewfinder and take selfies with the main 108-megapixel sensor simply by turning the phone round. Hardly groundbreaking and personally I prefer the Zenfone 6’s flip camera design if that’s what you’re after.

The benefits of the design simply don’t outweigh the impracticality of an all-screen phone. I really hope Xiaomi keeps the phone design purely in the concept stage and focuses on what it does best – making top-notch regular phones that offer amazing value for money, like the Xiaomi Mi 9, which is one of the only phones to score 5/5 at Trusted Reviews this year – as a result.

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