Xiaomi Mi 12S Ultra: 1-inch Camera Sensor co-created with Sony

Xiaomi appears to be the latest company to attempt to capture the elusive concept with its upcoming 12S Ultra flagship. Big-sensor cameras are a bit of a white whale for smartphone imaging engineers.

Even the most capable smartphone cameras use relatively puny sensors, and efforts to bring bigger sensors to the mobile form have been impractical or never really materialized.

According to a post on Weibo spotted by Android Authority, the phone will include a 1-inch-type sensor co-developed with Sony. That’s about 1.7 times more surface area than the 1/1.33-inch-type sensor in the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s main camera module. However, it’s also the same size sensor in Sony’s $1300 Cyber-shot RX100 VII, that’s more or less the compact camera’s ultimate, final-boss form.

It’s a big deal because nobody’s been able to conquer the 1-inch smartphone camera, including Sony: its Xperia Pro-I includes a size sensor but only uses part of it. The bigger sensor, bigger pixels, and bigger optics attached would offer significant image quality benefits over smaller, traditional smartphone cameras, especially in low light.

Xiaomi isn’t stopping at the sensor, either: the company called in Leica to collaborate, too, though it’s far from Leica’s first smartphone camera project. To put it bluntly, though, traditional camera makers’ collaborations with smartphone OEMs haven’t resulted in much more than a badge on the camera and a lot of marketing bluster. In this case, at least, Xiaomi is putting in the effort — and the money — in co-developing new hardware. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says that Xiaomi and Sony split the $15 million cost of developing the new sensor.

Unfortunately, the 12S Ultra is highly unlikely ever to be sold in the US since it’s challenging for Chinese brands to gain a foothold in this market. In any case, it won’t be long before the phone is fully unveiled: Xiaomi says it will present the 12S Ultra to the world on July 4th at 7 PM China Standard Time.

Xiaomi is the Chinese term for “millet.” In 2011 its CEO Lei Jun meant there are more meanings than just the “millet and rice.” He connected the “Xiao” part to the Buddhist concept that “a single grain of rice of a Buddhist is as great as a mountain,” suggesting that Xiaomi likes to work from the little things instead of starting by striving for perfection. At the same time, “mi” is an acronym for Mobile Internet and “mission impossible,” referring to the obstacles encountered in creating the company.

He also stated that he believes the name is cute. In 2012 Lei Jun noted that the name is about the uprising and being able to bring creation into a new area. Xiaomi’s new “Rifle” processor has provided weight to several references linking the latter meaning to the Communist Party of China’s “millet and rifle” revolutionary idiom during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Xiaomi’s first emblem consisted of a single orange square with the letters “MI” in white in the center of the square. This logo was in use until March 31st, 2021, when a new logo, designed by well-known Japanese designer Kenya Hara, replaced the old one with the same basic structure as the previous logo. Still, the square was replaced with a “squircle” with rounded corners, with the letters “MI” remaining identical to the previous logo and a slightly darker hue.

Xiaomi Corporation, typically known as Xiaomi and registered in Asia as Xiaomi Inc., is a Chinese designer and manufacturer of consumer electronics, related software, home appliances, and household items. After Samsung, it is the second largest factory of smartphones globally, most of which run the MIUI OS. The corporation is ranked 338th and is the most youthful company on the Fortune Global 500.

Xiaomi was launched in 2010 in Beijing by now multi-billionaire Lei Jun when he was 40 years old, along with six senior associates. Lei had established Kingsoft and Joyo.com, which he traded to Amazon for $75 million in 2004. In August 2011, Xiaomi unleashed its first smartphone, and by 2014, it had the most significant market share of smartphones marketed in China.

Initially, the business only sold its products online but later opened brick-and-mortar stores. By 2015, it was generating a wide range of consumer electronics. In 2020, the company traded 146.3 million smartphones, and its MIUI OS has over 500 million monthly active users. In the second quarter of 2021, Xiaomi overtook Apple Inc. to become the second-largest seller of smartphones globally, with a 17% market share, according to Canalys.

It also is a significant manufacturer of appliances, including televisions, flashlights, uncrewed aerial vehicles, and air purifiers, utilizing its Internet of Things and Xiaomi Smart Home outcome ecosystems.

Xiaomi keeps its prices comparable to its manufacturing costs and bill of materials costs by retaining most of its outcomes in the market for 18 months, longer than most smartphone companies. The company also operates inventory optimization and flash sales to keep its inventory low. Xiaomi’s mascot, Mitu, is a white rabbit sporting an Ushanka with a red star and a red scarf around its neck. Later red star on the hat was replaced by the company’s logo.

Xiaomi has been charged with imitating Apple Inc. The hunger marketing strategy of Xiaomi was described as riding on the back of the “cult of Apple.”

Xiaomi’s chairman and CEO, Lei Jun, carefully formulated a Steve Jobs image, including jeans, dark shirts, and Jobs’ announcement style at Xiaomi’s earlier product announcements after reading a book about Steve Jobs in college. As a result, he was characterized as a “counterfeit Jobs.”

In 2012, the company was told to counterfeit Apple’s philosophy and mindset. In 2013, critics argued about how much of Xiaomi’s products were innovative and how much of their innovation was just good public relations. Others point out that while there are resemblances to Apple, the ability to customize the software based upon user preferences through Google’s Android operating system sets Xiaomi apart. Xiaomi has also developed a much more comprehensive range of consumer products than Apple.