Mention the word “Xiaomi” and it is a fair chance that most tech pundits’ minds will veer towards the latest flagship devices unveiled by the Chinese brand – the Mi 8 with all its variants (particularly the controversially transparent backed Explorer edition) or perhaps even the Black Shark gaming phone. And there is a good reason for this – these are the most powerfully specced and carefully designed devices from the company. Hey, that’s why they come with the flagship moniker, right? So that they get all the attention and provide a benchmark for the company’s products.
So it might come as a bit of a surprise to some people that the one Xiaomi phone I am really looking forward to is none of these. And no, it is not the so-called Mi A2 either, the next in the Android One portfolio from the company.
The phone I am actually looking forward to from Xiaomi this year is the Mi Max 3.
Yep, you heard that right – the Mi Max 3 (not the Mi Mix 3), the next in Xiaomi’s oversized phone/phablet series, unless they decide to call it the Mi Max 2S. And yes, I know that in terms of specs and design, it is unlikely to hold up a firefly (let alone a candle) to the likes of the Mi 8 or the Black Shark. And yes, it is by no means a flagship device that will give its rivals nightmares (even its allegedly leaked specifications hint at a mid-segment than a high-end device). In fact, it is likely to get outsold by its own siblings in a similar price segment – the Redmi Note 5 Pro, for instance.
Which of course begs the question: then why the blazes am I intrigued by the device?
The reason is simple: in a market that is getting increasingly predictable in terms of specs and design, it is an oddity. You can get devices that are fighting on spec sheets – the full HD+ displays, Snapdragon processors, 4-8 GB RAM, 32-256 GB storage, multiple camera options, notchy notchy displays, et al. However, the Mi Max 3, if its predecessors are any indicators, will be fighting on very different territory – massive display, massive battery. In a world that is increasingly trying to shrink, it has pretty much been the proud plus size and judging by what we have seen in leaks, is in no mood to change that.
And with good reason. For, unlike at the time when it made its debut (in 2016), it actually does not face too much competition there now. There was a phase when a number of brands were trying to come out with phones that were almost tablet-like in size – even the svelte designing Sony had the Xperia Z Ultra – and it was not uncommon to see people holding slab-like devices to their faces. But with the onset of the 18:9 aspect ratio display and the “cut the bezel” fashion, phones have got back to being more compact, cramming 6.0-inch displays into frames that once accommodated 5.5-inch ones. Ironically, it is Xiaomi, the maker of the Max, that is credited with having triggered the “no bezel” rage with the first Mi Mix.
But while indications are that while the Mi Max 3 will also follow the 18:9 aspect ratio, it, however, is still likely to be the elephant in the smartphone room. Literally. For, unlike other devices, it actually prides itself on its size. “We didn’t call it Max because it was tiny and dainty,” I remember Xiaomi’s Jai Mani telling one of our colleagues who complained that the phone was “too big.” The Mi Max 3 is expected to go for a significantly larger display this time around – maybe 6.99 inches, and more than the 6.44 inches that we saw on the first two devices in the series anyway. And of course, everyone is expecting a massive battery too. At 5300 mAh, the Mi Max 2 already had one of the biggest batteries in its price segment. Just how much bigger it will get is anyone’s guess.
There are bound to be some spec changes. The cameras are expected to get better (Dual cameras at the back? More megapixels in the front? Both have been talked about) as is the processor (Snapdragon 636 or 710, depending on who you believe). And well, there is some talk of even better speakers – the Mi Max 2 came with stereo output, one of the rare devices in its price segment to feature those. And there are likely to be some design tweaks too – we would be very surprised if the Mi Max 3 does not cut a smarter figure than the Mi Max 2 (which was surprisingly slim for its time).
But no matter what the internals, what the design, the Mi Max 3 is very likely to retain its reputation of being one of the most distinct phones out there. An utter oddity in a world of clones. And unmatchable because it is fighting on something that no one else is. Not specs. Not design. But on sheer, at times even overwhelming, size. Size which allows it to accommodate a big display and a big battery. And it will serve all this up at a price that is likely to be upper mid-segment (somewhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000). Making it the perfect device for those wanting those phone basics, display and battery, while inflicting damage to their pockets that is greater in terms of textile wear and tear than financial.
It is likely to be an unashamedly big phone. And proud of it.
Godzilla would approve.