On Monday, Xiaomi introduced a new series of high-end smartphones, 12S, using Sony imaging sensors and Leica lenses. The premium 12S series models are priced from RMB 3,999 to RMB 6,999 ($598 to $1046).

Why it matters: With the new series, Xiaomi has hoped to compete with rivals by offering high-end smartphones at a competitive price. The firm has focused the series on quality lenses and imaging capabilities. 

  • Xiaomi’s new series is the first to use Qualcomm’s latest processor, making them potentially the fastest among all Android phones. 

Details: The three models – the Xiaomi 12S, 12S Pro, and 12S Ultra – share the same processor, coming with slight differences in other specs like charging speed, cameras, display specs, and cooling system. The three models will be available on Wednesday exclusively in China, coming in two colors for Ultra and four for the other two models, according to Android Authority.

  • The phone uses Qualcomm’s latest processor Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. Xiaomi 12S Pro’s theoretical performance exceeds all existing Android phones, scoring 1.1 million points on Antutu, a benchmarking app.
  • The camera is an upgrade from the Xiaomi 12 series. Featuring Leica lenses, the series are the first Xiaomi phones after Xiaomi announced a long-term strategic cooperation with Leica in May. 
  • The 12S series features Leica’s lens and imaging profiles, while the Ultra version comes with special camera lens materials, such as new materials and aspherical lenses, to achieve better imaging quality. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra has three cameras from 13mm to 120mm. 
  • The Ultra model also adopts a relatively largest 1-inch CMOS imaging sensor – the Sony IMX989 – behind the main camera. Such a large sensor helps deliver better imaging performance, especially in low light. Other brands like Sony and Sharp attempted to adopt a large imaging sensor on smartphones, but the two brands have relatively small smartphone shipments. 
  • The 12S series’ screen specs follow industry standards and have fewer highlights. The Xiaomi 12S Pro and Ultra feature a 6.73-inch LTPO display with a curved edge design, supporting adaptive refresh rate and 2k resolution. The display can also present content with up to 1,500 nit peak brightness and native 10-bit color depth, providing a rich color range and smooth transition, which the brand says guarantees an HDR entertainment experience.
  • For battery and charging, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra will be the first model equipped with the new Xiaomi Surge G1 battery management chipset. It has a large 4860 mAh battery, but its charging speed is 44% slower than the Xiaomi 12S Pro’s 100 W fast charging.
  • The three models all support 50 W wireless charging and 10 W reverse charging. 

Context: Chinese phone makers have often relied on partnerships with notable camera or lens makers to broaden their appeal. Huawei previously partnered with Leica for imaging systems in smartphones. 

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a]technode.com or Twitter @zhounanyu.