Xiaomi has finally unveiled the Xiaomi 12 series, its latest set of flagship phones - expected to launch globally in early 2022.
The company promised to launch the "first" phones powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, though unexpectedly Motorola beat Xiaomi to the punch with the Moto Edge X30. The Xiaomi 12 did come second though, joined by an even more powerful Xiaomi 12 Pro and a more affordable 12X.
Note that it's the Xiaomi 12, not the Mi 12 - we'll explain why - but this is still the successor to last year's Mi 11. Going by last year's effort this could well be one of 2022's best phones, and that's before we even get to the souped up Xiaomi 12 Ultra, expected later in 2022.
Here’s all we know about the Xiaomi 12 series, including the latest on the phones' western release.
Xiaomi unveiled the 12 series in China on 28 December, and the phones went on sale on 31 December.
As of yet no international release plans have been announced. Going by the company's previous habits, a global launch in spring is likely - perhaps at MWC 2022, which is set to take place at the end of February.
Remember that for the moment Xiaomi doesn't launch its phones officially in the US, so while we're expecting a global launch, it's unlikely that this will include North America. There's also no guarantee that every phone launched in China will make it to the global market, so some handsets may remain China-only.
The December launch event featured three phones: the Xiaomi 12, 12 Pro, and 12X. Those aren't all the handsets we're expecting in the series though - at the very least we'll eventually see the expansive 12 Ultra, which is tipped for a launch later in 2022, perhaps as far off as June. Rumours also point to an even smaller 12 Mini, though we don't for sure if that's really on the way or not.
For the moment we only have Chinese prices for the 12 series, though these are a hint at the phones' possible global pricing:
Bear in mind that these direct currency conversions are usually inaccurate, and any likely global price for these phones will probably be higher than the converted figures above. For a better sense of what to expect, it might be helpful to look at the pricing for the last few generations of Xiaomi's flagship:
Over time the range has risen in price. The main jump was between the Mi 9 and the Mi 10, with the Mi 11 staying around the same price point. The Xiaomi 12's starting price is actually ¥300 cheaper than the Mi 11's launch price, so we're hoping that we'll see a similar trend for global markets, with the base price either staying at £749/€749 or dropping slightly.
The only price leak so far predicts an Indian price of Rs. 69,990, which equates to £699/€820/$925, which is broadly in line with the previous gen - if a little on the high side. We'd probably expect something slightly lower.
While 2021's flagship Xiaomi phone was the Mi 11, its follow-up is not called the Mi 12.
Xiaomi has retired the Mi branding - itself only used outside of China - to simplify its brand. As a result, the new flagship is simply the Xiaomi 12.
"Starting in 2021 Q3, Xiaomi’s product series 'Mi' will be renamed to 'Xiaomi'," the company said in a statement. "This change will unify our global brand presence and close the perception gap between the brand and its products. This change may take some time to take effect in all regions."
Now that Xiaomi has announced a few of the phones in the series we have concrete specs for them - plus some leaks and rumours that point to 12 Ultra specs. We've broken it down by model:
The most notable thing about the Xiaomi 12 is that it's smaller than any flagship in the series before, thanks to a move to a relatively petite 6.28in display - though the Pro is larger if you prefer that sort of thing.
Thanks to the small size it weighs just 180g, and in China you can get it in black, blue, or pink - plus an extra green vegan leather option.
The compact screen is still an AMOLED, with 120Hz refresh rate and support for an in-display fingerprint scanner, plus Gorilla Glass Victus on top to ward off scratches.
As expected, inside the phone you'll find the brand-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, paired in China with either 8 or 12GB of RAM, and 128 or 256GB storage.
The battery is 4500mAh despite the compact size of the phone, and it supports 67W wired fast charging, 50W wireless charging and 10W reverse wireless.
Finally, the all-important camera. The main lens is a 50Mp Sony IMX766 - a 1/1.56” sensor with 2.0μm large pixels and OIS - lower resolution than last year's main camera, though it may yet be capable of superior results. Alongside it you'll find a 13Mp ultrawide and a 50mm-equivalent 5Mp telemacro camera - both pretty similar to what we saw on the Mi 11.
As with all phones in the series, the Xiaomi 12 will launch with MIUI 13 installed.
Here are the full Xiaomi 12 specs:
In previous years the Pro version of Xiaomi's flagships hasn't differed too much from the regular model, but this year that's changed.
The big difference of course is the size. The 12 Pro uses a 6.73in display - much larger than the regular 12 - which also runs at a higher resolution and uses LTPO tech to provide a dynamic refresh rate.
The design is fundamentally the same other than the size disparity, and the core specs are similar too.
There's a slightly bigger battery - 4600mAh - but charging is improved more, with 120W wired speeds. The wireless tech is the same though.
Other than the display, the biggest changes are in the camera. While the main camera is also 50Mp, it uses the larger and more advanced Sony IMX707 sensor, so should get better results. The other two lenses are even more improved: there's an ultrawide and a 2x zoom telephoto, both of which use 50Mp sensors.
Here are the full specs:
The 12X is a new model in terms of name, though it's mostly a replacement for the usual 'Lite' model. It's the same size as the regular 12, and is very close in specs.
The main difference is that it drops the 8 Gen 1 for the less powerful Snapdragon 870 - which is essentially a two-year-old chip. It also lacks wireless charging.
Curiously, leaker Chun has also claimed Xiaomi is working on a 12X Pro, to be powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, but we know nothing else about this model yet.
Here are the full specs:
We haven't had too many solid leaks about the Xiaomi 12 Ultra, which is still expected to launch, but later than the other models - though expect it to at least match the 12 Pro on core specs, with at least a 120Hz LTPO display and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
Going by early leaks, the design could be wild. Let's start with a leaked case photo, which shows a camera module that's... unusual.
Last year's Mi 11 Ultra had a bizarre camera design - a huge rectangular module with space for a small display. This is totally different, with no evidence of a screen but instead cut-outs for eight different sensors.
Essentially the same design has been seen since in an aluminium dummy unit. TenTechReview has more photos of the chunky unit, though doesn't go into much detail as to where it's come from. The large circular camera is here again though, and shown to protrude extensively from the body.
LetsGoDigital has tried to make sense of the design in new renders, predicting four camera lenses along with a flash, microphone, and autofocus sensor. The final cut-out is less clear, but the site predicts that it might be a colour temperature sensor.
Note the inclusion of a Leica logo -a nod to an old prediction from Digital Chat Station that the Ultra's camera will boast Leica branding, and presumably the camera company will also help with some of the camera tuning and image processing.
As mentioned above, it's almost certain that the 12 Ultra will use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. As for the display, a 120Hz LTPO AMOLED is also likely, and Digital Chat Station reports that this will come in a 2K resolution.
Let's dive deeper into those possible camera specs. Chinese tech site MyDrivers reports that the 12 Ultra could come with the world’s first 200Mp main camera, which would be a jump up from the 50Mp shooter in the Mi 11 Ultra. We’ve already seen similar rumours for the Samsung S22 Ultra, although in the end the Korean company decided not to use the sensor on its latest devices, sticking to 108Mp instead.
If that’s the case, then it leaves the door open for Xiaomi to steal in and claim the 200Mp crown - though it would almost certainly do so with Samsung hardware, ironically enough. Samsung's ISOCELL HP1 is so far the only 200Mp sensor on the market, and since Xiaomi has a history of using high-end camera hardware from the Korean company this is almost certainly what we'll see in the 12 Ultra.
Of course, larger amounts of pixels don’t necessarily equate to better images, but this sensor has a few tricks up its sleeve. It can shoot 200Mp images with 0.64μm pixels, or use quad-pixel binning to produce 50Mp images with 1.28μm pixels - which is also how it achieves 8K video. Most impressively, in low light it uses 16-in-1 pixel binning technology to shoot at 12.5Mp with large 2.56μm pixels, theoretically getting the same benefits as much larger sensors.
Other possible camera features from the sensor include a Smart ISO mode that combines low and high ISO shots into one, staggered HDR, multisampling, and 'Double Super PD' autofocus. You can find out more about all of those in this short intro video from Samsung:
Digital Chat Station has added more camera details on Chinese social media site Weibo. He repeated the 200Mp claim in regard to the 12 Ultra, but later added that Xiaomi is testing a 10x optical zoom periscope lens, presumably for that phone, but that it's still considering a more "practical" 5x zoom option.
Not to dampen hopes, but leaker Ice Universe has cast some doubt on expectations of a 200Mp shooter. He tweeted that Motorola will be the first to release a 200Mp phone camera, with Xiaomi set to follow "in the second half of ." That's a bit later than we'd expect to see the 12 Ultra, so seems to rule out this phone using the tech.
Digital Chat Station also seems to have lost confidence in the 200Mp claim, having since reported that the 12 Ultra will use a 50Mp main camera - a big difference from 200Mp. He says it will be paired with 48Mp "ultra-wide-angle" and "super-telephoto periscope" lenses - essentially the same camera setup as the Mi 11 Ultra, though there may be subtler hardware tweaks below the surface.
The Ultra is also set to impress on battery. MyDrivers claims it will be the first mass production phone to feature Xiaomi's 200W wired HyperCharge tech, capable of fully charging a 4000mAh battery in just eight minutes - though we expect the Ultra's cell to be larger than that.
Digital Chat Station disagrees though, instead reporting that we'll see a 4860mAh battery with 120W wired charging and 50W wireless - so the same charging speeds as the 12 Pro, but with a slightly larger battery.
It's worth noting that there was also some speculation that there would be a Xiaomi 12 Ultra Enhanced Edition, an even more extra version of the top-tier model. This was based on code name leaks suggesting that the Ultra is codenamed 'loki' with a separate device codenamed 'thor'. These models have since been confirmed to be upcoming Xiaomi Mix series phones though, so the Ultra Enhanced is no longer expected.
Ahead of the announcement of the Xiaomi 12X, it had been tipped to be smaller than the regular 12, and serve as a mini model.
Curiously, in the wake of the announcement those rumours have continued, with speculation that there will be an actual Xiaomi 12 Mini some time soon. We even have a render of a possible design, shared on Twitter by Shadow_Leak:
On the other hand, the same leaker has previously shared a different design for the same alleged phone:
Spec rumours are thin, but point to a sub-6in AMOLED display and the same Snapdragon 870 chipset used in the 12X.
Given the two conflicting designs (neither of which are a close match to the rest of the 12 series) and the fact that there have been few concrete spec leaks, we'd take all this with a pinch of salt for now.
Check back regularly as we’ll be updating this feature when more details become available. In the meantime, try reading our guide to the best Xiaomi phones and best new phones coming soon to see what else could be tugging at your credit card.