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The First Smartphone to Use a Liquid Lens is the Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold


On March 25, Xiaomi teased that it would announce a new smartphone that used a liquid lens, and that device has finally been revealed. The Mi Mix Fold has been announced for a China-only release and features two other high-megapixel cameras in addition to the liquid lens camera.

Xiaomi has typically used the “Mix” line to test new product ideas and is this time trying out its hand with a folding phone akin to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 and the Huawei Mate X2. As Engadget reports, the Mi Mix Fold features an 8.01-inch 2,480 x 1,860 folding panel for its interior screen with a smaller, narrower 6.52-inch AMOLED 2,520 x 840 resolution outer-facing screen. The outer screen has been quoted by Huawei as being tested to last for at least a million folds, with the hinge actually lasting for significantly less time at 200,000 bends.

Folding phones have been getting better, but most manufacturers are still working out the kinks. So while it’s not entirely surprising to see a folding phone from Xiaomi and the concept is still being proven, it’s certainly not the most interesting feature of the Mi Mix Fold.

That would actually be the 8-megapixel “bionic” camera that uses a liquid lens powered by a motor that uses precision manipulation on that packet of fluid to switch between a 3x telephoto zoom (up to 30x hybrid digital and optical zoom) and a macro mode that allows for focus down to just 3 centimeters away. The liquid lens works in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 60 degrees Celcius (-40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), so you don’t have to worry about the camera failing in any normal living conditions.

Either due to limitations with liquid lens technology or with how Xiaomi felt with regards to its image quality, the Mi Mix Fold’s liquid camera is clearly not designed to be the main image capture method for users, as the company paired it with a 108-megapixel main camera (the Samsung ISOCELL HM2 sensor) and a 13-megapixel ultra-wide. For now, Xiaomi is probably satisfied with being able to call itself the first to integrate the technology rather than going all-in on making it a truly revolutionary camera. But that’s speculation of course since sample images taken with the liquid lens camera weren’t provided and the Mi Mix Fold is only available in China for now.

Still, it’s good to see companies experimenting with new image capture methods in handheld devices. Even if this liquid lens feels like more marketing hype than it actually being a revolutionary technological development, Xiaomi should still be praised for giving it a shot.