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Screens front and back the new must-have for Chinese smartphones

Xiaomi’s insane wraparound screen

Xiaomi kicked off the war on bezels with the original Mi Mix, but the company has taken the fight to a whole new level with a smartphone made up almost entirely of screen.

The Mi Mix Alpha’s 7.9-inch OLED ‘surround display’ wraps around the phone, with the only thing breaking it up being a thin strip running down the back for the cameras. This means that the front, sides and most of the back is screen, but unlike a folding phone there’s no hinge that will unfurl it into a flat tablet-like display.

Xiaomi's Mi Mix Alpha will be available in limited quantities at a high price.

Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Alpha will be available in limited quantities at a high price.

The top edge houses a solo power button, but things like the fingerprint scanner and speakers have been embedded under the display. The volume buttons are still on the sides, they’re just pressure sensitive. The status bar containing the network signal and battery indicator have been cleverly moved to the side portion of the display for a truly unencumbered viewing experience on the front.

Powering that extravagant screen are top tier specifications including 12GB of RAM, 512GB storage, 40W wired charging and 5G connectivity.

Another highlight of the phone is the camera uses an unusually large 108 megapixel sensor, which is more megapixels than you can find in any DSLR. More megapixels on a small sensor results in a lot of noise, but Xiaomi has attempted to counter the problem with a “tetracell” design that can combine four pixels into a single pixel element, effectively producing 27MP photos when shooting in low light. There’s also a 20MP ultrawide and 2x optical zoom lens.

With the screen spanning all the way around the phone, durability will be a concern but there’s at least a (very non-traditional) protective case included in the box. The Mi Mix Alpha will be sold in limited quantities to customers in China from as early as December for $US2800 ($4048), making it more expensive than Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. Until then, can we take some time to admire the charging animation?

The Mi Mix Alpha is essentially all screen, and looks like a prop from a sci-fi movie.

Nubia’s sub-$1000 dual-screen phone

The Nubia Z20 (made by a subsidiary of ZTE) is a power-packed smartphone with both front and back OLED screens, all for a surprisingly affordable price of $US549 ($802). It doesn’t use a hinge so the dual-screens can’t be used side-by-side like the recently revealed Microsoft Surface Duo.

Both displays are full-size and fully functional with the main front screen being a curved 6.4-inch Full HD HDR display, while the secondary 5.1-inch screen around back drops to a lower, but still HD, resolution.

The Z20 has flagship-grade internals and two big OLED screens.

The Z20 has flagship-grade internals and two big OLED screens.

To prevent battery drain and accidental presses, there are sensors on board so that whichever screen is facing up will be the one that switches on. Each display gets its own dedicated power button equipped with a fingerprint scanner, and there’s even an earpiece on both sides so you can make calls from the rear display.

There’s also the option to mirror content across both displays, in addition to a three finger swipe gesture to send an active app to another screen for later use. Less useful is the ability to use the rear display as a light show while you play music and games on the main display, so everyone around you knows you’re having a great time.

Another benefit of having a screen on the back is that it can serve as a viewfinder, enabling you to use the rear cameras for selfies and video calls. The Mi Mix Alpha can do this too.


Under the hood, the Nubia Z20 packs all of the processing power that you would expect from a top-tier phone in 2019 and then some.

It boasts a Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, 8GB of RAM, 128GB storage, a 4000mAh battery with 27W fast charging and triple lens rear camera with a 48MP main lens, 16MP ultra-wide and an 8MP telephoto at 3x optical zoom. Oh, it can also shoot video at up to 8K resolution and slow motion at up to 1920fps.

The Z20 went on sale earlier this month, and Australians can order it directly from the company’s online store.

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