Xiaomi 14 is likely what the premium journey needs, with Leica’s secret sauce - Hindustan Times

Xiaomi 14 is likely what the premium journey needs, with Leica’s secret sauce

Feb 25, 2024 11:29 PM IST

While specs are on point and Leica camera partnership is delivering results that’d worry flagship competition, Xiaomi’s pricing will have to put perceived value

For Xiaomi, the flagship smartphone space in India has been one they’ve looked at from a distance for a while now. On the outside, looking in. It has been perplexing, because globally, Xiaomi’s arsenal had the tools that may have worked. But for various reasons, it never clicked for the tech company in India, one of their most important markets otherwise. If corrective measures are as streamlined and on point as the Xiaomi 14 phone is, they’ll be able to make up lost ground. Quickly. Part of a troika that has the Xiaomi 14 Plus and joined by the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, its screen size and pricing may just define value and open up relevance for a demographic of buyers who have largely been ignored by big-screen phones.

HT Photo/Vishal Mathur
HT Photo/Vishal Mathur

The specs are in place. It runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile platform (Leica’s photography magic is built on this), three 50-megapixel cameras to work with for photography and a 4,610mAh battery despite its rather compact dimensions (a Samsung Galaxy S24 with similar dimensions makes do with a 4,000mAh battery). Beyond the specs, it is also ushering in the era of Xiaomi’s new software that’ll define the experience, HyperOS. Built from the ground up, it is an OS on a diet compared with the MIUI it replaces, has a smaller footprint, and brings significant visual improvements.

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Two aspects of the Xiaomi 14 are most attractive – the 6.36-inch screen size and therefore the compact dimensions, as well as the “co-engineered with Leica” cameras.

We'll talk about the screen first. I, had, over the years, gained muscle memory for large-screen phones. You’d likely reference them as around 6.7-inch screen sizes and above. It was a personal preference, and at this time, any switch to a compact phone was more of an inconvenience. Two things to note about the Xiaomi 14 – the screen itself is accurately responsive to touch and doesn’t hold back on the visual quality, while HyperOS is also optimised for error-free navigation. To be honest, I am surprised by how seamlessly I have been able to transition from a 6.7-inch to a 6.36-inch phone, which many in the past have failed to convince.

There may be a school of thought that Xiaomi has missed a trick by not going ahead with a more common screen-sized Xiaomi 14 Pro, but it is clear the approach isn’t to follow the common path. That’s a brave move by Xiaomi, appealing to those who’d prefer a more compact phone to carry around, without having to compromise on specs, performance or crucially, battery stamina. Yet, the 14 Pro or even the new 14 Ultra, may not completely be off the table – we can only hope they get some consideration too.

Cameras on the Xiaomi 14 are in the sort of position that will give flagship competition quite a few sleepless nights. A 50-megapixel wide, a 50-megapixel 75mm telephoto and a 50-megapixel ultrawide. From our ongoing tests with the Xiaomi 14’s camera, versatility is undeniable. The key to delivering the photography results is a multi-pronged approach to the basics. Leica’s Summilux lenses, co-engineered by German camera legacy Leica and Xiaomi, the Light Fusion 900 image sensor, a 75mm optical floating telephoto lens and the photo modes that you’d usually associate with Leica’s cameras, make for a set of ingredients that’ll be difficult to match.

Unlike some of the Xiaomi 14’s competition, including Samsung’s new Galaxy S24 series, there is very little reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver wide-ranging photography results that have been extremely impressive 9 times out of 10. Take for instance the Leica Authentic and Leica Vibrant modes – it feels akin to having two cameras in one, tuned to different preferences. You’d love using the latter for landscape photos, and the former when humans are the subjects.

The big battery in a compact phone, seems to be another achievement that should hold the Xiaomi 14 in good stead. A fully charged phone at 8am, shooting over 200 photos in a day and syncing emails, social media as well as messaging, returns with around 56% battery at 9pm. That is, so to say, the end of battery anxiety.

As we continue to test the Xiaomi flagship phone, review expected in early March, it must be noted that pricing will be crucial for its success. Xiaomi, a brand that’s not compromising on technology or experience, must realise they still do not have the top-of-the-mind recall for premium phones. It is something that will change in due course, but till then, perceived value will have to be at the forefront of the pitch to consumers.

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    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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