From the leaks so far, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is shaping up to be a decent upgrade over its predecessors, but a new leak for the Xiaomi Mi 11 reveals Samsung could be facing stiff competition next year.
Leaker Ice Universe posted an image of a screen protector, claimed to belong to the Xiaomi Mi 11, the Chinese company's next flagship device. If the image is legitimate, it shows how the Mi 11 will have curved edges to all four sides of its display, potentially making for a very slick-looking handset.
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But there's more, as Ice Universe claims that the Mi 11 will come with the new Snapdragon 888 chip. That's Qualcomm's newly revealed flagship chipset and promises to deliver performance that could chase the mighty A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12.
Combined with a striking display, the Mi 11 could be the phone to get excited about in 2021, not the Galaxy S21.
Exclusive: Xiaomi Mi 11, the first mobile phone with Snapdragon 888, will be released at the end of December, with a four-curved screen design, which is its protective film. pic.twitter.com/fYbWq8tSUBDecember 3, 2020
Samsung Galaxy S21-killer display
Samsung has been using curved edges on its display for years now, but only ever the left and right edges. The Mi 11 has curves on all edges however according to this leak. That's something we've only seen before on Huawei's P40 Pro series.
So Xiaomi could lead the charge on further evolving the design of phone screens in 2021. Other than shaving down bezels, as seen with the iPhone 12 Pro, it could be argued that the evolution of phone displays hasn't been particularly exciting in 2020. Other than the wider adoption of 120Hz refresh rate panels, many phones now use a fairly common punch-hole selfie camera and feature either flat or curved edges.
Samsung is one company that normally pushes the envelope with displays - see the folding display of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. However, according to the leaks so far, we're expecting "2.5D" FHD flat-edged displays on the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus. And only the Galaxy S21 Ultra is expected to have curved edges on the left and right sides of its QHD display. As such, the Xiaomi Mi 11 could have the display to beat next year.
That being said, curved display edges may be attractive to look at and can help a wider handset fit more comfortably in a user's hand. But if the curve is too extreme, it can make the phone feel less comfortable, or make the display prone to accidental taps.
The angle of the shot means It's hard to judge how drastic the curves are in this leaked image due. So we'll have to wait and see the real thing to see how far Xiaomi is pushing its display; but Samsung should be paying attention.
Snapdragon 888 and camera power
You may not consider Xiaomi and Samsung to be rivals. But the Galaxy S21 and Mi 11 will likely share many common features.
Both phones are almost certainly going to use the Snapdragon 888 chipset, as once a new Qualcomm chip is announced it's soon added into flagship Android phones. Which phone will have the edge in performance will depend on the RAM the chipset is paired with and software optimizations.
Given the Mi 10 Pro came with a 108MP main camera, we'd expect the Mii 11 to use the same megapixel camera, perhaps with an improved sensor. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is tipped to also use a 108MP camera, so the two could compete on that front too.
Of course, a lot of smartphone camera performance comes down to image processing on the software side, and that's something Samsung keeps getting better at. But in our Mi 10 Pro review we were impressed by the phone's camera capacities. So there scope for Xiaomi to impress with the Mi 11 and tale on some of the best camera phones.
But there's a catch
However, while Xiaomi still sells its flagship Mi series around the prices you'd expect, there's a notable difference between what it charges and what Samsung does.
For example, the Mi 10 Pro, which we reviewed earlier this year, sells for around $999. That's the same price as the basic Galaxy S20, but the Xiaomi's larger 256GB storage, larger display and the aforementioned 108MP camera are all superior to the basic S20. But with the Galaxy S21 tipped to be up to $150 cheaper than its predecessors, Samsung could win the value battle next year.
Another issue is that Xiaomi phones are hard to get in the U.S. While they're on sale in the U.K. from mobile carriers and other retailers, you're going to have to import one if you're on the other side of the Atlantic. That would up the cost for you compared to just buying a Samsung phone normally. But perhaps it's worth it if you're really interested in this quad-curved display.
Xiaomi is likely to release the Mi 11 in the first quarter of 2021, going by its past launch events. There have been repeated rumors that Samsung is going to launch the Galaxy S21 in January this year, an earlier launch than previous years likely aiming to stop losing sales to Apple's iPhone 12 and other late-2020 flagship launches.
So when the new year arrives, we could see a new battle for the top spot on our list of the best Android phones.
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Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.