Xiaomi's new under-display camera could make the iPhone 13 look lame

Xiaomi Mi Mix 4 under display camera
(Image credit: Ice Universe)

Update: For the best under-display camera, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra is the one to go for as we discovered. 

Apple might be planning a smaller notch on the iPhone 13, if recent reports are to be believed, but Android makers are increasingly turning to under-display camera tech to eliminate the need for anything to house the front camera — even a punch-hole cutout. And the next major phone to adapt such a feature could be the Xiaomi Mi Mix 4.

Noted leaker IceUniverse, who has correctly reported on many smartphone leaks in recent years, tweeted this week that the Mi Mix 4 will completely obscure the camera beneath the screen, and that it will “not be visible to the naked eye.” 

Xiaomi spotlighted the technology behind the feature back in 2019, showing how a unique third-generation under-display camera could essentially peek through the display’s subpixel arrangement to capture light. The firm claimed at the time that an under-display camera allowed for clear photos from the front shooter without disrupting the screen in any way.

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The previous Mi Mix 3 model took its own unique approach to obscure its front-facing cameras: the back of the phone could slide up to reveal the hidden selfie cameras. Much like the pop-up camera module seen in phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro, it was a neat innovation that didn’t broadly catch on across the industry.

The first phone to feature the an under-display camera, last year’s mid-range ZTE Axon 20 5G, wasn’t a mind-blowing handset — and the selfies couldn’t match up to the Google Pixel 4a 5G. Still, it was a very cool party trick, and performance is sure to improve as the technology matures across the industry.

Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3 foldable smartphone may also have a 16-megapixel under-display camera, if rumors are accurate. However, purported renders of the phone shared by reliable leaker Evan Blass suggest that it won’t be as well-hidden as the rumored Mi Mix 4 under-display camera.

However, given that we are comparing unconfirmed reports and purportedly leaked renders, all of this really is just speculation at this point. We can’t be sure whether the reported specs will actually be reflected in the shipping versions of the phones or if the images are legitimate, although the leakers in question have been repeatedly cited for their correct reports over the years.

When compared to the upcoming iPhone 13, Xiaomi's approach makes Apple's shrunken-down notch feel giant by comparison. With the iPhone 13, Apple reportedly has moved the ear piece to the upper part of the bezel, the front-facing camera has moved to the left and Face ID sensors could see a 50% shrinkage. 

That's certainly a smaller notch, but it doesn't quite compare to no notch at all. Granted, it's uncertain if Xiaomi's under-display camera will have the chops to match Apple's extensive Face ID system. 

iPhone 13 notch vs iPhone 12

(Image credit: DuanRui)

In addition to an under-display camera, Xiaomi Mi Mix 4 rumors suggest the powerful new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Plus will power the phone. You also could get incredibly fast 120W wired charging and 80W wireless charging capabilities. Xiaomi has previously demonstrated 80W wireless charging technology.

It’s unclear whether the rumored Mi Mix 4 or other upcoming Xiaomi phones will be released in the United States, though it seems unlikely, given Xiaomi's past reluctance to do business in this country. 

Andrew Hayward

Andrew Hayward is a freelance writer for Tom’s Guide who contributes laptop and other hardware reviews. He’s also the Culture Editor at crypto publication Decrypt covering the world of Web3. Andrew’s writing on games and tech has been published in more than 100 publications since 2006, including Rolling Stone, Vice, Polygon, Playboy, Stuff, and GamesRadar.