The Xiaomi Mi 8 is the best iPhone X-like Android phone yet

The new Android phone has a Face ID-like feature and gesture controls. Sound familiar? You betcha.

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3 min read

The Xiaomi Mi 8 looks awfully familiar.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has rolled out three new phones that are clearly inspired by Apple's iPhone X: the Xiaomi Mi 8 , Mi 8 Explorer and Mi 8 SE.

While Xiaomi isn't a brand well-known outside countries like China and India, it has a reputation for making high-quality phones for much less than the price of a typical flagship model. Making Android phones with similar features as popular iPhone models is a strategy to connect with cost-conscious buyers who can't afford a much higher-priced iPhone.

Xiaomi Mi 8 is an iPhone X clone

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Xiaomi Mi 8

The Xiaomi Mi 8 follows last year's Mi 6, skipping the 7 to mark the company's eighth year. The resemblance to the iPhone X starts with a similar notch design. While this creates an uncanny resemblance to the iPhone, the Mi 8's 6.21-inch AMOLED display doesn't quite stretch all the way to the bottom like the X's does.

You'll also find two 12-megapixel cameras on the rear of the Mi 8, laid out in just the same way as the iPhone X. Xiaomi says the Mi 8's cameras achieved a 105 photo score after being rated by DxOMark. On the front is a 20-megapixel camera using "pixel-binning" technology to combine four pixels into a larger one for better low-light selfies.

Watch this: iPhone X and Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer, compared

That's not all. The Mi 8 will run Xiaomi's custom MIUI 10 skin on top of Android (Xiaomi didn't say which version, but it's likely Oreo). The new, updated skin features gesture controls and a driving mode that uses Xiaomi's own Xiao Ai voice assistant (the assistant will come in a later update, though).

The Xiaomi Mi 8 phones aren't waterproof, however, and don't support wireless charging.

Mi 8 Explorer Edition

The Mi 8 Explorer Edition is Xiaomi's coolest-looking phone yet, with a transparent glass back panel that gives you the impression of peeking into the insides of the phone.

This phone takes the iPhone X resemblance a step further. It's the first Android phone to sport 3D face unlocking that projects over 30,000 infrared points on the face, the method used in the iPhone X's Face ID and Intel's RealSense.

Most current Android phones don't have this level of face unlocking, but more will follow in Xiaomi's footsteps as phone makers take advantage of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 processor, which supports the infrared mapping technology.

Xiaomi Mi 8 phone

I mean, how cool does this look?

James Martin/CNET

The tech behind the face unlocking is also used for Xiaomi's version of Apple's animoji, which Xiaomi says will arrive in a future update -- too bad.

One other feature Xiaomi saved for the Mi 8 Explorer Edition is a built-in fingerprint reader from Synaptics that uses pressure to unlock the phone (Xiaomi boasts that this is the first pressure-sensitive optical reader in any phone). Xiaomi says the scanner's pressure sensitivity allows it to activate, scan and unlock the phone much faster, and drain fewer battery resources.

The regular Mi 8 uses a standard rear fingerprint scanner.

Mi 8 SE

A smaller Mi 8 SE will also be available, sporting a downsized 5.88-inch AMOLED display, and it will be the first phone to launch with Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon 710 chip (the Mi 8 is powered by the Snapdragon 845).

Xiaomi Mi 8 phone

Unlike the Mi 8 Explorer, the Mi 8 has a fingerprint reader on the back.

James Martin/CNET

The Xiaomi Mi 8 and Mi 8 SE will launch in China from June 5 and 8 respectively, while the Mi 8 Explorer Edition is set to hit at a later date.

Specs breakdown

Xiaomi Mi 8Xiaomi Mi 8 SEXiaomi Mi 8 Explorer EditionOnePlus 6
Display size, resolution 6.21 inches; 2,248x1,080 pixels5.88 inches; 2,244 x 1,080 pixels6.21 inches; 2,248x1,080 pixels6.28-inch OLED; 2,280x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 402ppi423ppi402ppi402ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.10x2.94x0.30 inches5.80x2.94x0.30 inches6.10x2.94x0.30 inches6.13x2.97x0.31 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 154.9x74.8x7.6 mm147.3x74.8x7.5 mm154.9x74.8x7.6 mm155.7x75.4x7.75 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.17 oz; 175g5.78 oz; 164g6.24 oz; 177g6.2 oz; 177 g
Mobile software Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo
Camera Dual 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel, 5-megapixelDual 12-megapixel 16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto
Front-facing camera 20-megapixel20-megapixel20-megapixel16-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K
Processor 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8452.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 7102.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8452.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB128GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Expandable storage None
Battery 3,400 mAh3,120 mAh3,400 mAh3,300 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back of phoneBack of phoneBelow screenBack
Headphone jack NoNoNoYes
Special features Quick charging, face unlockQuick chargingTransparent rear, quick charging, 3D face unlockPortrait mode, notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging
Price off-contract (USD) Converted from Chinese Yuan $420 (64GB),  $470 (128GB),  $515 (256GB) $280 (converted)$575 (converted)$529 (64GB), $579 (128GB), $629 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £315 (64GB) (converted), £350 (128GB) (converted), £385 (256GB) (converted)£210 (converted)£435 (converted)£469 (64GB), £519 (128GB), £569 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$555 (64GB) (converted), AU$620 (128GB) (converted), AU$680 (256GB) (converted)AU$370 (converted)AU$760 (converted)AU$702 (64GB), AU$769 (128GB), AU$835 (256GB)

Xiaomi Mi 8 prices

The Mi 8 will have a starting price of 2,699 yuan or roughly $420, £315 or AU$555 converted. The Mi 8 SE will start at 1,799 yuan (approximately $280, £210 or AU$370). The Explorer Edition will cost the most at 3,699 yuan (about $575, £435 or AU$760).

Apart from the three new phones, Xiaomi also announced its largest TV, a 75-inch 4K capable Mi TV 4; a new Mi-Band 3 fitness tracker that claims a 20-day battery life; and the Mi VR Standalone, a portable VR headset co-developed by Oculus with the intention of being China's version of the Oculus Go .

Updated 14 June at 5 a.m. PT: Adds specs charts and updates throughout, including hands-on photos and a video. This article was first published on May 31, 2018.