I've yet to find the perfect phone, but Xiaomi's Mi Mix 3 comes closer than anything I've used in years.
The Mi Mix 3 is a full-screen display phone without a notch. Its hidden front camera is revealed when you slide down the display, which moves on a unique magnetic slider and makes a satisfying click as it locks into place.
Using the slider is unexpectedly satisfying and I can't stop playing with it. The screen lights up and a buzz-like chime plays when you slide it open, like a mini reward. And you don't need to worry that using the slider will break the screen. Xiaomi says it's rated for 300,000 cycles, with opening and closing it counts as one cycle. Even with my newfound addiction, I found myself sliding fewer than 50 times a day.
The Mi Mix 3 is a fantastic device with the best hardware available. It's got Qualcomm's current Snapdragon 845 chip (though the Snapdragon 855 is due to arrive soon), a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED full HD+ display, dual 12-megapixel rear cameras with 2x optical zoom and wireless charging. It even has a wireless charging pad in the box.
The cheapest Mi Mix 3, with 6GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage, sells for around $490, £375 or AU$680 converted from its 3,299 Chinese yuan price. The version with 10GB RAM and 256GB of onboard storage costs 4,999 Chinese yuan, or about $845.
While the cheapest version is a steal, the top-end model is still cheaper than the cheapest iPhone XS Max, by about $250. The only question is where to get one. You can buy the Mi Mix 3 in most parts of Asia, as well Spain and Italy, but Xiaomi doesn't currently sell phones in the US.
I told you earlier that the Mi Mix 3 is almost perfect, and I wasn't kidding. Sure, it's missing a few things, such as waterproofing -- which I'm guessing is almost impossible with the sliding mechanism -- and secure 3D face unlocking, but I can live without those features. Here's why:
The Mix 3 looks amazing
The shiny signature ceramic rear shimmers in the light. And while ceramic backing is acclaimed for resisting fingerprint grease, you'll still see plenty. The darker color of the phone does hide the ugly marks somewhat. The phone is comfortable to hold, and while it's slightly heavier than the iPhone XS Max on paper, I didn't notice the difference.
The 6.4-inch display is bright, and colors pop out, even outdoors in sunlight. The Mix 3 also supports wireless charging, which is nice to have, and as mentioned earlier, you don't have to buy a charging pad since it comes in the box.
The MIUI 10 software ties it all together
The Android experience feels somewhat like iOS, but it's definitely Android. By default, the Mix 3 uses onscreen buttons, but you can switch it to a gesture based control that's similar to iOS -- swipe up to exit an app, swipe the sides to go back or forth, and swipe and hold to bring up all the currently open apps on the phone.
One of the new features that takes advantage of the slider mechanism is to bring up a customizable quick menu that lets you quickly access apps such as a recorder, stopwatch or your notes. You can also set it to just take a picture with the front selfie camera.
There's a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side
But that means you can't lay the phone on its side to take a stable picture -- you'll accidentally depress the button.
Unlock the phone with a fingerprint sensor at the back
Or you can slide the screen down to use the front cameras. But this isn't as secure as the iPhone -- or even the Mi 8 Explorer Edition, which has 3D face unlocking.
Taking great-looking shots
Xiaomi's Mi 8 has great cameras, and the Mix 3 uses the same camera setup for equally good shots. I love the phone's night mode, which takes multiple shots and combines them together for a bright and detailed picture. Sound familiar? That's because it's a trendy feature among today's top phones. The Mix 3's version works well.
Even without night mode turned on, the camera still takes good lowlight shots.The camera also turns in a great job in daylight, with pictures sporting lots of detail and colors popping on the Mix 3's screen.