Audio brand Moondrop just launched a $399 Android phone with 3.5mm and 4.4mm ports

Moondrop MIAD01
(Image credit: Moondrop)

Moondrop is an enthusiast audio manufacturer that has steadily gained momentum over the last three years on the back of exciting products. The $18 Chu II is among the best entry-level IEMs you can buy, and the brand released innovative products like the Dash75 — a retro-styled mechanical keyboard that houses a DAC — in the past. 


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Moondrop also makes planar headsets like the Venus, but it has loftier ambitions for its next product, the MIAD01. Abbreviated for Mobile Internet Audio Device, MIAD01 is a phone that has a balanced 4.4mm connector alongside a single-ended 3.5mm jack, a flagship decoding chip, and independent audio circuitry that should mitigate any interference.

Then there's the phone hardware itself. The MIAD01 will have a 6.7-inch flexible OLED panel with 1080p resolution, 120Hz refresh, and interestingly, 1920Hz DC dimming. In renders shared by the brand on X, the device looks like any other giant slab, with the ports located at the top.

As someone who tests enthusiast audio products along with a gazillion phones a year, it feels like the MIAD01 is tailored to my needs. Moondrop teased details of the MIAD01 at the start of the year, but I didn't take those seriously — audio brands tend to share grandiose plans all the time, but most of them don't come to fruition. In this instance, however, the brand has actually launched the phone, and it is available via audio retailer HiFiGo for $399

Obviously, that invites a lot of questions. Why is Moondrop making a phone? Will it have the Play Store? How many updates will it get? What about after-sales service? Making a phone is significantly more challenging than audio products, and most brands instead choose to go with digital audio players. These players have a screen, decent hardware, dedicated audio circuitry, and usually run an AOSP build of Android. Think of these devices as phones without all the connectivity bits.

Fiio's M11S is a good example; it is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 660, comes with ESS Sabre's high-end ES9038Q2M DACs, a 5-inch 720p screen, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 5300mAh battery. It runs Android 10, and will make the switch to Android 12 later in the year. While Android 10 is outdated, it is still usable in this setting, as all you're doing with the interface is playing your music streaming service of choice.

Designing a phone is much more complex; it needs cellular radios, and should be able to handle a variety of mundane tasks — send texts, make calls, browse the web, use social media, play games, and everything else you do with a phone — in addition to playing music. Moondrop just doesn't have the resources or the technical knowhow to make a phone, so the MIAD01 will be a rebranded version of an existing device.

Considering the MIAD01 has 1920Hz PWM dimming, it limits the options to a Chinese entity. I don't see Xiaomi, Honor, or any of the BBK brands somehow turning into a white label manufacturer, so if I had to venture a guess, the MIAD01 is using an ODM that caters to smaller manufacturers, like Blu.

The blocky design of the MIAD01 is reminiscent of ZTE's Nubia Z60 Ultra, but the MIAD01 is a mid-ranger. The brand confirmed that it will be powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 7050, which uses older Arm v8 cores, including two Cortex A78 and six A55 cores. It will have 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, 12GB of RAM, and a MicroSD slot that holds up to 2TB cards.

While it's interesting to speculate on the hardware, it's the software that is the biggest limiting factor for a new brand venturing into this segment. And unlike digital audio players, AOSP doesn't cut it on a phone, so the MIAD01 will need differentiated software. And somehow, I doubt Moondrop's ability to deliver on that front; the brand's Link app to connect to its earbuds is riddled with issues, and is often unusable.

It would be ideal to have a phone that also doubles as a music player, and LG did a great job catering to this niche. But that's in the past, and I don't quite see Moondrop rising to the challenge. The brand had its share of misses in recent years, and it may have taken on too much with the MIAD01. The device will need to deliver terrific audio, and simultaneously go up against the best mid-range phones.

A more sensible option would have been to launch a digital audio player like Fiio, HiBy, Shanling, Sony, Astell & Kern, and other audio brands, but as we've seen in the past, Moondrop doesn't like to play by conventional rules. That said, I am interested in taking a look at the MIAD01, and seeing how it holds up — both as a phone, and as a digital audio player. 

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.