What you need to know
- Xiaomi has entered into a 'long-term strategic cooperation' with German camera giant Leica.
- The first Xiaomi flagship with Leica branding will be unveiled in July.
- Xiaomi didn't reveal the name just yet, but the phone is likely to be the Xiaomi 12 Ultra.
We've increasingly seen mobile brands partnering with legacy camera manufacturers to tune the cameras on their phones. OnePlus started a multi-year collaboration with Hasselblad that now extends to OPPO as well, and Vivo teamed up with Zeiss to fine-tune the camera quality of its flagship X series phones over the last two years.
Xiaomi is now entering the fray, with the Chinese manufacturer announcing that it is partnering with German camera giant Leica. Xiaomi says that the first flagship phone borne out of this collaboration will launch in July, and while the brand didn't share further details, it is likely that the phone will be the Xiaomi 12 Ultra. Leaks going as far back as November 2021 pointed to a possible Leica partnership for the Xiaomi 12 Ultra, and Leica references within Mi Gallery added further credence to the story a few months ago.
Of course, Leica is no stranger to tuning phone cameras, having worked with Huawei over the last four years. That collaboration led to phenomenal cameras in the P30 Pro, P40, and P50 series, but with Huawei facing increased challenges in its home market and abroad, both brands decided to not continue the partnership this year.
In 2022, Xiaomi is the ideal alternative for Leica. Xiaomi's global market share has steadily risen over the last two years, and the brand was able to leverage Huawei's woes to grow in key global markets. It is now the third-largest phone manufacturer behind Samsung and Apple, and it is increasingly focused on the premium segment with devices like the Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi 12 Pro, and the upcoming Xiaomi 12 Ultra.
Xiaomi's "long-term strategic cooperation" with Leica will see both manufacturers working closely together for everything from optical design to tuning the "aesthetic orientations," and "product philosophies and imaging preferences."
From Lei Jun, Xiaomi's founder, chairman and CEO:
"Xiaomi and Leica agree with each other's pursuits and ideas and appreciate each other's advantages and industry. This cooperation will provide a strong boost to Xiaomi's imaging strategy. During the cooperation, from optical design to tuning aesthetic orientations, the innovative technologies, product philosophies and imaging preferences of both parties have experienced unprecedented in- depth collision and fusion."
Matthias Harsch, CEO of Leica Camera AG, noted that the upcoming Xiaomi flagship will usher a "new era of mobile imaging:"
"It is an honor to announce the long-term strategic cooperation with Xiaomi today. Leica and Xiaomi are both global premium brands and during this unprecedented deep cooperation process, both parties have successively worked on the goal of providing customers a new era of mobile photography."
"We are convinced that the first jointly developed imaging flagship smartphone makes the pioneering progress of both companies visible. We will provide consumers in the field of mobile photography exceptional image quality, classic Leica aesthetics, unrestricted creativity, and will open a new era of mobile imaging."
With Xiaomi's upcoming flagship touted to feature a similar camera array at the back as its predecessor, it will be interesting to see how it fares against the best Android phones.
Last year's Mi 11 Ultra had one of the best overall camera packages I've used, and I'm excited to see what Xiaomi can deliver this time around with the Leica-tuned Xiaomi 12 Ultra. With the phone launching in July, we don't have to wait too long to find out.
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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.