The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra camera display is the latest example of a spec masquerading as a feature

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Leak Rear Display
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Leak Rear Display (Image credit: XDA-Developers / Tech Buff)

Xiaomi is working on a premium version of its new Mi 11, and if an early hands-on leak from YouTuber Tech Buff PH is authentic (and it sure looks to be) the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is all about the camera.

That's nothing to be surprised about. All of the best Android phones get a big update in the camera department from the previous year's model, and camera features are one of those things you can see in any sort of release presentation. It can often feel like the phone is secondary, and companies are trying to sell us cameras that can connect to the internet.

But nobody in their right mind has ever asked for what we see in the camera department in the Mi 11 Ultra hands-on: a giant camera bump with three high-megapixel cameras, a trio of what looks to be camera flashes, and a 1-inch AMOLED display that mirrors the front screen (or launches its own app, if you're into that).

Why? I understand the triple-lens part. One is said to be periscopic with up to 120x zoom and one is probably wide-angle or macro or something, while the third is meant to be the good regular camera that's used when you don't want to peep into windows.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera module

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central No longer the camera bump king. (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

But that rear display is just silly. I can think of plenty of bad things to say about it, but I'll stick to the first two that came to mind instantly when I first saw it: the display is going to increase the cost of the device a lot, and the best part of the Mi 11 is its sub-$1000 price. And at arm's length — like when you're taking a selfie — you aren't going to be able to see anything on that postage-stamp-sized display, reducing its usefulness.

When the Mi 11 Ultra is announced Xiaomi gets a chance to tell us why we need this.

I can't think of any reason why it would even be a thing other than to use to frame a selfie taken through the back camera lens instead of the really good 20MP selfie camera the original Mi 11 comes with. Maybe you could take a 120x zoom photo of your fillings to send to your dentist or something, but I'm thinking that the front-facing camera and a display you can see is going to take better selfies than any of the back lenses through a teeny viewfinder.

I'm sure Xiaomi will tell us all the use cases for this thing once the company makes the phone official. But I'll bet most people are going to be left scratching their heads wondering how much this display added to the cost of the phone.

It's a shame, really, because the rest of the phone specs look great. 67W charging, 4K HDR recording, night mode for video, and a 5,000mAh battery. It even has a QHD+ 120Hz display. Too bad it all has to be attached to some sort of a parasitic hump on the back with a uselessly small mirror of the actual screen you'll end up using.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • My old Palm Treo 700 had a small mirror next to the main camera on the back for selfies. Way back in the good old days in 2006.
  • IIRC all the Palms did right up to the Pre 3 that was only available if you knew someone. The sliders had the mirror on the sliding part.
    The only problem is that the mirror image only represents the actual picture if the focal length is exactly right, and longer than people want nowadays.
  • I don't take many selfies but if all you're using the back screen for is framing the shot it's probably big enough even at arms length and probably useful for someone who takes a lot of selfies. Even if the selfie camera is good, the back camera is undoubtedly better in many circumstances. I see people taking selfies blind with the back camera so this would definitely help them.
  • No one asked for huge tablet phones but here they are.. No one asked to take out microssd card slots but here we are.. No one asked to buy a new phone every year just to keep up but here we are... So wtf are you whining about some cameras and a bump?
  • Lolololol lolololol lolololol
  • People did ask for big screens. Not many people use MicroSd cards, I do feel bad for those that do but here we are.. You are NOT forced to buy a new phone every year, that is QUITE LITERALLY the comment of someone who cannot think for themselves at all. I bet you pretend to be big on environmental issues but need to buy a phone every year.. Besides taking slightly better pictures there really isn't much the S21 can do over the S10. Wait 4 or 5 years to upgrade your phone like a sensible person. Yeesh. "This phone is garbage but I need to buy it to keep up" is very contradictory..
  • If only people would be this critical of Samsung and Apple, then maybe they would stop fobbing us off with yet another barely discernable tweak.
    Let's get it right, phone were good enough five years ago. This thing is fun, bring it on!