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Xiaomi phones explained: Xiaomi 12, Xiaomi Mi 11 and more compared

, Editorial Director · ·
Explainer Provides context or background, definition and detail on a specific topic.

(Pocket-lint) - Xiaomi launched in the UK in 2018 as part of an expansion across more areas of the globe, making inroads into Europe around the same time.

The company will be familiar to many technology fans, one of a number of Chinese companies looking to challenge the established brands like Samsung, and fill the shoes of the declining Huawei - especially in smartphones.

But what phones does Xiaomi offer and which is the best phone for you? Here's a guide to Xiaomi's phones from across its range, from flagship to affordable.

Xiaomi phone numbers generally reflect the year they were launched in, but the release of phones isn't the same across all regions, so there will often be one model available in India or mainland Europe that's not in the UK, as well as different designations and specs in different territories. Often, phones are announced earlier in China, so the numbering doesn't always align, but generally speaking, this is how the model numbers stack up:

You'll notice that there's no "Mi" in 2022 - that's because Xiaomi decided to drop this branding and just went with Xiaomi 12 in 2022.

Within those families there are lots of different models: Lite, Pro, Ultra positioning models in different slots and prices, usually followed up T models later in the year and sometimes there are i models too.

That will often mean that you have a phone like the 2021 Mi 11T Pro that's fairly close in spec and performance to 2022 models, but still widely available and at competitive prices. 

Because Xiaomi's devices are a little complicated, we've broken them down into market segment and you can click on the links below to jump to a particular section. Note this is positioning at launch, so there are devices in the flagship category with older hardware because they were launched the year before.

You can click on the links below to jump to each section.

These devices were launched with flagship-level hardware.

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A rollercoaster of emotions: Xiaomi's 2022 flagship is a masterclass in screen quality and design subtlety, its cameras are great and come without unnecessary gimmicks; however, its battery life is questionable and the MIUI software still has some minor setbacks. There are moments of pure class here, though, especially if you're always near to a charger and can top-up the battery freely.

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A step down from the Xiaomi 12 Pro, the regular model has all the power but a smaller display and is a slight step-down in the camera department too. It's closely related to the Xiaomi 12X, which is slightly less powerful again.

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A rare moment from Xiaomi: one that's excited us more than any other phone of late, yet when it comes to the crunch it's the one device that's left us ultra disappointed for failing to get enough of the basics right.

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This sub-flagship brings together some strong specification in a well-performing package with a lovely screen and super-fast charging to boast about too. There are some software irks, the build is chunky and, on reflection, we think the 'non-Pro' variant is an even better buy.

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While the 'i' entry in the Mi 11 line-up doesn't get anything wrong, per se, its very existence in this busy series is just confusing - it's a European version of the Redmi K40 Pro+. So while using it feels largely effortless, there's also no distinctive reason to opt for one.

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At this price, it's certainly worth you mulling over the Mi 11. It's packed full of potential and - aside from software and a lack of optical zoom in the camera setup - brings the fight to Samsung, OnePlus, et al.

These devices were launched with hardware just down a step from flagship level at the time of launch.

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The Xiaomi 12X is a sub-flagship device, sitting under the Xiaomi 12, offering the same design, design, camera - but differing on the hardware. The slight reduction in power means it's slightly more affordable - but still a great allrounder.

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The Xiaomi 11T looks like the 11T Pro, and has the same dimensions, but drops to a MediaTek processor and slower overall charging. It's close to the 11T Pro, but this model has fewer features that stand out. It is cheaper, however.

These devices are launched on mid-range hardware - and might find close competition from Xiaomi's affordable brand, Redmi.

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The Mi 11 Lite 5G NE is quite literally an incremental step up from the Mi 11 Lite 5G, switching from a slightly older Snadragon platform to one that's slightly newer. As such, this is a great choice for those wanting a mid-range device.

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We can't think of a slimmer, tidier looking 5G handset - which makes this Xiaomi something of a unique proposition. And despite being called 'Lite', it shouldn't be seen entirely in that regard - there's ample power to keep the 90Hz AMOLED screen ticking along, and for battery life to last surprisingly long too. Ditch the 5G need, however, and there's plenty of other competition to consider instead.

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A carbon copy of the 5G models in the Mi 11 Lite line, now presented with the Snapdragon 732G, which drops the 5G - so this is a 4G option only. That means slower speeds for mobile data, but at the same time, it's a great mid-range device.

There's a lot more to Xiaomi's phones that just Xiaomi. Xiaomi, despite being a more affordable brand than many, has a budget brand, called Redmi. The "mi" here ties these brands together. Redmi often follows Xiaomi, runs on similar software - MIUI - but usually makes some compromises to offer more affordable devices.

Xiaomi is also behind the Black Shark gaming brand, offering highly-competitive gaming phones.

Pocophone is another Xiaomi brand, with Pocophone being pitched as the phone for phone lovers - fewer models, but targetting the important details.

Xiaomi is a Chinese company founded in 2010 that would consider itself to be a software company. Based in Beijing, the company was founded by billionaire and entrepreneur Lei Jun, having previously been CEO of Kingsoft, a software giant, behind applications like WPS Office.

One of Xiaomi's early ventures was MIUI, ROM software for Android phones, at a time when Android wasn't totally consumer friendly. The company built its reputation and gained fans in smartphones with regular updates and a community-based approach, with software very much at the heart of things. MIUI still runs on most Xiaomi phones.

The company now offers a full range of smartphones for which it is best known, but also offers a wider ecosystem of devices. Many of the Xiaomi branded devices are made by third parties, but Xiaomi invests and supports in these third-party companies to bring these products to market.

One of the founding principles of Xiaomi is that good technology shouldn't cost you a lot of money and the company pledges not to make more than 5 per cent profit on hardware sales, which often means really competitive prices.

Xiaomi - 小米 - literally means green millet or little rice, a staple of the Chinese diet. The word Xiaomi is actually the Anglicised version of the Chinese, Xiaomi tells us.

The slightly awkward thing is phonically "X" is usually "ex" or "zee" in English, and it's neither of those sounds, it's a "sh" instead. 

The easiest way to approach it is to break the word down into Xiao-mi. The "mi" part it easy, it’s like "me", so we can forget that.

Xiao is like the "show" part in the word "shower" (not like show as in Broadway). It's the central sound that causes the problem - like "ow, I've hit my thumb".

Put the two parts together and you have Xiaomi - Shh-ow-mi.

Writing by Chris Hall.