Readers of my columns know that, for quite some time, I've been publishing my predictions about Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 7. Much to my surprise, as I followed AnandTech's coverage of the Chinese smartphone vendor's new flagship, the Mi5, it was pretty stunning to see that this new device -- which is priced far more cheaply than even the cheapest iPhone 6s -- had many of the characteristics that I expect Apple to bring to market with the iPhone 7.
To put it bluntly, the Mi5 seems to be about a generation ahead of the iPhone 6s in almost every way. Let's take a closer look.
Borderless, wide-color gamut display
The Mi5 features a 5.15 inch 1920-by-1080 resolution display, meaning that it already has a far sharper display than what the iPhone 6s packs. What's really interesting, though, is that there is practically no bezel on the device, something that I have been expecting from the iPhone 7.
Additionally, the display on the Mi5 display covers 95% of the NTSC color gamut; the iPhone, in contrast, covers just 72% of NTSC. Furthermore, it is apparently able to dynamically adjust the contrast ratio of each individual pixel based on the lighting conditions, for "greater screen clarity in bright conditions." So the Mi5 has a sharper, more-vivid, and frankly more-sophisticated display than the ones included on either the iPhone 6s or the iPhone 6s Plus.
Lighter than the iPhone 6s, but packing a much larger battery
The Mi5 weighs just 129 grams -- 14 grams lighter than the iPhone 6s, per Xiaomi. Despite being lighter, it has a substantially larger battery. The Mi5's battery has a capacity of 3000 mAh, compared to the 1715 mAh one found inside of the iPhone 6s.
No 3D Touch clone, though
Although Xiaomi now has the better display, Apple still has 3D Touch functionality -- which includes the so-called "Taptic Engine" -- to call its own. However, given that 3D Touch hasn't really caught on and become the "inevitable" feature that Apple had hoped it would be, it's not clear if that trumps the better display, larger battery, and lighter build of the Mi5.
Expect Apple to see market share drop in China until iPhone 7 is released
Apple's sales in China have cooled in recent quarters, and I suspect that, with phones like the Mi5 out there embarrassing the iPhone 6s in a number of key metrics (at a substantially lower price), the pressure will only intensify for the iDevice maker. Indeed, I expect Apple to lose market-segment share in China during the next few quarters.
Apple needs a real winner with the iPhone 7. At the very least, the company needs to catch up to what its competition seems to be doing; but I don't think that will be enough. Apple's iPhone 7 will spend half of its life contending with what these Android smartphone makers have coming next.
Frankly, I'm surprised and saddened to see Apple drop the ball like this. The company has virtually unlimited resources at its disposal, which should allow it to put out products that are unequivocally best-in-class. Not only that, but its products should remain best-in-class throughout their life cycles.
If Apple, for all of its resources, can't put out a phone that remains worthy of its premium price tag for a full year, then somebody at Apple isn't doing his or her job properly.