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Xiaomi’s transparent Mi 8 Explorer Edition might not show the real internals

Xiaomi’s transparent Mi 8 Explorer Edition might not show the real internals


Xiaomi should have been more... transparent about this

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Xiaomi’s just-announced Mi 8 flagship has a special “Explorer Edition” that, along with an in-display fingerprint sensor and iPhone X-esque 3D face recognition technology, features a cool transparent back panel to show off the inside of the phone. There’s just one slight problem with that see-through back: it might not be real.

The allegedly false back was spotted by Chengming Alpert, who offers a few reasons why the Mi 8 Explorer Edition may not be real. In a series of tweets, Alpert claims the “S845 can’t be in that position; all the components around is too far away from each other; no graphite or other pipe/wire/cable for thermal.”

Alpert also points out that Xiaomi flat-out acknowledges that there’s some visual trickery going on here. The product description for the phone, roughly translated, notes that the Mi 8’s transparent component isn’t one-to-one with the actual components inside the phone. Xiaomi is sticking to its guns, though — in a statement to The Verge, the company commented that “The transparent back on Mi 8 Explorer Edition is indeed made of transparent glass, and there isn’t a sticker with a picture on it. The parts that you see on the back upper half, for example, are parts of the actual mainboard.”

Looking at the Mi 8 Explorer Edition, there’s certainly reason to be skeptical — after all, we’ve seen transparent phones before, and none have ever shown quite the same level of visual flair on the inside as the Mi 8 Explorer claims to. Compare the stylish exposed internals of the Mi 8 Explorer Edition to, say, the also-transparent U12 Plus. Sure, the U12 Plus might not look as interesting as the Mi 8 Explorer does, but there’s a certain real-world fidelity there; things aren’t perfectly aligned or as neat as the Mi 8 Explorer.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Now, Xiaomi might not be lying about the transparent back. (It does still have a glass back, and the company claims that it’s not pulling any tricks here.) But it’s possible the “inside” is possibly a flashy sticker or 3D plastic cover for the actual, duller components underneath meant to look like the internal parts, rather than a revealing look into the inner workings of the phone. That theory would make a lot of sense — look at the internals of other previous Xiaomi phones like the Mi 5, and you’ll see (much plainer) plastic shielding covering the actual motherboard and other components on the back of the device.

Image: iFixit

Maybe one day we’ll have a smartphone that manages to take its design cues from luxury watches or high-end gaming computers, with super polished innards that are meant to show off the internal engineering as much as external. But, sadly, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition might not be it.

Update May 31st, 10:05am: Updated post to include and reflect Xiaomi’s statement to The Verge that that Mi 8 Explorer Edition does showcase the actual parts on the back of the phone, contradicting the company’s earlier description of the device.