Xiaomi’s metal Mi4 looks attractive – but isn’t there more to a smartphone than attractive hardware?

Xiaomi’s new Mi 4 is now available, and it packs specs that make it a beast. It has an 8MP selfie camera, a 13MP back camera, not to mention a 2.5Ghz, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, a 5-inch, 1080p display with 3GB of RAM and either 16GB or 64GB of internal memory storage. The Xiaomi Mi 4 is powered by a 3,080mAh battery – what we here at Inferse deem to be an excellent choice for a large display. Any five-inch display with less than a 3,000mAh battery is a bad choice for both manufacturers and customers.

Some have said that Xiaomi’s new Mi 4 looks like an iPhone 4, with many claiming that any metal-built device only mimics the look and feel of the iPhone anyway. At the same time, however, Xiaomi’s metal-built Mi 4 shows the ease of crafting an attractive smartphone. It’s not hard for manufacturers to craft one: just look at Apple, HTC, Sony, and even Xiaomi. And these’re just a handful of manufacturers gaining attention for premium-built smartphones. Google and LG’s Nexus 5 joins the company – even if the Nexus 5 is built of a soft matte plastic that makes you forget the device is actually plastic.

And yet and still, hardware’s easy to build when you use premium materials. It doesn’t take much effort to decide to create a metal smartphone. The effort with smartphones comes in software, crafting a unique experience that sets your smartphone apart from others. Xiaomi’s Mi 4 packs a “selective focus” feature of its own, not to mention a smart flash as well as an exposure adjuster that lets you alter the brightness of your camera experience before taking a photo. While these’re excellent features, it’ll have only a limited appeal to smartphone consumers who’re looking for more on the software end than just two or three new software features. If there’re more software features, we’d love to hear about them.

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The build quality factor that some consumers rank above the software experience is getting old. And it’s a sad thing to see when companies (we’re thinking of Samsung) are criticized for the unique software experience they bring), and other companies such as Google can adopt the same software – but Google end up the good guy and Samsung the bad guy. One good example of this is the heart rate monitor Google built into Android Wear. A number of Android consumers said that they didn’t need a heart rate monitor on a smartphone or any other electronic device. “It’s a gimmick,” they said. Now, Google’s placed one into the software of Android Wear – and it’s innovation. It’s remarkable how Google does it, and it’s innovation; Samsung does it and it’s horrible (despite the brilliant concept).

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Now that Xiaomi’s traded in the plastic build for a more premium one, they’ll be branded an iPhone copycat (maybe they are, maybe they aren’t). As for some consumers, however, the excellent specs of the Xiaomi Mi 4 aren’t enough to pull them in as a buyer (neither does the OnePlus One phone with its production problems). What some consumers want to see in their smartphone experience involves not just hardware, but a software experience that’s hard to beat.

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In other words, some consumers wanna see a return to what innovation really is. Anybody can craft a sleek, sexy, attractive smartphone. However, as more companies get on the glass and metal bandwagon, what’ll distinguish one smartphone from another? The Xiaomi Mi 4 may join the ranks of the HTC One M8, iPhone 5s, and others – but we hope its software experience surpasses theirs.

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