Xiaomi's new Android phone flagship suddenly looks very appealing

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra's sensor is bigger than the ones in almost every one of the best Android phones you can buy

Xiaomi 12S ultra Android phone
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

If like me you reckon the best phones are the ones with the best cameras in them, you're going to love the new Xiaomi Mi 12S Ultra. It'd be in with a shout of being one of the best Android phones even if it had an ordinary camera setup, but it doesn't: it has one of the biggest camera sensors ever fitted inside an Android smartphone, and unlike similarly sized efforts it takes advantage of the whole sensor. That should mean really stunning shots.

The camera system, co-engineered with Leica, consists of three modules: a 48-megapixel ultrawide, a 48-megapixel telephoto with 5x optical zoom (and 120x digital zoom, but as a confirmed digital-zoom hater I don't care about that bit) and a 50-megapixel main camera. But the real star here is that 1-inch sensor, which is something you'd normally expect to see in a high-end point and shoot camera. Bigger sensors mean more light and more detail.

The rest of the phone is pretty tasty too.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra camera lens

(Image credit: Xiaomi )

Xiaomi Mi 12S Ultra: specs, price and release date

The Mi 12S Ultra is launching in China first, and we're waiting for a US/UK/Australian launch date. The 8GB/256GB model is expected to sell for around $900, with the 12GB/512GB model going for $1,050. That's based on Chinese pricing; local taxes may make the actual figures a bit higher.

The display here is a 120Hz 6.73-inch OLED, powered by a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1. There's a large 4,860mAh battery with 67W fast charging and the case is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance. Xiaomi says it's also the first Android device capable of recording video in Dolby Vision HDR.

In addition to the Ultra there will be two other 12S models with similar internals but slightly smaller camera sensors. Again based on Chinese pricing, they're coming in at around $600 and $700 respectively.

These all look like really good phones, but it's the Ultra I'm most interested in: with the iPhone 14 finally leaving its 12MP cameras behind – in the Pro models at least – and Sony doing amazing things with its Xperia phones, it looks like camera tech is going to be a key battleground for the smartphone class of 2022.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).