Ten years ago, the conversation of the best flagship smartphone revolved around the world’s two biggest players in the smartphone industry. On the Android side of things, we had Samsung and its Galaxy S series representing the best Android phone money could buy. In the other corner, we had Apple and its ubiquitous iPhone line of smartphones, which year after year continued to amaze the global market with its polished, premium user experiences and high-end tech.
Today, however, there’s a new big player in the market: Xiaomi. After causing major disruptions in the smartphone market over the past decade with low-cost, high-performance options and consistently improving everything from build quality to the user experience, Xiaomi is now the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
It’s latest high-end flagship, the Mi 11 Ultra, is a very capable handset that can go toe-to-toe with Samsung’s Galaxy Ultra series or Apple’s latest iPhone.
Founded in 2010, Xiaomi Inc. first erupted onto the smartphone scene with the launch of the Redmi 1S, a high-value budget handset that offered a then-unprecedented price-to-performance ratio. In 2021, Xiaomi is now the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, overtaking both Samsung and Apple for the top spot thanks to its wide range of devices available at the most attractive price points.
If there’s one smartphone company that needs no introduction, it’s Apple Inc. Since the launch of the original iPhone – i.e. the smartphone that started a global revolution – Apple has consistently been at the top of the industry. Combining unique, patented high-performance tech, top-of-the-line build quality, and an unparalleled user experience courtesy of iOS, Apple has cemented its brand as one of the best smartphones money can buy.
In this battle of the flagship smartphones, we’re putting the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra against the Apple iPhone 13 Pro and similarly specced Pro Max to see which smartphone comes out on top. Of course, your choice of smartphone is going to boil down to a lot of personal preference, but to help you find which smartphone is best for you, we’ve cut this review up into the different aspects of the flagship experience. From hardware design and build quality to the software-powered user experience, this is the Mi 11 Ultra versus the iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max.
Image from Xiaomi Global
When it comes to design, it all depends on which smartphone resonates with you the most, but since we are talking about the two biggest, highest-spec handsets of the year, there’s a lot to say about their design language.
From the design standpoint, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max look nearly identical to last year’s iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max (apart from the newer, bigger, and better camera hardware), though this may not necessarily be a bad thing. The biggest difference between last year and this year? Apple finally decided on making the notch on the iPhone 13 smaller than in previous models – a change that fans have been requesting since the iPhone X.
Apple smartphones are prized for their premium build and sleek design, and recent iPhones have been lauded for achieving iconic smartphone aesthetics, characterized by flat edges and a sleek metal finish. On the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, you’re getting Apple’s signature CeramicShield on the front for unbeatable durability, a matte glass back with premium texture, and surgical-grade stainless steel frame, sandwiched together to provide IP68 rated water and dust resistance.
Image from Apple SG
While Apple’s sticking to its guns with the same design formula it’s been using for the past few years, Xiaomi’s decided to go with something brand new and entirely different with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. Featuring show-stopping looks and the biggest camera bump we’ve ever seen on a modern-day smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra makes customers a counter-offer to Apple’s sleek, sometimes muted design, with something loud and unforgettable.
While the camera bump is bound to turn heads, the Xiaomi falls a little behind in terms of overall build quality. That’s not to say the Mi 11 Ultra is shoddily made – in fact, far from it. As far as Android phones go, the Mi 11 Ultra’s Gorilla Glass Victus front, ceramic back, and aluminum frame are all made to the highest specs, but Apple’s premium chassis and patented technologies are hard for any smartphone manufacturer to live up to, even Samsung. For example, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra only comes with 1.5m of water resistance compared to the iPhone 13 Pro/13 Pro Max’s resistances up to 6m.
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In their respective niches, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and Apple iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max are two of the fastest and most powerful smartphones to date. For Android users, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra represents the highest-end mobile components available on the consumer market, while the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max feature Apple’s own silicon, and the highest performance ever.
Under the hood, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra sports the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G – the most powerful SoC on the Android smartphone market. For more demanding graphics processing tasks, the Snapdragon 888 5G outfitted on the Mi 11 Ultra relies on the Adreno 660 GPU – again, one of the highest-end graphics components available on a smartphone today. Featuring an octa-core chipset based on 5nm architecture, the Mi 11 Ultra tops most smartphone benchmarks with scores like 817.225 on AnTuTu, and 1132/3488 on Geekbench 5. On top of the high-end processor, the Mi 11 Ultra also offers up to 512GB of high-speed UFS 3.1 storage and up to 12GB of RAM. In real-life use, this translates to unparalleled speed and performance on an Android smartphone.
In the world of iOS, however, things take an even more exciting turn. Year after year, Apple’s silicon just gets better and better, with significant performance improvements with each iteration of the Apple Bionic chipset. However, with the release of the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max and the newest Apple Bionic A15 chipset, the company boasts a staggering jump in computational power and efficiency that many have dubbed to be at least two generations worth of improvement. Currently, the Apple Bionic A15 blows anything on the Android market completely out of the water.
For comparison, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max scored an astounding 843,813 on AnTuTu, and nearly 50% better performance over the top-of-the-line Android phones on Geekbench 5 with a score of 1691/4626. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max also come with cutting-edge NVMe storage for blazing-fast read/write speeds on a mobile device.
Flagship smartphones, for the most part, justify their typically exorbitant price tags by catering to the greater needs and demands of power users. As such, one of the most important things folks consider when buying a flagship smartphone is the battery. Can either the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra or the Apple iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max keep up with even your busiest days? The answer for both these handsets is a resounding yes.
First, let’s look at the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and it’s absolutely monstrous 5,000 mAh battery. Despite its super high-powered components – the large display, the high-end processor, the beast of a camera system – the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra delivers a two-day battery, featuring anywhere between 11 and 28 hours of screen-on time on a single charge. What’s even more impressive is that, right out of the box, the Mi 11 Ultra comes with a 120W fast charger, allowing users to charge their device from 0 to 100% in just a little over half an hour. That’s blazing fast charging considering the size of the battery, even when you compare it with other Android flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G which only charged up to half of that in the same time frame.
Now, let’s see how the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max stacks against the competition. The iPhone 13 Pro Max sports the largest battery ever in an iPhone, clocking in at 4,352 mAh. While significantly smaller than the 5,000 mAh battery boasted by the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, the iPhone 13 Pro Max gets plenty of mileage from its battery, enough to rival or even surpass the Mi 11 Ultra’s.
iPhone 13 Pro Max users report roughly 68 hours of battery life with moderate use – that’s counting some web surfing, photography, calls, and other tasks one might usually do on a regular weekday – which means this phone stays true to its promise of a two-day battery. While the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers significantly higher-powered components over its predecessors, even the small increase in battery size has allowed for big improvements in battery life, thanks in no small part to the new and extremely powerful yet power-efficient Apple Bionic A15 chipset that powers the device.
Related: Best Xiaomi Phone for Vlogging
Image from Xiaomi Global
It’s a small minority of people who are willing to pay upwards of $1000 on a smartphone without expecting a top-of-the-line camera, and that’s why for most flagship handsets, the biggest competition happens within the camera experience.
Xiaomi understands this fully well, and therefore equipped the Mi 11 Ultra with one of the largest and most powerful camera systems we’ve ever seen on a smartphone (hence the massive camera bump). Outfitted with the brand-new GN2 camera sensor from Samsung, the Mi 11 Ultra now holds the title of having the largest camera sensor on a mobile phone. Without getting too far into the hardware details, the Mi 11 Ultra comes with a triple-camera system – a 50MP main camera, a 48MP telephoto with up to 120x zoom, and another 48MP ultra-wide lens that offers a 128-degree ultra-wide angle to let you get the most in your photos out of any other smartphone out there.
On the software side of things, the Mi 11 Ultra delivers a pretty standard camera app. It’s fully-featured with all of the bells and whistles you’d expect from a flagship, plus a few AI-powered exclusives Xiaomi calls ‘Movie Magic’ to help you enhance your videos with high-quality filter and effects that call for some heavy image processing so you get your money’s worth with that high-end SoC.
On the Apple side of things, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro max come with the most powerful camera hardware on an iPhone to date. While Android smartphones are constantly racing towards the latest and greatest camera hardware to fit into camera bumps of varying sizes, the iPhone’s camera hardware has seen minimal improvements over the years, with Apple’s focus being post-processing.
This strategy has worked out great for them so far, with iPhones being lauded year after year for their excellent photos and videos. However, this time around, they’ve delivered one of the most significant camera hardware upgrades on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, and that’s in addition to the massive improvements in camera software and image processing courtesy of the future-ready Apple Bionic A15. The result for users like you: the best photos you’ve ever gotten on an iPhone, with a huge leap in low-light photography and true professional capabilities with ProRes.
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Since we’re talking about two of the best flagship smartphones of the year, there are going to be some stark similarities in terms of performance, hardware, build quality, etc. The biggest difference between the Mi 11 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max? The entire user experience, courtesy of their respective operating systems.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra came with Android 11 out of the box, albeit with Xiaomi’s MIUI 12.5 skin on top. MIUI is pretty standard fare for an OEM Android smartphone, and while many enthusiasts prefer stock Android, MIUI extends the feature set with some additional customization options, among other things. In any case, it’s definitely an Android experience, but MIUI can feel clunky at times, with numerous users commenting on its lack of polish.
Apple, on the other hand, can pretty much teach a masterclass on the user experience, with iOS widely considered as the superior operating system for most users. While the difference in customization options is significant – iOS is pretty much a fixed, standard experience, compared to Android’s make-it-your-own aspect, both in terms of appearance and functionality. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max come with iOS 15 out of the box, and the user experience overall is super polished, and the seamless integrations with the rest of the Apple Ecosystem are still unmatched by any other operating system in the world, smartphone or otherwise, at least for most users.
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For the Android enthusiast, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is everything you want in a smartphone, with it’s killer specs, high-end camera system, AI-powered features, and impeccable build quality rightfully earning its title as the ‘Samsung Killer’. Xiaomi has overtaken both Samsung and Apple in the smartphone market, and with a 2021 flagship like the Mi 11 Ultra, it’s easy to see how it managed such a feat. However, despite its high price tag, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max offer unprecedented improvements across the board – from imaging, to battery, to the extremely high-tech Bionic A15 silicon – and we’re fully-expecting this smartphone to be fast, powerful, and relevant for years to come.
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