Xiaomi 12S Ultra To Sport World's Largest Phone Camera Sensor Made By Sony

Xiaomi is gearing up to launch its flagship Xiaomi 12S series on July 4 in China, and the string of official teasers continues to confirm key aspects of the phone lineup. The company has already been boasting about its partnership with camera-maker Leica. More recently, it revealed that its upcoming flagship model, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, will feature an entirely new Sony camera sensor that has been tailor-made specifically for the forthcoming release. According to an official confirmation posted on the Chinese social media website Weibo, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra will feature a Sony IMX989 sensor, the largest phone camera sensor we have seen.

The IMX989 is notably not the first 1-inch phone camera sensor. Before Xiaomi, brands such as Sony and Japan's Sharp launched smartphones, including the Xperia PRO-I and the Aquos R7, with 1-inch sensors, albeit in a cropped format. However, Xiaomi's founder Lei Jun claims the Xiaomi 12S Ultra uses the enormous camera sensor without cropping, which is something that other brands can't compete against (for now).

Xiaomi didn't reveal any details about the latest flagship Sony sensor, but it did state that it invested $15 million (via Weibo) in co-developing it. Jun said the sensor will also be available for other Chinese phone makers to use in their smartphones.

Largest phone camera sensor

Even without any details officially revealed by either Sony or Xiaomi, a leak from a few months ago sheds some light on the sensor. In April 2022, trusted leaker Digital Chat Station suggested the Sony IMX989 would be a 50MP sensor. This puts it in the same league as the IMX866 and Samsung GN2 sensors.

Interestingly, Samsung has been pushing boundaries on the megapixel count for smartphone camera sensors and recently launched a new 200MP sensor with the smallest pixel size. The Sony IMX989, however, leads with a much bigger surface area for capturing light. As a general rule of thumb, a larger surface translates to more light captured by the image sensor, and more light results in sharper details and better color accuracy. Although we do not know anything else about the Sony IMX989, it could possibly feature the same RGBW (red green blue white) color filter as the IMX866. Including white pixels in the color filter also allows more light to hit the sensor's surface.

Noteworthy camera with Leica branding

Among other rumored specifications, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip that offers slightly better performance and improved thermal response compared to the older 8 Gen 1. In addition, the design of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra was leaked in late 2021, and unlike its predecessor — the Mi 11 Ultra — there is no second screen alongside the camera hump. Instead, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra has been suggested to feature a circular camera with four cameras and a glaring Leica badging.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra competitor has also been suggested to feature a 6.7-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED LTPO display with a 120Hz refresh rate, up to 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, and Android 12 to boot (via Twitter). Lastly, the phone is believed to be equipped with a 4,800mAh battery that supports 67W wired and 50W wireless charging. As revealed in another official teaser, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra could come with a golden mid-frame and a leather finish on the back. However, chances are the leather variant may be limited to China (via Weibo).

As noted above, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra will be unveiled officially in China on July 4 alongside the Xiaomi 12S. The design and some specifications for the other two phones have already been teased officially, but Xiaomi is keeping the Ultra under wraps for a big surprise.