Xiaomi flaunts phone with detachable Leica lens as sales drop

Facing flagging global demand for smartphones, Chinese producer Xiaomi Corp. has given a novel one-off redesign to its flagship smartphone to remind people it has a very powerful camera inside — by strapping a Leica lens to it.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept features a removable mounted lens bearing the branding of Leica Camera AG, its celebrated photography partner, and an additional sensor. While the concept will not itself go on sale, Xiaomi’s hope is that consumers will track down the device with more conventional lenses attached, the 12S Ultra phone, which has a large one-inch sensor co-developed with Leica.

Xiaomi, which was once China’s largest smartphone brand, has been hit hard by a global slump, as headwinds like rising interest rates and inflation hurt consumer demand. At the same time, the company is facing stiff competition and a gloomy consumer outlook at home, alongside possible restrictions on sales in the high-growth Indian market. Its Hong Kong-listed stock has lost more than half its value this year, and its profit fell more than expected — by 83% — in the second quarter.

Chinese phone makers have sought to attract customers through collaborations with storied European photo brands like Leica, which previously worked with Huawei Technologies. Carl Zeiss AG, meanwhile, partners with Vivo, while Hasselblad’s name graces Oppo devices.

Japan’s Panasonic Holdings Corp. developed an Android handset with an extensible Leica lens in 2014, though it failed to find commercial success. – BLOOMBERG

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept with a removable mounted lens.Source: Xiaomi Corp.