Xiaomi officially confirmed today what had been rumored for a while: the Beijing-headquartered tech giant will begin a “long term strategic cooperation” with German camera maker Leica, and the first Leica-branded Xiaomi smartphone will launch this July.
The news was announced via a press release Monday morning in Asia and comes after rumors of Leica and Huawei’s partnership ending a year ago, before XDA Senior Member kacskrz found concrete evidence of the collaboration in late March. Leica, a century-old company best known for its cameras and lenses, has been a partner of Huawei for the past five years. Last summer, Leica also partnered with Japanese brand Sharp for a Leica-branded phone that was exclusive to the Japanese market.
Not much information was revealed in the announcement: it does not say whether this partnership is an exclusive one (meaning other smartphones will not be using the Leica branding in the near future), and Xiaomi reps declined comment when reached. The release does include a quote from Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, who said the cooperation between the two brands brings “unprecedented in-depth collision and fusion in optical design, aesthetic orientations, image preferences and innovative technologies.”
This is mostly marketing speak, of course – every phone brand that has partnered with a legacy camera / lens maker has said something similar during the announcement; it remains to be seen if Xiaomi’s partnership with Leica will bring significant improvements to Xiaomi’s already pretty good flagship camera system.
And while the press release also does not name the smartphone launching July, it’s almost certainly the Xiaomi 12 Ultra, which is all but confirmed to run on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus SoC.
Chinese smartphone makers teaming with legacy European optics brand is not new: Huawei started the trend back in 2016 with its Leica partnership (that has very likely ended), OPPO / OnePlus have teamed up with Hasselblad, and Vivo is paired with Zeiss. Exactly how much these partnerships are true collaborative efforts or purely an iconic brand licensing its name out for marketing purposes is unknown. But nonetheless, the Xiaomi 12 Ultra at least has a couple of features that will set it aside from the pack of smartphones released in 2022 so far.