Xiaomi's also very proud of the 16-megapixel camera sitting flush with the Mi 5's back (the jab at Apple's camera nub during Barra's presentation was inevitable). If you thought Oppo's three-axis image stabilization was hot stuff, dig this: The Mi 5 has four-axis stabilization, which is a lifesaver for video in particular. We here at Engadget used to have a thing for shaky-cam footage (weird phase, I know) but after a bit of field-testing, it really seems to help lock down those wobbles. Photo quality, on the other hand, seemed above average rather than game-changing. Hopefully we — or our colleagues at Engadget Chinese — will get a better sense of the phone's photography chops once the Mi 5 starts trickling into the wild.
Xiaomi's MIUI 7 is actually pretty pleasant, as custom interfaces go — it's light, fast and doesn't do much to obscure the Android Marshmallow core running underneath it. That won't always be the case, though; users can fire up their choice of themes to make their Mi 5 uniquely theirs. Some adhere pretty closely to Marshmallow's flat, colorful philosophy, while others (here's looking at you, "High Life") bathe Android with a brown reminiscent of café con leche. I'll pass, but I'm still pretty shocked that MIUI feels as clean and fluid as it does. If only all the other companies painting broad, inelegant strokes on top of Android would take Xiaomi's hint.
Last night, I dreaded the idea of waking up at 6:45 in the morning to come see Xiaomi show this thing off. That was dumb of me. Given its price tag, speed and style, the Mi 5 seems ready to stare down opponents from nearly any device maker. Now the most pressing question I'm left with is, well, are we ever going to get it in the United States? Barra, ever the provocateur, said the Mi 5 would launch in China, India and "other markets" — his punctuation of that last bit with a sly grin caused knowing murmurs and giggles to ripple through the room.