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The actress’ vacation photos were used to showcase Xiaomi Mi 9’s new Smart Slimming feature. (Picture: Weibo)

Xiaomi used a two year old photo to promote the new Mi 9 smartphone

"We are not that stupid," says Xiaomi's head of PR, claiming the "Mi 9" photos were an early draft

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Remember that time Huawei faked a smartphone photo for an advertisement by using a professional camera? Or when Samsung used a  widely-available professional stock photo to promote its smartphone?

Turns out you can't easily fool people online, as Xiaomi just discovered.

How Xiaomi forged a unique path

Lin Bin, co-founder and president of the Chinese smartphone maker, published a series of promotional pictures for Xiaomi's new flagship Mi 9 on Weibo. It turns out that not only were they not taken by the Mi 9, but some of the photos were actually taken two years ago.

The actress’ vacation photos were used to showcase Xiaomi Mi 9’s new Smart Slimming feature. (Picture: Weibo)

Sharp-eyed internet users identified the alleged Mi 9 photo as a picture published two years ago by well-known actress Dilraba Dilmurat (known as Dilireba).

Incidentally, Dilireba happens to be a spokesperson for Xiaomi’s rival, Oppo. Oops!

Xiaomi responded somewhat angrily to people saying that a picture taken two years ago is probably not from Xiaomi's 2019 flagship phone.

“Bin mistakenly sent out the draft that was to be replaced. It’s not intentional theft, it was obviously going to be discovered, we are not that stupid, ” Xiaomi’s PR head Xu Jieyun  responded.
(Look on the bright side, Xiaomi! At least you don't make your social posts with an iPhone like Huawei!)

Xiaomi says they're placeholder images, and that the official presentation is still being designed before the phone's official launch on February 20.

Xiaomi Mi 9 is coming in three colors. (Picture: Weibo)

So far, what we know about the Mi 9 is that it will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 12 GB of RAM, a fingerprint sensor inside the display, and a three lens rear camera. It’s also going to be more expensive than previous models.

“We must get rid of the restraints of cost-to-performance ratio for Xiaomi's flagships, focusing on making the best products and living up to expectations from Mi fans,” Xiaomi founder Lei Jun recently wrote on his official WeChat account. “The manufacturing and R&D costs of Mi 9 are definitely not cheap and we can’t expect to sell it at a very low price.”
Like the Mi 8, there will also be an expensive "Explorer Edition" with higher-end specs and a transparent back, allowing you to see the innards of the phone. And just like the previous phone, those innards will be totally fake -- the chips and circuitry visible through the back of the phone don't actually work and are just for decoration.

Photography is likely to be a key feature. The "mistaken" images that Lin Bin sent out are to promote the new beautifying features of the Mi 9's camera -- which can allegedly enlarge a woman's breasts, make a face more narrow, or make legs slimmer.

Cameras with beautifying capabilities are hugely popular in China: it's estimated more than half the selfies posted on Chinese social media are generated by popular touch-up apps from selfie king Meitu. Perhaps not coincidentally, Xiaomi recently cut a deal to take over Meitu's hardware business.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.