As Chinese smartphone makers continue their inexorable rise (seriously; if I had £5 for every time I’ve written inexorable), arguably one of the most exciting players - not just from China, but globally - is Xiaomi.
I can’t give away too much in these rambling opening paragraphs otherwise there’d be no point in scribbling the feature, but, yeah, let’s take a look at seven things you should know about Xiaomi.
As if often the case with number-based Mobot features, the following points are presented in no particular order - other than the order in which they popped into my head. Mostly.
In any case, let's rock!
1. Xiaomi is making some of the best handsets in the world
Xiaomi is often referred to as “the Chinese Apple” on account of its build quality. Cheap Chinese rubbish this is not.
The Xiaomi Mi Note Pro in particular is about as high-end as it gets, with a 5.7in QHD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 4GB of RAM, 13MP rear camera, 4MP front camera, 64GB storage, and 3,090mAh battery. WANT.
Incidentally, check out Xiaomi Mi Note Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 4: five ways the Mi Note Pro excels.
2. Xiaomi is a top-5 global mobile player
As reported by IDC, Xiaomi was the world’s third largest smartphone player in the third quarter of 2014 in terms of shipments, behind only Apple and Samsung.
That’s an impressive feat for any manufacturer, but all the more so considering Xiaomi is largely focused on China and the surrounding areas, which should be a major disadvantage against global players like Sony, HTC, LG, Lenovo… But nope, no handicap required.
Xiaomi slipped to fifth place in Q4 2014, but recorded the largest year-on-year growth of all vendors. (IDC)
3. Xiaomi loves a good “flash sale”
Flash sales are all the rage over in China, where manufacturers big up phones, whipping consumers into a veritable frenzy, before releasing relatively small amounts for sale online.
Xiaomi sold 200,000 smartphones in three minutes in 2013, 10,000 units of the Redmi Note in one second in 2014, and more recently the first batch of Xiaomi Mi Notes sold out in – again – three minutes.
4. Hugo Barra is a Xiaomi guy
You might recognise the name Hugo Barra from his time at Google, where he served as Vice President and product spokesperson for Android. Y’know, the world’s most popular mobile operating system?
Giving credence to the notion that Xiaomi is the place to be, Hugo Barra currently serves as Xiaomi’s Vice President for International.
The US, for example, has been reluctant to accept Chinese telecoms companies (Huawei and ZTE were described as a “security threat”), so putting a familiar western face on things can’t do any harm. Plus Hugo seems to know what he’s doing.
5. Xiaomi’s phones are getting more expensive
Chinese manufacturers have a reputation for churning out phones with high-end specs and wallet-friendly price tags, a combination that has gone down a treat with consumers. The Xiaomi Mi 3, for example, offers similar specs to the Samsung Galaxy S5 but sells for half the price.
However, the aforementioned Xiaomi Mi Note and Mi Note Pro are the company’s most expensive phones to date, and it’s likely that its wares won’t be dirt cheap when they arrive in the west. Which brings us to...
6. It’ll be “a few years” before Xiaomi arrives in the west
There’s definitely an appetite for Xiaomi phones in markets like the UK and US. Heck, just look at all the virtual column inches dedicated to them.
However, Hugo Barra recently told BBC News Technology that it’ll be a few years before Xiaomi phones arrive in the west.
“It’s probably going to be a few years before we reach for these ‘Tier One’ markets as we might define them,” begins Hugo. “And the reason is because we think that our value proposition of building very high specification products and selling them, y’know, almost at cost has a much higher impact – economic and social impact – in the developing markets.
“But also because markets like the US and Europe are insanely competitive, and I think we’re not quite at the level where we feel like we’re ready to be part of what we’re doing in these markets.”
7. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Xiaomi
Looking at Xiaomi’s various successes, it’d be easy to suggest that the manufacturer can do no wrong, but that’s far from the case.
Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission investigated – and ultimately fined – Xiaomi on account of its “hunger sale” tactics, suggesting that the manufacturer had exaggerated the number of units sold, lied about the speed at which they were sold, and pulled inventory before it was exhausted but claiming to be “sold out”.
Xiaomi was also temporarily forced to pull out of India – one of its major focus points – late last year, after treading on the patent toes of Sweden’s Ericsson.
Amusingly (for us, anyway), Xiaomi accidentally upset its Chinese fans this week when it showed a map with a disputed territory belonging to India - not China. Oops! (Quartz)
And finally, Apple design chief Jony Ive accused Xiaomi of “theft” and “being lazy”, though Hugo Barra hit back with this fantastic quote: "I think it's great that Apple took existing ideas that were very good and added their design twist on top. That's what they do. That's what we do.”