Xiaomi, the red-hot Chinese startup that is taking Asia by storm, has just announced an impressive new smartphone.
The company held a product launch outside of its native China for the first time, and revealed the Xiaomi Mi 4i on stage in India, the successor to its previous Mi 4 phone.
With a 5-inch HD screen and strong technical specs, it’s an attractive device for those in developing markets, especially considering its price — just 12,999RS, around $US205 or £136.
Xiaomi isn’t a familiar name to most in the West because it has only relatively recently expanded from China, and still has no presence in Europe or North America. But in just five years, it has exploded to become the most valuable startup in the world — worth an estimated $US45 billion.
The company has grown so quickly off the back of its famously devoted fan-base, for which the company frequently throws parties and flash sales. At the Mi 4i launch, executive Hugo Barra thanked the fans who apparently travelled from all across India, and “took time off from work, took time off from school just to be here.”
Criticism has been levelled at Xiaomi over the design of its products, some of which look similar to Apple’s. Apple design chief Jony Ive has even labelled them “theft,” though Barra disputes this. The Mi 4i launch was marred by the livestream crashing for most of the announcement — much like Apple’s have done previously — leading some to quip that this is just another example of Xiaomi’s imitation of the Cupertino company.
The Mi 4i won’t be available in the West. Xiaomi doesn’t intend to expand into the west for a “few years,” according to Barra. But its low price point make it an attractive buy for consumers in the emerging markets it is targeting like India and China. (It is already the biggest smartphone company in China, ahead of both Apple and Samsung.)
In these markets, Xiaomi poses a serious threat to Google: While it uses Android, it uses a forked version of the operating system that doesn’t come bundled with Google’s services. And its devices are even cheaper than the average price of an Android device. But Apple is at risk too: Xiaomi, almost uniquely for an Android manufacturer, has developed a fanbase as loyal as Apple’s own. In previous product launches, CEO Lei Jun has even mocked the Cupertino company.
Here are the technical specs of the Xiaomi Mi 4i:
- 2nd generation Snapdragon 615 8-core processor
- 5″ 1080p HD display
- 13MP camera and 5MP front-facing camera
- 2GB RAM
- 3,120 mAh battery
And for comparison, here are the iPhone 6’s specs:
- 1080p display
- 8MP camera (though when it comes to photo quality, megapixels aren’t everything.
- 1GB of RAM
- 2,915 mAh battery
It remains to be seen how the device performs in the wild, but on paper at least, it bests the iPhone 6 in most categories — for less than a third of the price.