You’ve probably never heard of Xiaomi, but it’s the third-largest smartphone vendor in the world.
The Chinese startup sold over 60 million smartphones last year, and it recently raised over $US1 billion in funding at a $US45 billion valuation.
The company is exploding.
Part of the reason why Xiaomi has been so successful is because it sells high-end phones for about half the price of the competition. For example, a Samsung Galaxy S5 costs about $US650. Xiaomi’s flagship phone, the Mi4, costs a little over $US300.
Xiaomi phones like the Mi4 are nearly impossible to find in the US and other Western countries. They’re only sold in China, India, and other emerging markets.
But I found one tucked away at chip maker Qualcomm’s booth at the Consumer Electronics Show. This was my first time using the Mi4, and I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.
A lot of pundits, myself included, have accused Xiaomi of copying Apple’s iPhone designs. Jony Ive, Apple’s design boss, recently called it “theft” when other phone makers copy the look of the iPhone.
I only got to spend a few minutes with the Mi4, but I liked what I saw.
First of all, yes, it does look a lot like the iPhone 5S, especially because of the chamfered aluminium edges. (Apple has moved past that design with the iPhone 6.)
It’s also beautiful and made of high-quality materials, unlike the zillions of plasticky Android phones I’ve used over the years.
On the software side, it runs Android. But this isn’t the Android you’re probably used to. Xiaomi took Android and modified it to create its own operating system called MIUI.
It’s much better looking and more functional than a lot of other Android phone software modifications from companies like HTC, Samsung, and LG.
This is just a knee-jerk reaction, and hardly a full review, but I can already see why people go crazy over Xiaomi phones. The Mi4 feels and functions like a premium product. It’s hard to believe it only costs a little over $US300.