I Finally Got To Try A Phone Made By Xiaomi, The Buzzy Startup People Call 'The Apple Of China'

Intel

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Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone maker that has at times sold more devices than Apple in that country, is one of the most talked about hardware startups these days.

Its founder and CEO, Lei Jun, is pretty garrulous and eccentric, but many have called him the “Steve Jobs of China” because he has been able to copy Apple’s marketing strategy by throwing buzzy product launches and building legions of loyal fans. New Xiaomi phones often sell out within a few minutes of launch.

Xiaomi phones aren’t available in the U.S., but I did spot one model at chip maker Qualcomm’s booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It was an attractive, well-built metal phone with a large, high-resolution display.

Xiaomi’s phones run Android, but the version sold in China has its software heavily modified to strip out Google services like Google Maps, Gmail, and the Google Play store for apps and other digital content like music. (Which made the decision by former Google Android exec Hugo Barra to accept a new job at Xiaomi a very controversial move.)

Barra says Google services are available on international versions of the device, sold in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore*.

Take a look:

This model has a large, high-resolution screen. The body is made of metal, and it feels great in your hand.

Xiaomi phone

Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Xiaomi phone

The home screen is pretty standard with apps for texting, photos, videos, email, etc.

Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Xiaomi phone app store

Xiaomi has its own app store, separate from Google’s. Developers have to submit their apps to Xiaomi directly.

Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Xiaomi phone

The device is very thin and light, but still feels sturdy.

Steve Kovach/Business Insider

While many Android phones are made out of cheap-feeling plastic, it was nice to try one made out of metal.

*This story has been updated to differentiate between the Chinese and international versions of the Mi 3 device.

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