New high-end, low-cost Android phones: Consumers are the ones who ultimately win

Jack Wallen examines one possibility for Samsung's slumping sales -- the rise of high-end, low-cost Android mobile devices such as the Xiaomi Mi4.


Android smartphone giant Samsung is struggling to figure out why sales are slumping. While that major player in the mobile world rested on its reputation for crafting quality products, smaller companies did a ninja dance around them and dropped their wares at the feet of the public — wares that just happened to outsmart the juggernaut.

One of those ninjas was little-known Xiaomi. Headquartered in Beijing, this smaller company released its first smartphone (the Mi1) in 2011 and has continued to produce quality bits of technology. In the first half of this year alone, Xiaomi sold 26.11 million smartphones. So, to consider them a "minor player" in this game might be underestimating them. Add to that the release of their latest piece of mobile wonder, the Mi4 (Chinese release date of July 29, 2014), and it's clear that a beast has been unleashed.

First let's take a look at the device itself (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The Xiaomi Mi4 is about to be unleashed.

    Here are a few of its specs:

    • CPU: 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC
    • RAM: 3 GB of RAM
    • Storage: 16 GB/64 GB of internal storage
    • Cameras: 13 MP f/1.8 main camera, 8MP selfie camera
    • Network: LTE radio, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, plus a 3,080 mAh battery

    The specs are solid, though not exactly game-changing. However, when you add on the stainless steel cover (and swappable plastic back cover) and the infrared transmitter, this smartphone begins to become really intriguing. Ultimately, however, it's the price that should open the eyes of anyone looking at a new, no-contract, Android smartphone.

    • $320 for the 16 GB
    • $400 for the 64 GB

    That's half the price of an off-contract iPhone 5 or Galaxy S5.

    Part of the enormous growth of Xiaomi is the company's expansion into Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and (very recently) India. That's a dense population of mobile device users that have no reason to remain loyal to either Apple or Samsung. So, when you bring a more affordable, quality product to the people, they'll buy it. And buy it they will. In fact, Xiaomi predicts it will sell 60 million phones in 2014. Sure, those numbers pale in comparison to those of Samsung (which sold 85 million phones in the first quarter of 2014), but we're talking about a company that has only been in the smartphone arena for three years.

    This doesn't end with Xiaomi. Other small, Eastern companies are rising — like foam on your latte — to the top of the mix. And with Samsung's sales slumping (thanks to a rather uninteresting Galaxy S5), the rise of this new Android beast from the East will keep those Galaxy sales in a dip for the foreseeable future. There is also an unconfirmed rumor that Xiaomi has plans on stretching its reach to North America. This could put their line of high-end, low-cost smartphones into a market that isn't exactly used to paying discount prices for non-discount devices. That could mean a huge loss to Samsung and a massive win for Android (and consumers).

    Many North American consumers do not currently associate the names Xiaomi, LG, Tony, and OnePlus with mobile technology. The giants of the industry (read: Apple and Samsung), however, understand fully the rise of this beast from the East. It won't take long before these manufacturers get a foothold in the West. When this happens, all bets are off as to which company will wind up the winner. It is, however, a very safe bet that the consumer will come out on top.

    If the Mi4 reaches North America, will you ditch your current device for the Xiaomi flagship smartphone? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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    Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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