Could 2015 be the year a small Chinese company takes the smartphone market by storm? Jack Wallen thinks it's possible.
For the longest time, the mobile world has been in a stranglehold by the likes of Apple and Samsung. With very little fanfare, a few smaller companies have worked tirelessly in the background, building product lines that not only compete but blow away the competition. One such company is Xiaomi.
You've probably heard of them by now (I've mentioned them here on TechRepublic a few times) but haven't actually seen any of their products in the wild — especially in the North American market. That's because they're not here... yet. It is rumored, however, that 2015 will finally see this company break into the US market. When it does, look out Apple and Samsung — the competition will get fierce! I can say that will such certainty for one simple reason: Xiaomi gets it. They really get it.
Take a look at their lineup of devices. Actually, there's no need to look at their entire lineup. You need only look at the 2015 Flagship Product launch, which includes:
- Mi Note
- Mi Note Pro
- Mi Box Mini
These are, without a doubt, high-end devices that showcase Xiaomi's intentions — to take over as the leader in Android device manufacturers. Looking at their full line of smartphones (and other devices), it's all too clear that they have everything it takes to do just that.
For example, let's go beyond their flagship devices and examine the aging Mi 3. At one point, this device was labeled the "Fastest Mi phone ever." Here are the specs of the Mi 3:
- CPU: Quad Core 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800
- GPU: Adreno 330
- RAM: 2 GB
- Storage: 16 GB
This Mi 3 was released in 2013, and it can still stand up to a lot of devices released in 2014.
And then there's MIUI — the Mi user interface that answers the question "What would Android and iOS look and feel like if they were combined?" That's right, they did that — well, not literally. Mi took some of the better design elements of iOS and blended them with Android. The end results are quite stunning.
But the idea that Xiaomi can overtake the North American market isn't just about the products. One of the things this company does better than most others is listen to what the consumers want. On top of that, they ship... a lot. This small company shipped over 19 million devices in Asia last year (that's more than Samsung). How is a small company shipping so many devices? In a word, price point. When their new flagship device, the Mi5 (the first Xiaomi device that will land on North American shores, shown in Figure A), it will sell for approximately $325.00 (USD) — off-contract. Compare that to the iPhone 6 off-contract price of over $600.00, and you can see how appealing this device will be to consumers. A high-end, flagship device with quality design, outstanding construction, and a beautiful UI — at half the going price of other flagship devices.
The Xiaomi Mi5.
Some people have claimed that Xiaomi is blatantly ripping off Apple and wonder why Apple hasn't bothered to sue this upstart company. The answer to that is very complex, but it can be boiled down to this: Apple products are made in China. Suing a Chinese company could have ramifications Apple really doesn't want to deal with. Also, until now, Xiaomi hasn't had a presence in the US. Once the Mi5 lands on American soil, it is possible that Apple could wind up suing them — but still, it's unlikely. Should Apple sue Xiaomi, the Chinese government could make it difficult for Apple. The executives of Xiaomi have already been under fire for this very issue and are adamant the company isn't a "supercloner." Instead, they are simply improving on ideas in the smart devices market.
I, for one, am fairly certain that Xiaomi reaching into the US market could be a game changer. High end phones at mid-range prices. A well thought-out UI that merges the best of iOS and Android. Clean hardware design. Sign me up!
What's your take? Do you think the US market welcome Xiaomi — or will Apple call the dogs on the company as soon as the set foot on US soil and spoil the party? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.