Mobility

Watch for Xiaomi to heat up the unlocked Android phone race in the US

The smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi is seriously considering entering the US market. Why has it taken so long, and what will this mean for consumers and other OEMs?

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Image: Jack Wallen

On the heels of Huawei rising above Xiaomi for the first time to become the number one seller in the Chinese smartphone market, Xiaomi is considering expanding into new waters. Why is that important? Because the Chinese market is the largest on the planet. The Chinese market is also traditionally dominated by local brands, which helps to explain why Huawei managed to dominate the smartphones market.

Even with this massive success, once you venture beyond the Chinese market, the likes of Xiaomi and Huawei become non-factors.

That's about to change... at least for one company.

It's been rumored for a while that Xiaomi planned on venturing into the US market. That rumor can now be moved over to the mostly confirmed category as Bin Lin, the President of Xiaomi, confirmed they are strongly considering the US market for devices such as the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro. Unfortunately, the company has yet to announce a timeline for the introduction into the US market. Even so, this is great news for the mid-range device market... something the US badly needs.

The US market isn't completely foreign to Xiaomi; June 2015 was the first time Xiaomi products — Mi Band activity tracker, Mi headphones, and Mi Power Bank — appeared in the market. Xiaomi knows those products aren't make or break for a company that needs to gain a serious foothold in a new market. And considering Xiaomi is close to being the first company to sell over 100 million smartphones in one year, this could be what tips them over that edge.

But what does it really mean?

This means more competition in the Android unlocked smartphone space. That particular market is gigantic in some countries, but in the US, unlocked devices are only now gaining any foothold. Thanks to carrier lockdown, unlocked phones have had little place in the US. Now that US carriers must unlock phones, the idea of having an unlocked phone should gain a fairly strong foothold.

This is a serious win-win for all involved. Xiaomi makes amazing mid-range and flagship smartphones for cost-effective prices. Consumers who wouldn't normally be able to purchase higher-end devices will have them within reach; businesses needing to buy large quantities of smartphones will no longer have to break the bank to do so.

Apple? Samsung? HTC? You might want to brace yourself for this one.

When, when, when?

Due to the complexity of distribution — and the very likely legal challenges that will befall the company from Apple — the likelihood of this happening in 2015 is nil. Why the challenges from Apple? It's long been said that Xiaomi borrows heavily from Apple designs. Due to various legal restrictions (China has looser restrictions on patents), Apple hasn't been able to touch Xiaomi on a legal front. When the company begins distributing within the States, that will change, and Apple might throw down the gauntlet. This has been one of the major factors preventing Xiaomi from distributing into the US market.

The distribution of Xiaomi devices in the US will probably start trickling in sometime late 2016. When they finally arrive, you can bet the market will be flooded with high-quality, low-cost Android smartphones.

Will you dare scoop up one of Xiaomi's devices when they finally arrive? Tell us in the discussion.

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About Jack Wallen

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

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