Xiaomi has just launched its beta US/Europe store, and appears to have already sold out. The store offered four of its most popular products in a push toward the western market. It’s is a soft entry for the company which hopes to add its phones and tablets to the same store once patent issues are resolved.
Despite their impressive rise to prominence, Xiaomi’s global expansion has come up against some significant setbacks. Late last year the Chinese giant was banned from selling its smartphones in India after Swedish-based Ericsson entered a patent infringement suit against their smartphones. Xiaomi has since successfully launched their phones and accessories in India, and is now the fifth-biggest smartphone vendor in the country.
Xiaomi co-founder Lin Bin has previously said that while intellectual property issues were one factor in their global strategy, it was not their biggest concern.
He also noted that Xiaomi is an internet company, and that it would continue to expand into areas outside of smartphones. Last week the company revealed that it had launched a money-market fund, Huoqibao, extending further into financial services.
Mi Products You Can Find in the US, Europe Store
The store launched with four of the company’s most sturdy products, including the Mi semi-open Headphones, their Mi Band activity and sleep tracker, and two sizes of portable Mi Power Banks (5000mAh and 10400mAh).
While Xiaomi’s branding periodically comes under fire for being too similar to Apple, their products have been met with generally positive reviews at home. They are quickly growing a reputation for offering premium versions of China’s cheap market favorites, including everything from air purifiers to Smart TVs.
Xiaomi seems to be taking a lean approach to its market exit strategy, only offering its smallest consumer gadgets to the west at this point. So here’s the rundown from the Chinese internet on the Xiaomi products you can pick up in the US and Europe as of today.
In numerous reviews, Chinese netizens even mention that the headphones are almost uncomfortably heavy given that they are made from more sturdy materials than their market competitors.
Reviewers also noted that the earphones struggled with low frequency sounds which is to be expected in such a cheap headphone. Despite this, it has been compared in quality to the Sennheiser HD 25-SP II, which retails for just under twice the price of the Mi Headphone.
Interestingly, a recurring theme in Chinese reviews of the Mi Headphones is the fact that their lower-premium pricing has sparked a new interest in sound quality for headphones coming out of China, meaning that buyers at home could become increasing more discerning. As one popular tech reviewer writes on Baidu-affiliated news site Hexun.com:
“I can’t really say it at this point, but I think Mi Headphone sales will certainly do well. It has definitely made more people interested in good sound quality for the entire headset industry, this is a good thing, kids”
Mi Power Bank
As for Xiaomi’s Power Banks, the reception in the Chinese market has been overwhelmingly positive, despite the availability of many low-cost options on China’s various e-commerce platforms. They’ve performed well enough that we are already seeing some copies on the streets, even though that the have an equivalent retail value of just $10-14 USD.
The big flaw that reviewers point out is the fact that Xiaomi’s push into high-capacity power banks – with the recent release of their 10400mAH model – has given rise to a frustrating design flaw; they take a long time to charge themselves. According to user reviews, the average time to charge Xiaomi’s biggest pack, the 10400mAh, is between 6-7 hours.
On the positive side, the Xiaomi offerings are generally seen as a much safer option than other banks available when it comes to accidentally frying your devices. As part of their brand-expansion effort, Xiaomi has noted in their english store how many times the banks can fully charge various Xiaomi phones, despite the fact that the phones are not yet available.
The Mi Band features all of the expected features from health-tracker wearables today. Bluetooth capabilities, call alerts, sleep tracking and fitness tracking. The device itself is pleasantly minimal and the app is slick and easy to use.
This year netizens were surprised that Xiaomi, which is built on Android, had chosen to go for a dual iOS/Android approach to the Mi Band app. Though considering they are expanding overseas ahead of their smartphone counterparts, the Mi Band definitely benefits form its dual capabilities. Not to mention the fact that the iPhone is going head to head with Xiaomi in their home market.
After trying the band itself, I’d say it’s comparable in most functions to the first generation fitness trackers from the west. Chinese reviewers note that the data requirements when connected with bluetooth put a strain on most smartphones, and that constantly running the GPS capabilities has a toll on the battery life of even the best smartphones, much like existing trackers. While a comparison we ran between the Mi Band and a leading foreign brand showed an 800 step discrepancy, the consensus is that the price makes up for all flaws in the eyes of the consumer at just $14.99 USD.
As Xiaomi’s global expansion continues, it’s likely they will release more consumer goods in the US and Europe before they take the leap with their smartphones and tablets. On top of potential patent woes, the US is becoming a more marginal market for Chinese smartphone makers, who are seeing an increased uptake in South East Asian consumers as well as India.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Huawei chief executive Guo Ping said that their ban in the US market was “not very important.” As the world’s largest telecommunications equipment firm, Huawei and ZTE were blocked from the US market in 2013 over security concerns.
Image source: http://www.mi.com/en/index.html