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Who is Xiaomi? A look at China's hottest smartphone maker

Michael Kan | Aug. 14, 2014
Xiaomi has its sights set on international expansion and becoming a global brand.

MIUI

"When Apple develops its iOS 7, you have no idea what they will do with it before the release," Lei said last year. "It's not like that for us. We will first ask what you want."

The Xiaomi team
 Xiaomi team

Xiaomi hasn't been around for long but its leadership team includes executives who've worked at top firms including Microsoft, Google and Motorola. Their past projects include work on Windows Mobile and Google Search, and they have experience localizing products for the Chinese market.

Before founding Xiaomi, CEO Lei Jun, pictured in the red shirt, created Joyo.com, a Chinese e-commerce site that was acquired by Amazon. Jun has said he used his e-commerce experience to turn Xiaomi into a major force selling smartphones online.

Last year, Xiaomi made one of its biggest hires, snagging Google executive Hugo Barra to lead its international expansion. Barra has since been busily promoting Xiaomi in India and Southeast Asia.

Mi Pad
Though best known for phones, Xiaomi has been quick to expand its products. Earlier this year it began selling its first tablet, the 7.9-inch Mi Pad, which starts at 1499 yuan ($276).

The Mi Pad has a 2048x1536 resolution display, an 8-megapixel camera and Nvidia's latest Tegra K1 processor. There are 16GB and 64GB versions, and a microSD slot allows for up to 128GB of additional memory.

Xiaomi hopes the Mi Pad will rival Apple's iPad mini, also 7.9 inches with similar specs. But the Mi Pad has drawn criticism for looking like a different Apple product -- available in several bright colors, it resembles an oversized iPhone 5C.

A family of products
In some ways Xiaomi is moving faster than Apple, having already come out with its smart TV and fitness smartband. As is its style, they're both priced exceptionally low: The second-generation TV has a 49-inch 4K display and goes for 3999 yuan ($649). The smartband? Around $13.

Xiaomi also sells Internet routers, set-top boxes, external battery packs, and even a stuffed Xiaomi mascot. Don't laugh at the mascot -- it's a huge seller. But the top-selling item in its store is a 5200 mAh battery pack for just 49 yuan, or $8.

How does it price things so cheap?
Xiaomi ad

Xiaomi doesn't have a network of physical stores to maintain or spend millions on billboard advertising. It relies largely on the Internet and word-of-mouth advertising by its ardent fans.

Also, Xiaomi produces only limited quantities of a product for the initial launch. This helps it control inventory, and it ramps up production over time as component costs fall. The downside for its fans is that it can be hard to buy some new Xiaomi products. Its most recent phone, the Mi 4, sold out 37 seconds after it appeared in its online store.

 

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