Who are Xiaomi and can they really threaten Apple and Samsung in 2019?

Share


Chinese technology manufacturer Xiaomi is not a name many smartphone users in the UK will yet know, but that is likely to change in 2019.

The company launched its first devices to British consumers in November – including its Mi 8 Pro flagship phone – and opened a physical store in London’s Westfield Shepherd’s Bush shopping centre.

It is all part of the firm’s plan to introduce itself to people in the UK and further grow its already impressive business.

Despite being only eight years old and relatively unknown in the West, Xiaomi is already the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker by market share, behind only Apple, Huawei and Samsung.

The firm’s approach is based around what it calls “honest pricing”, which for its Mi 8 Pro means placing it on sale at £499 when it houses features often found on rival handsets that cost upwards of £700.

That device comes with an in-screen fingerprint sensor and dual 12-megapixel rear cameras.

The strategy is already working in the smartwatch market, where according to figures released in early December, Xiaomi has now overtaken Apple to become the largest wearables manufacturer in the world.

(Xiaomi)
(Xiaomi)

Xiaomi’s expansion outside China, including into Europe, was highlighted as a factor in helping it move ahead of Apple.

Phones and smartwatches are also far from the company’s only source of income – its physical stores are known for the wide variety of smart home and other products on sale.

The UK success of another Chinese firm, Huawei, in 2018 is also likely to encourage Xiaomi, with smartphone users seemingly more open than ever to looking beyond the household names of Apple and Samsung.

Huawei has this year overtaken Apple as the second biggest smartphone maker in the world.

Lower prices

At the time of their UK launch, uSwitch.com mobiles expert Ru Bhikha said that in a crowded market, Xiaomi’s approach meant it should be taken seriously.

“Looking at Xiaomi’s success so far, it’s hard to see how its winning combination of high-end smartphones with lower-than-expected prices won’t drive similar results over here,” he said.

He added that the company’s launch also marked “the arrival of a significant new kid on the block, and there is no doubt that in finally coming to the UK, Xiaomi means business”.

Chris Price