Xiaomi Poised to take Mobile Market by Storm

by Jeff Wiener on August 5, 2014

You may have never heard of the name Xiaomi before, but this Chinese company is taking the smartphone market by storm. In fact, despite being a relative unknown outside the Asian mobile market, Xiaomi has skyrocketed up to the world’s fifth largest smartphone company, trailing only the significantly more recognizable brands Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and Lenovo.

Only four years old, Xiaomi has employed its own spin on a tried and tested formula for success, mimicry, as the company has come under fire of late for flat-out copying Apple’s iPhone design. While the company has started to add its own flare, the fact remains that as Samsung discovered, people want Apple’s functionality, Apple’s design, and Apple intuitive design, they just don’t want the Apple name.

But will riding on Apple’s coattails bring Xiaomi any lasting success; will it allow the company to capture markets outsideAsia? Some analysts say yes, and argue that with the company’s solid products, affordable pricing, loyal fan base, intuitive user interface, and the addition of former Google tech heavyweight Hugo Barra, the world will soon know the name Xiaomi.

While the diminutively named Xiaomi (literally, little rice) may only be known outside Asia for its alleged copying of Apple products, its clear that by capturing the fifth spot as one of the world’s largest smartphone makers the company is doing something right. Mimicry aside, the company has found the same sort of niche as Samsung did several years ago, producing functional cutting edge smartphones at a variety of price points, offering a little something for everyone.

The company has produced its own MIUI (my UI), a radically customized Android skin (much like Amazon has done) that powers its smartphones and tablets, and while it is Android at its core, the company has added a number of unique tools like navigation gestures that you just won’t find on the standard Android or iOS platforms.

This blend of cutting edge intuitive interface and affordability has allowed the relatively young company to quickly grow its own loyal fan base, creating an almost Apple-like buzz in Asia around both the company’s lower end and higher end smartphone offerings.

But dominating the Chinese market is one thing (the Chinese market tends to always lean towards home-grown brands), but true success, that is, cracking the top three largest smartphone makers, will take more than just local success, it will take global expansion. While admittedly it’s been tough for Chinese mobile brands to infiltrate the Western market, particularly with America crying national security threat every time a Chinese company starts to dominate a tech market, Xiaomi has its own secret weapon when it comes to international expansion, former Google exec Hugo Barra.

As the former vice president of Google’s Android division Barra brings not only experience in growing a mobile brand in direct competition with firmly established incumbents, but the credibility that comes with the mobile dominance that quickly followed. Barra knows what it takes to thrive in the global market, and that will only help Xiaomi going forward.

In the end, while this company may be called little rice, there’s no question its doing some big things, and that means we’ll soon see Xiaomi phones hitting the shelves here at home…whether or not we’ll buy them, however, remains a completely separate issue.

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