Every single time Xiaomi announces a new phone, the company is inevitably asked about availability in other countries. The phones do eventually make it outside of China, but only to a handful of countries, and none in the West.
Today’s Mi 6 unveiling was no different. Xiaomi is launching on April 28, but only in China. Details for availability in other countries aren’t being shared yet, and the Mi 6 doesn’t even support all the global bands, so you can forget about trying to import it.
I wanted to get a proper answer on where Xiaomi was in terms of bringing its phones to North America and Europe. Donovan Sung, Xiaomi’s director of product management, gave me the following answer (tangents were edited out for clarity):
There’s nothing to announce today around anything regarding the U.S.
We are doing some amount of preparation. Every year we try to launch at least one phone with global bands. We talked a lot today about Xiaomi being a very innovative technology company. You may have noticed a trend in terms of the company, in terms of our CEO, in terms of our launch events — we spend a greater and greater percentage of time talking about our global efforts.
I think a lot of it really comes down to some of the things we repeat over and over again, which is “value for money.” The best specs at that particular price point. We have sort of quietly but not so quietly opened a few other markets, including India, Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam, Middle East, Eastern Europe. We’ve started to launch products in the U.S. including, for example, the Mi Box. Global is quite important for Xiaomi. And we’re going to hopefully see more interesting things globally this year.
We’re quite confident in our plans to increase the number of patents we have and become a player that can play well globally. We have over 4,000 patents already, 48 percent on the global stage. We’ve applied for over 10,000 patents. We are accumulating patents quite quickly both from our internal R&D and from various partnerships.
We are actively removing obstacles that will prevent us from being able to expand globally in a completely unobstructed manner.
At the end of the day, Xiaomi has only been around for seven years. Maybe it’s difficult to completely call yourself a startup after seven years, but we very much have a startup spirit — certainly when it comes to globalizing, where we’ve only really been doing this for two and a half years or so. We’re working very hard and there’s a lot that we just need to get in place. The scale at which we’re selling phones, selling all different types of hardware — it’s really quite remarkable, if you really think about how long we’ve been operating.
We definitely have plans to become a world-class player. Everywhere.
Our motto is “innovation for everyone,” very short and simple. “Innovation,” we’ve already talked about, it means many interesting things. But “everyone” really does mean everyone; it means everyone in every country, not just people in China and some of the countries we’ve been in. And that would, of course, include people in the U.S. and in Western Europe. “Everyone” also means not just people with money, but people who don’t necessarily want to pay $800 to over $1,000 for a phone. That’s why we have products at a wide range of prices, and we also make them very, very competitive at a given price.
Some people feel like Xiaomi is the cheap phone company. We absolutely don’t believe that. Our products have the very, very top specs, comparable to many flagship phones, but we price them aggressively.
It will take some time before people believe.
I think the challenges of a Chinese company globalizing are unique. We want to have this perception that Chinese products are high quality. That’s one of the things that will just take time for people to understand. I think that’s why we spend so much time talking about this idea of “value for money.”
We’ve heard Xiaomi’s global pitch many times now, though this is arguably the most detailed explanation the Chinese company has given. It’s easy to get caught up in this loose talk, though, so keep in mind that Xiaomi isn’t explicitly promising to bring its phones to your country.
In short, Xiaomi may say it has a plan to go truly global, but don’t hold your breath.
Disclosure: Xiaomi paid my way to Beijing. Our coverage remains objective.