The Next Big Thing

With Mi Note, Xiaomi takes aim at Apple and Samsung

New model shorter, thinner and lighter than iPhone ... and much cheaper

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 January, 2015, 2:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 June, 2015, 1:25pm

Xiaomi has taken direct aim at Apple and Samsung's hold on the premium smartphone market with its release of the Mi Note - a thin, spec-heavy handset aggressively priced at 2,299 yuan (HK$2,910).

Xiaomi chief executive Lei Jun introduced the model in Beijing yesterday, breaking down the features and comparing them to Apple's iPhone 6 Plus, which starts at 6,088 yuan.

"The Mi Note is shorter, thinner and lighter than the iPhone," he said. Lei, 45, wore a blue shirt rather than his usual black top, which when paired with jeans and sneakers, reminded some of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

The new Android handset - like the iPhone 6 Plus - leans towards the "phablet" end of the spectrum, with a screen measuring 5.7 inches. Some of the bulk is offset by the Mi Note's svelte body - it's 6.95mm thick and weighs 161 grams. A second device, the Note Pro, will sell for 3,299 yuan. The basic model will be available through the company's website on January 27, followed by the Pro in March. Sales will initially be restricted to mainland buyers, although in the past they have been opened up to Hong Kong after a few months.

Analysts said Xiaomi, which debuted in 2011 and leapfrogged rivals to become China's No1 smartphone vendor, was aiming to shake up the premium segment of the market as it moved to establish its global presence.

"The new devices and their prices show Xiaomi is trying to move up a gear for a place in the high-end market that's now occupied by Apple and Samsung," said Lu Jingyu, a Beijing-based analyst with iResearch Consulting Group. "It entered the scene with cheap devices when most other players were fighting in the premium market. Now that it has the world's attention, it is a mature move to target the better-off.

"Despite its explicit target to threaten Apple, I don't think it will achieve that [goal] easily because they are very different phones. I think Samsung, which runs on Android too, will likely take a hit."

The company has been frequently criticised for allegedly copying other tech companies, most notably Apple. A lack of patents has been cited as a key obstacle preventing Xiaomi from exploring the international market. Lei addressed those claims yesterday, saying: "In 10 years we will have tens of thousands of patents."

The company sold more than 61 million handsets last year - up 227 per cent from a year earlier - despite an 8 per cent drop in overall sales in the mainland market. Revenue more than doubled to 74.3 billion yuan from 2013, and a US$1.1 billion round of fundraising announced in December valued the firm at US$45 billion.

Xiaomi was founded in 2010 as a software maker for mobile devices running Google's Android system.


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