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Xiaomi Corp chief executive Lei Jun presents the company’s latest flagship smartphone, the 11Ultra, at its product launch in Beijing on March 29, 2021. Photo: Handout

After a week of hype, Xiaomi underwhelms with abrupt end of launch event

  • Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun spends most the company’s Mega Launch talking about Mi 11 Pro, Ultra and Lite phones
  • Lei aims to continue the launch event Tuesday with Xiaomi fans hoping for news of a new electric vehicle

Xiaomi’s major announcement event, hyped a week in advance by the gadget maker on social media, turned out to be nothing more than a launch of its latest smartphones.

Defying expectations of new semiconductor chips, a foldable phone and even a project to develop electric cars – denied by Xiaomi’s supposed partner Great Wall Motors in a stock exchange filing – the Beijing-based company’s founder and chief executive Lei Jun spoke at length at a much-heralded event.

He abruptly ended his launch of the Mi Pro, Mi Ultra and Mi Lite smartphones after two hours on Monday night, leaving fans to wait for the event to be continued the next day. Still, the launch drew attention, especially with the large camera unit on the Mi Ultra featuring Samsung’s powerful ISOCELL GN2 sensor, which sits across almost the entire width of the premium smartphone.

The Mi Pro and Mi Ultra belong to the premium section. The Pro version will go on sale in China starting at 4,999 yuan (US$761) while the most affordable among the Ultra models will set buyers back 5,999 yuan. The Mi Lite, the entry model, starts at 2,999 yuan, and claims to be the lightest and thinnest Mi phone to run on 5G technology.

“[Xiaomi] is keen to secure its position as the third-biggest mobile phone maker on the planet,” said Ben Wood, Chief Analyst at CCS Insight.

“Every new flagship Android smartphone looks largely similar with great cameras, fast charging and the latest Snapdragon processor. Differentiation is coming down to price alone and this is where Xiaomi is most dangerous to its rivals,” he added

The two-day product launch, dubbed Mega Launch, had drawn anticipation after a Reuters report on March 26 noted that Xiaomi plans to make electric vehicles (EVs) using Great Wall Motor’s factory, with the first electric car likely to be launched around 2023.

Great Wall, based in Baoding city of Hebei province, said on the same day that the Reuters report was not true, and that it was not in talks with Xiaomi, according to its statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Xiaomi has said that it was “monitoring” development in the electric vehicles sector but has repeatedly denied the establishment of such a project. “We haven’t really established an internal project on making electric vehicles,” Xiaomi’s president Wang Xiang said during a March 17 conference call with analysts after the company posted its fourth-quarter financial results.

Xiaomi also announced last week that it aims to present its newest in-house chipset. The company started working on its chip capabilities in 2014, 10 years after Huawei Technologies Co set up HiSilicon, the maker of its Kirin chipsets used in high-end smartphone models such as the P and Mate series. Since then, the company has faced “huge difficulties” in making another chipset but the efforts have not stalled, Lei said last August.

Xiaomi’s fans were also expecting a foldable phone to be announced at the Monday event, after supposedly leaked photos of the new handset circulated on Chinese social med