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Xiaomi fans check out the company’s foldable smartphone Mi Mix Fold during a launch event in Beijing in March. Photo: Handout/EPA-EFE

Xiaomi removes antitheft feature from flagship phone just days after launch

  • The antitheft feature allows users to find their phone even if the SIM card is removed
  • The feature has not received approval from regulators and does not comply with relevant rules, the company said
Xiaomi, the world’s No. 2 smartphone company, has removed a highly-touted feature from the latest version of its flagship smartphone just three days after its launch in the latest case to show the growing complexity and difficulty in navigating China’s data and privacy regulatory landscape, even for a local company.

The antitheft feature, which allows users to find their phone even if the SIM card is taken out, will be removed from the upcoming Mi Mix 4 as the feature has not received approval from regulators and does not comply with relevant rules, the company said in a statement published to their Weibo account late Friday.

At the launch event on Tuesday, founder and chief executive Lei Jun called the feature “perfect” with a virtual SIM card that keeps the phone connected to the internet as well as a function that does not allow other SIM cards without user approval.

“We have also carefully crafted a lot of functions to enhance the experience of the product, such as privacy protection,” said Lei in Tuesday‘s speech. “Xiaomi as a company has always put special attention to privacy protection for users.”

Xiaomi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Xiaomi’s plan to beat Samsung in smartphones faces hurdles, analysts say

The country’s regulators and state-owned telecoms companies have proven highly ambivalent over virtual SIM technology, also known as eSIM, with featured support for the technology but uneven availability, especially in larger cities.

In addition, China’s central government has become increasingly strict on the country’s tech sector as it attempts to blunt the sector’s increasing influence with antimonopoly measures as well as tighter privacy, data security and cybersecurity rules.
The Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), along with China’s data security law, which goes into effect next month, is expected to put an end to a Wild West era for China’s Big Tech companies in which they have largely had a free hand in how they collect and use consumer data.
The Mix 4, the first Mi Mix series to phone to be announced in nearly three years, starts pre-orders on August 16 priced at 4,999 yuan (US$771).
Xiaomi announced the new Mi Mix 4 on Tuesday, the first commercially available smartphone with a front-facing camera under the display. Photo: Xiaomi
As Xiaomi’s top-of-the-line model, the phone usually comes with cutting edge features, this time including an under-display camera and Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 Plus processor.
The Beijing-based company, which has quickly captured market share as Huawei Technologies Co recedes under US sanction pressure, has surpassed Apple to become the world’s No. 2 smartphone brand behind Samsung Electronics.
Xiaomi became the world’s leading 5G Android smartphone vendor in the second quarter of this year, shipping 24 million units for a 26 per cent share of the global market, according to a report published on Monday by research firm Strategy Analytics.