Xiaomi enters US market with online accessories sale, but smartphones nowhere in sight

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 5:14pm

China's largest smartphone maker has made its first foray into the world's second largest market for smart devices with the launch of an online store targeted at Western consumers.

However, customers in the US will have to continue to wait to get their hands on Xiaomi's smartphones, as the store currently only stocks accessories and fitness devices.

Devices on offer include power banks, headphones, and the Mi Band fitness tracker. As of writing, all are marked as sold out after a flash sale on Monday afternoon US time. Another sale will take place for European customers later today.

The company announced in February that it would begin sales in the US this year, but this would be limited to accessories. Xiaomi has previously offered a limited number of its devices in the UK, including the Mi-2 smartphone.

At the time, Xiaomi global vice president Hugo Barra cited hardware certification, software testing, and other logistical challenges as reasons why the company was not bringing its smartphones – which have found huge success in China, overtaking both Apple and Samsung – to the US market.

Barra told the Post this month that the company designs its products "with all of our global needs in mind" so they can "do very, very well in any market". 

However, experts have pointed to another major hurdle for the Chinese smartphone maker: intellectual property. Xiaomi has been dogged by accusations that it copies its rivals designs and technologies, and may be seeking to avoid expensive patent battles with its US rivals.

This week, a US federal appeals court upheld a jury's finding that Samsung had illegally copied patented features of Apple's iPhone, in a ruling that may cost the South Korean smartphone giant as much as US$930 million in damages.

Europe and the US aren't the only foreign markets Xiaomi is targeting. The company entered the Indian market last July, and chose New Delhi as the launch city for its Mi4i smartphone last month.