China’s Xiaomi beats Samsung to the punch by unveiling Redmi Note 2 just hours ahead of event for pricier Galaxy Note 5

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 August, 2015, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 August, 2015, 8:14pm

China’s top smartphone maker Xiaomi unveiled an updated version of its popular and wallet-friendly Redmi Note on Thursday afternoon in Beijing, but pundits found the timing of interest as South Korean rival Samsung was due to release its Galaxy Note 5 phablet later in the day.

Samsung said on its website it would show the world its newest phablet and Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphone at simultaneous press events scheduled for 11am (Eastern Time) in New York and London, around eight hours after Xiaomi’s apparent attempt to upstage it. 

But Xiaomi has a clear edge on pricing and now, it seems, on timing too. 

The Chinese electronics giant said its Redmi Note 2 and Redmi Note 2 Prime will go on sale in China from this Sunday for 799 yuan (US$125) and 999 yuan, respectively.

Xiaomi stole the top spot in China’s smartphone market from Apple in the second quarter as a handful of Chinese brands continue to impress their home market by offering cheaper models of comparable quality to their top foreign rivals. 

Chinese rival Huawei ranked No. 2, with Apple in third place and Samsung fourth. 

Globally, the so-called “Apple clone” that Lei Jun founded five years ago now ranks as the third-largest smartphone maker behind Apple and Samsung, according to research firm IDC.

But it is China’s current king of the hill that has been dominating the headlines recently. 

It said earlier this week that it will start producing smartphones in India in partnership with Apple supplier Foxconn. 

Until now, the subcontinent has only served as a consumer not manufacturer of the hip gadgets, despite projections that it will emerge as the world’s No 3 market after China and the US within five years.

The Redmi Note 2 offers an impressive list of specs. It comes equipped with 16 GB of internal storage, with the Prime offering double as much memory. 

Both will utilise Xiaomi’s MIUI 7 interface on 5.1 Lollipop, Google’s latest Android offering.

Other specs for the 160-gram Redmi Note 2 include a 5.5-inch 1080 HD screen, 2GHz MediaTek Helio X10 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera, 5MP front camera and 3060mAh battery. The Prime has a faster 2.2GHz processor.

As a result of Xiaomi’s nascent partnership with Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Kuaidi, the latter’s mobile app will be preinstalled on the new handsets. 

READ MORE: China’s Xiaomi unveils US$32 'smart shoes', with a leg up from sportswear brand Li-Ning

Meanwhile, under a recent promotion with San Francisco-based Uber, one of Didi Kuadi’s top rivals in China, Xiaomi promised consumers in Singapore and Malaysia that they could have one of its Mi Note phones delivered by the car-hailing company “in minutes” last month.

Xiaomi, the world’s second most valuable start-up at US$46 billion, has also been moving aggressively overseas. It expanded to Brazil last month, its first foray outside Asia. 

READ MORE: China's Xiaomi marshals army of start-ups to build online catalogue of tech products

In June, it launched online stores in the US and Europe selling accessories including its earphones, activity tracker Mi Band, and power banks.

Xiaomi’s tentative steps to penetrate the US market may leave Samsung quaking with fear if the Chinese upstart does indeed choose to start selling its competitively-priced smartphones in that market. 

On Thursday, Xiaomi also launched a 79 yuan (US$12) palm-sized router, dubbed the Mi Wifi Nano, with the tagline “More mini than mini” – an apparent poke at Apple’s “Bigger than Bigger” tagline for its iPhone 6 Plus.

Additional reporting by He Huifeng