It’s not surprising if you haven’t heard of Xiaomi—yet.
Despite having no market share here in the United States, Xiaomi is one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world, with sales rivaling that of Apple and Samsung. To put the company’s success in perspective, it doubled its revenue to $12 billion last year.
Xiaomi still is not quite ready to sell phones here. However, international VP Hugo Barra, a former VP of Google, announced at the company’s first major press event in the U.S. in San Francisco that Xiaomi is preparing to launch the U.S. sales site Mi.com in the upcoming months.
While we won’t be able to buy smartphones like its Mi Note yet, Xiaomi does want to get its other products here before then.
Barra said in a statement to The Verge, “The US consumer is probably the most demanding consumer, with the highest quality bar and the most informed opinions of anyone anywhere in the world. Part of the reason why we want to be here is because we want to enter that feedback loop. We want to hear what people think about our products, we want to get feedback and improve our products everywhere.”
When asked about why Xiaomi was not in the U.S. market, Barra denied that it was because of intellectual property (IP) lawsuits by Apple. Nonetheless, its products look quite similar. Barra explained that it was 20 or 30 things, including IP, which have the company concerned when it comes to entering the U.S. Much of that deals with localization.
Barra also refutes the idea that Xiaomi is forking Android. “To be clear, we are an Android partner like all of the other OEMs," Barra said, "We distribute Google services in every market we're in, outside of China."
As of now, China has blocked many of Google’s apps and services.
He adds that Xiaomi’s MUI is meant to add to the Android experience. For example, in China, people get spam calls that ring their numbers once before hanging up. In turn, its phones automatically mute the first ring of unknown numbers. Other features often are the result of the company’s fans, and as result, it pushes out software updates every week.
Although the company has a global market share rivaling that of established veterans, its foray into the U.S. is not guaranteed. I believe it’s for the better that it is in no rush to go into this highly competitive market until it has established some brand recognition.
Still, Apple, Samsung and others need to be aware that the company has been able to become a major player in the global market with little brand recognition in comparison, and Xiaomi is coming.