Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi is already a significant challenger to established mobile manufacturers in China, and according to the latest rumors it’s turning its attention to the low-cost tablet market, and may launch a new slate to take on the iPad Mini, Samsung’s Galaxy tablets, and any number of models from Huawei, ZTE, and others. Additionally, the firm has made its first investment in a U.S. company, after pledging $40 million to wearable tech company Misfit.
Starting with the tablet, the news comes from Business Korea and quotes anonymous sources in the industry, who state Xiaomi has a 9.2-inch tablet waiting to be released next year. The screen size puts it midway between the iPad and the iPad Mini, but the potential price is well below both Apple models and the majority of its competitors. It’s expected to cost around $100.
Normally, a low price like this would mean a low specification, but Xiaomi is best known for producing well-specced hardware at a great price. The unnamed tablet may have both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity built in, a 1280 x 720 pixel screen, a Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM, plus two cameras. Xiaomi’s modified version of Android will most likely be installed, providing access to the company’s own application store, rather than Google Play.
If the tablet turns out to be real, it won’t be the first time Xiaomi has launched one. In May, it released the Mi Pad, a $240, 7.9-inch tablet directly aimed at the iPad Mini 2, complete with a Retina Display-matching resolution, and a strong 2.2GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 chip inside.
Industry analysts IDC show Apple has nearly 30 percent of the tablet market in China, with Samsung struggling at 7.6 percent in second place. Xiaomi is right behind with 7 percent, which it has obtained by selling a single tablet. A cheaper Xiaomi tablet probably won’t cause Apple much worry, but it could upset Samsung, which is already having to deal with falling smartphone sales, and won’t want similar problems with its tablet range. It’s unofficial for now, but if the report is accurate, the new Xiaomi tablet will be out early in 2015.
Investing in wearable tech
Xiaomi’s investment in Misfit is a first for the company. Best known for its Shine fitness tracker, Misfit confirmed on December 2 the Chinese smartphone brand was among its latest investors. Xiaomi’s no stranger to the world of fitness wearables either, and launched the $13 Mi Band earlier this year. Hugo Barra, the executive responsible for Xiaomi’s international expansion, has mentioned in the past Xiaomi is experimenting with other wearable devices including a smartwatch.
The company is among the top smartphone manufacturers in the world, but its co-founder remains cautious on the future. Speaking at a summit in Hong Kong, he said that just because Xiaomi is doing well now, the intense competition in the mobile world means it could all change tomorrow. “The biggest challenge for us,” he explained, “is if we can push innovation and low prices on a yearly basis. Technology innovation is the most important element for success.”