In August last year, former Google executive Hugo Barra joined Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, where he would oversee the firm’s international expansion. Now, nearly six months later, Xiaomi has confirmed its first smartphone will launch outside China and Hong Kong at the end of the month.
The phone is called the Redmi, which is the English name given to the Hongmi smartphone already on sale, and it’ll launch in Singapore on February 21. Xiaomi is famed for its high-spec, low-price Android devices, which are enormously successful in China, even outselling the iPhone 5S and 5C during the final three months of 2013. Smartphones are incredibly popular in Singapore. Research from Nielsen says 87 percent of the population own one, 27 percent more than America.
Xiaomi’s Redmi costs S$170, which is close to $130, and for this you get a 4.7-inch IPS touchscreen with a 720p resolution, a quad-core 1.5GHz MediaTek processor, and an 8-megapixel camera. Although the Redmi uses Android 4.2, it’s heavily skinned with Xiaomi’s MIUI user interface, which adds a new launcher, more security options, and many other customizable features.
Xiaomi isn’t straying too far from home at the moment, but it’s still a very decisive step for the growing company, which has been valued at $10 billion and is the fifth largest smartphone manufacturer in China. In 2013, it sold 18.7 million devices, and often uses unusual methods to promote them. In November, it used the chat app WeChat to push its Mi-3 smartphone, and sold 150,000 of them in just ten minutes. The entire sales process took place inside the app too.
It’s this clever thinking and willingness to try new things which makes Xiaomi interesting. There have been no further announcements on where Xiaomi will stop next, but surely it’s only a matter of time before it turns its attention to the U.S. or Europe.