Xiaomi just announced that it will launch in Singapore on Feb. 21. This is a significant move because it marks the company’s first expansion beyond China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan six months after naming Google’s former Android vice president Hugo Barra as the head of Xiaomi Global in a surprise announcement.
The company unveiled its Singapore site earlier this week. The only product currently featured is the Redmi, Xiaomi’s cheapest Android phone, which will cost just S$169 (or about $133 USD).
Despite its very low price, the Redmi still has some impressive features, like a quad-core processor, a 4.2-inch HD screen, and 8MP camera, that may help it standout from competitors. Xiaomi’s other handsets have also earned kudos for strong specs, attractive design, and Xiaomi’s Android skin, which it customizes by crowdsourcing user feedback.
Singapore makes sense as Xiaomi’s first stop in its international expansion because the country has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world. According to Nielsen, 87% of people in Singapore have a smartphone, the same number as in Hong Kong. To put that figure into context, it beats the 71% mobile penetration rate in China, 72% in the UK, and 60% in the U.S.
Xiaomi has grown extremely quickly since launching just three years ago. In 2013, for example, it more than doubled its sales to 18.7 million phones.
Though Xiaomi continues to face strong competition from domestic Android handset makers like Lenovo, ZTE, and Huawei, it has held its own thanks to the high profile of its founder, Chinese tech pioneer Lei Jun, as well as unique marketing strategies, like selling phones directly from Sina Weibo, China’s top microblogging platform.
Xiaomi’s growth plan has worked very well so far: in August 2013, Xiaomi’s market share in China surpassed the iPhone by a small margin, according to Canalys.