I’m at the W Hotel in San Francisco to hear Xiaomi President Lin Bin and VP Hugo Barra give their pitch to Silicon Valley.
We’ve been told we shouldn’t expect an announcement of the company bringing its products to the US, so the impression we’ve gotten is that this is about explaining what Xiaomi really does.
Why does it need to do that, you ask?
Well, most people see headlines describing the company as the “Apple of China” and see their phones and think, well they must be a premium phone maker. That’s mostly right — except when you compare their prices to Apple or Samsung’s premium models. Basically, they make devices people aspire in China or India can aspire to own and eventually obtain. Of course, as more people move into higher income tiers in those countries, there is a market for even higher-priced devices — hence the more expensive models Xiaomi debuted last month.
Along with not getting the actual segment Xiaomi is going for, most people in the Valley understand that Xiaomi wants to build services atop its devices, but probably couldn’t tell you what those services are. Xiaomi will likely clear up that confusion for Western techies during its presentation today.
No set time for US mi.com launch. Hugo Barra says it will happen when it’s ready.
Lin Bin continues to respond that it has to do with market size (aiming for low smartphone penetration with high growth), popularity of e-commerce.
Journalist after journalist asking slightly different variations of “are patents preventing you from launching phones in the United States?”
Still, Xiaomi’s fitness trackers, power packs, headphones are all really nice for way less than what most US consumers are used to. Those products should do really well here.
Hugo Barra just confirmed Xiaomi phones and tablets aren’t coming to the US later this year.
In Q/A session, Lin Bin says “we never share info on our margins.”
Sounds like everything but their phones/tablets might come here this year.
Now we’re talking about Xiaomi’s vision for the smart home.
MIUI is “easy to understand, but impossible to master” because there are so many hidden features.
There are more than 5,000 themes available for MIUI. Users have downloaded them more than 2 billion times. Doesn’t just add a skin on top of MIUI — themes can add games or apps to the lock screen, for example.
MIUI has built-in features for getting train/movie tickets, hailing a ride, making bank/doctor appointments.
MIUI users can label an incoming call as spam by tapping a button, if enough people do it all MIUI users will see the number as spam.
Now we’re actually talking about Internet services Xiaomi offers.
Hugo Barra is showing how the MIUI interface’s animations have consistent physics — even rain in the weather app changes direction to still fall “down” when you hold the phone at different angles.
The multitasking feature looks a lot like iOS. But there’s one difference that’s interesting for power users: you can swipe up to dismiss an app, or down to force MIUI to keep the app in memory so the OS won’t lose your place/data when it’s in the background.
You can bulk delete apps from you home screen in MIUI.
Hugo is comparing app management on the home screen between MIUI and iOS. When he has trouble moving between pages in iOS, he speculates about turning off the animation in a setting. “No, it looks like you have to live through it.”
MIUI gives you the option to record a phone call starting at any point in a conversation.
While MIUI comes with Xiaomi’s phones, it supports 347 models on 96 brands. “These are users who download our ROM and flash their own devices.”
Hugo Barra speaking now. He says MIUI is not a fork of Android, but a layer of software and services on top of it.
Xiaomi also employs 2,765 call center workers, with support available 24/7.
On Tmall Single’s Day (November 11th), Xiaomi had monster sales last year. They sold 1.1 million phones…
They’re playing a fan’s Chinese rap video about Xiaomi phones and the beat is kind of sick.
On screen: “Creatives REALLY matter”
Lin Bin details Xiaomi’s history of being the first to use well-known mobile chipsets in China. “And we were close to being first to use the Snapdragon 810.” He sounds genuinely disappointed.
There are 40 million active members on Xiaomi’s Mi Forum. 169,000 daily posts.
Lin bin says Xiaomi has sent out 224 of its weekly updates to MIUI.
Going into Xiaomi’s MIUI layer on top of Android. Originally launched to ~100 users in August 2010, now has more than 100 million users.
“We are an Internet company. We do more than make phones.”
5 out of 8 of the most-activated Android phones in China are Xiaomi.
#1 smartphone manufacturer in China according to IHS, #3 e-commerce company in the country.
Jumped right into the business. In 2014, 61.1 million Xiaomi phones sold, 227% growth.
Hugo Barra’s new Chinese name is “Tiger Brother.”
Lin Bin talking about Xiaomi’s name. Translation is literally “little rice,” but “Mi” also stands for “mobile internet.”
We all just filed in. This room isn’t as big as I expected.
- Founded 2010
- Overview Xiaomi Inc. manufactures and distributes mobile phones and consumer electronics. The company also develops mobile applications. Xiaomi targets the lower-middle market and has gained a loyal fan base by incorporating user feedback into the design of its latest sets and Android skins. It offers internet value-added products including TV boxes, backpacks, phone screen protectors, earphones, and more. Its …
- Location Beijing, 22
- Categories Internet, Consumer Electronics, Mobile
- Founders Jiangji Wong, Lei Jun, Huang Jiangji, Wang Chuan, Lin Bin, Li Wanqiang, Liu De
- Website http://www.mi.com
- Full profile for Xiaomi
- Founded 1976
- Overview Apple is a multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and markets mobile communication and media devices, personal computers, portable digital music players, and sells a variety of related software, services, peripherals, networking solutions, and third-party digital content and applications. Apple provides many products and services, including iPhone; iPad; iPod; Mac; Apple TV; a portfolio …
- Location Cupertino, CA
- Categories Consumer Electronics, Retail, Hardware, Software, Electronics
- Website http://www.apple.com
- Full profile for Apple
- Founded 1969
- Overview Samsung Electronics is a South Korean multinational electronics company engaged in consumer electronics, information technology and mobile communications, and device solutions businesses worldwide. The company develops, manufactures, and sells various consumer products, including mobile phones, tablets, televisions, Blu-ray players, DVD players, home theater systems, digital cameras, and camcorders; …
- Location Suwon, 17
- Categories Medical Device, Hardware, Software, Electronics
- Website http://www.samsung.com/us
- Full profile for Samsung Electronics
- Bio Hugo Barra is Vice President of International for Xiaomi, responsible for the expansion of the Chinese smartphone company's product lineup into new international markets including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and additional countries in Southeast Asia; Latin America and eventually the U.S. market. Accomplishments include the launch of the new Redmi and Mi3 smartphones in Singapore and the recent …
- Full profile for Hugo Barra