Chinese mobile making upstart Xiaomi is gunning to steal Samsung’s thunder by launching a pair of phablet smartphones on the same day Samsung is due to unbox phablet-sized updates to its Galaxy Note and Galaxy S6 Edge devices — with Samsung press events taking place later today in New York and London.
So much for ‘quiet’ August tech launches…
Specifically, Xiaomi has today announced the 799 RMB ($125) Redmi Note 2, and the 999 RMB ($155) Redmi Note 2 Prime. And with price-tags like those Samsung must be turning titanium gray at the prospect of Xiaomi taking its devices to the U.S. — something which has not happened yet, but which Xiaomi’s international VP (and ex-Googler) Hugo Barra has hinted it’s looking to do in the next year or two.
International expansion is certainly a key priority for the company this year as it looks to hit ambitious sales targets. For now, Samsung has to contend with Xiaomi lording it over China’s mobile market — a kingpin position Samsung used to occupy. Analyst IDC pegged Xiaomi as the world’s third largest smartphone maker last fall — behind Samsung and Apple.
The two new Xiaomi smartphones, which come in a range of pastel colors as well as black or white, will go on sale online starting in China on August 16.
Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:
The Redmi Note 2 comes with a 2.0GHz MediaTek (MTK) Helio X10 processor, 16GB storage and 2GB RAM. While the Redmi Note 2 Prime has a 2.2GHz chip, 32GB storage and 2GB RAM. Both have a 5.5-inch full-HD display, 13MP rear camera and 5MP front camera.
There’s a 3060mAh removable battery apiece, and both also have a microSD card slot for memory expansion — features which Samsung used to offer as standard on its flagships but removed for its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge handsets back in March, in favor of a sleeker-looking design (to better compete with the iPhone).
Xiaomi is clearly looking to capitalize on this shift by continuing to give users the things Samsung has taken away.
Also today Xiaomi unveiled an update to its Android skin, showing off the forthcoming MIUI 7 update, which it said will launch globally on August 19 — in another event taking place in New Delhi, India.
It said the update brings improved performance and battery-saving tweaks, as well as expanding the personalization options available to users with “colorful themes”.
There’s also a auto-organizing new face recognition feature in MIUI 7’s Gallery which identifies individuals in the user’s photo and groups images together — so you can presumably get a feed of every selfie you ever took. Which doesn’t sound at all scary…
While Xiaomi often stands out for its highly price-competitive hardware, company co-founder and CEO Lei Jun emphasized its focus on software, noting that the MIUI R&D team is now “750-strong”, and the interface has passed 150 million users in more than 156 countries and regions.
Xiaomi added that its two new phablets will ship with MIUI 6, but will receive the new MIUI 7 update “at a later date”.
In a final device announcement today, Xiaomi unveiled a new PCB smart router, called the Mi Wi-Fi nano, priced at RMB 79 (~$12). The company sells a pretty eclectic range of hardware these days, including an air purifier, various wearables, smart TVs, routers and Wi-Fi hotspots, as well as its range of smartphones and tablets.
It’s not quite up there with Samsung’s massive electronic sprawl yet, but the ambition to dislodge the Korean giant’s grip on the consumer electronics market is clear.