There’s much anticipation about Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi’s long-awaited entry into the U.S. market. And we don’t have long to wait. Kinda. TechCrunch understands that Xiaomi will begin selling its first mainstream product in the U.S. — an Android set-top box — as soon as next month.
The Mi Box was announced and demoed all the way back in May at Google I/O, but so far the company has remained quiet on when it will go on sale. A source inside Xiaomi, however, told TechCrunch that it will be made available to consumers in the U.S. and other selected markets in “early Q4 2016.” That could indeed mean October.
The price has also been kept quiet to date, but we also understand that the box will cost less than $100.
Xiaomi declined to comment.
The device is very much like the Apple TV, but powered by Android. It is capable of beaming 4K video at 60 FPS with support for Dolby Digital Plus audio playback. In addition, there’s HDMI 2.0a compatibility, a quad-core ARM processor, Mali 450 GPU and 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. There’s even a controller for playing Android games on your TV set.
The Mi Box is not a smartphone, of course, but it does represent a significant first foray into the U.S. for Xiaomi, which now sells phones in more than 10 countries worldwide. Xiaomi started out in its native China before expanding across Asia with local operations in places like India, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. Last summer it went beyond Asia with a move into Brazil.
All the while, it has avoided the U.S.. Many pundits have speculated that its lack of patents are the major barrier. Xiaomi has bulked up on patents — including a deal with Microsoft — which could hasten its arrival. That’s important since competition is tough in China, where Huawei recently topped Xiaomi on sales, and in other key markets like India.
Xiaomi’s head of international — former Android lead Hugo Barra — recently told Bloomberg that the company is preparing to move into the U.S. smartphone market “in the near future,” but that isn’t likely to be all that soon. The Mi Box will be an interesting first test of the water for Xiaomi, while also helping it build a brand and generate awareness among U.S. consumers. The company’s only other effort has been the online sale of phone accessories in the U.S. and Europe for more than one year.