Xiaomi is skipping Mobile World Congress entirely this year

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Samsung isn’t the only major phone maker who won’t be announcing a new device at Mobile World Congress, the telecom industry’s largest event, next month. China’s Xiaomi will skip the event entirely, a spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch.

The move is an unexpected one since it was widely assumed Xiaomi would attend. Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress is one of the largest events for the global mobile industry, attracting over 100,000 attendees, and it has a reputation as the place to show off the latest developments in mobile.

Xiaomi used last year’s event to introduce the Mi5, its flagship smartphone, through a press event that was live-streamed. At the 2015 delegation, it raised its visibility in the West when Hugo Barra, its then head of international, took part in an interview on stage, explaining more about the then-under-the-radar company and its business.

Barra announced his departure from Xiaomi this week after a 3.5 year stint — he is moving to Facebook to lead its VR efforts — which could be one reason why Xiaomi won’t be at MWC, but TechCrunch understands that it is primarily staying away because it doesn’t have new devices launching during the show. So that means rumors of the Mi6’s impending launch around the time of the event are wide of the mark.

This doesn’t mark a retreat or a sign that Xiaomi is allergic to events in the West, though. It launched a new smart TV and talked strategy at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, and we understand that it does have plans to attend, and arrange, other events outside of China.

It’s been a challenging start to 2017 for Xiaomi. Aside from Barra exiting on the grounds of health issues and homesickness, CEO Lei Jun admitted that the company is entering a transitional period after growing too fast. Xiaomi, for the first time in its five-year history, didn’t reveal how many smartphones that it sold last year — most likely because it didn’t see the kind of rapid growth of previous years.

In 2016, rivals Huawei and Oppo were among the challengers who rose up to knock Xiaomi off the number one perch for smartphones sales in China. Overseas, it remains unclear how its internationalization — a project that Barra spearheaded — is faring. Xiaomi revealed it cleared $1 billion in revenue in India, its second largest market behind China, last year, but nothing was said of its performance in the other 20-odd countries where its phones are sold.