Xiaomi sneaks into North America with Mexico launch

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is preparing to enter North America, but it isn’t quite the launch you may be waiting on.

The company, which was last valued at $45 billion by investors, has revealed plans to sneak into the continent by selling its Redmi Note 4 phone in Mexico. Fans can pick up the device from Coppel, Best Buy and Sam’s Club stores when it is stocked towards the end of May. It will also be available online via Amazon, Best Buy, Soriana, Elektra, and Walmart. Initially, Xiaomi is starting off with the Redmi Note 4, its budget but impressive phablet, for 5,499 MXN ($287) but it plans to offer the slightly smaller-sized Redmi 4X (3,999 MXN, $209), and others in the future.

Previously, Xiaomi sold phones in Mexico via partners but this upcoming launch will see it make a deeper push in the country.

In addition to the devices, Xiaomi is bringing its Mi Community app to Mexico. The Android app serves as a platform for Xiaomi’s fan community to connect with the company and keep up to date on new launches and offers. The app is well established in China — Xiaomi typically sells new devices there first — and the company said it plans to expand it to other Latin American markets soon. The company also has operations in Brazil, the homeland of its former international head Hugo Barra, but things didn’t go according to plan and it downsized its operations there last year following issues with taxation and manufacturing policies. Despite that setback, the company seems keen to expand in the region.

“Mexico is a really important market for us and acts as our starting point to reach the rest of Latin America,” Donovan Sung, director of product management and marketing at Xiaomi, said in a statement.

There’s no word on a U.S. launch date, although new head of global strategy Wang Xiang, who stepped in after Barra joined Facebook, recently told CNET that he believes Xiaomi phones will sold in the U.S. by 2019. If nothing else, Mexico isn’t all that far away if Xiaomi fans in the U.S. fancy a trip to pick up a device.

Xiaomi is strongest in China, but it has come under pressure at home at a wave of Android rivals including Huawei, Oppo and Vivo have found success with competitively priced phones and an offline sales strategy. Xiaomi, which began as an online-only brand, has responded with plans to expand its offline reach and regain lost ground. Its international expansion has seen it reach out to over 20 countries via a combination of local operations and sales partners. That’s largely been a mixed bag, with work to do. Only in India, does Xiaomi appear to be making a sizable impact.