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China’s Xiaomi: Not Exactly an Innovator, but Certainly a Player

Since the release of its first smartphone in 2011, China’s Xiaomi Inc. has grown at a rapid pace and is now the world’s third-largest smartphone manufacturer (behind Apple and Samsung) with a valuation of US$46 billion. This comes after a round of funding which resulted in $1.1 billion from investors just last month.

Into every life a little rain must fall, however. And while Xiaomi certainly demonstrates massive funding, sales, and appeal, the company is often criticized (and rightfully so) for its blatant imitation (read as: rip-off) of Apple. Xiaomi is even referred to by many as “the Apple of China.”

The company’s Mi4 smartphone is the newest model in the Mi series—one of the company’s headliners. Launched initially in mainland China, it was soon followed by Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India from early to mid 2014,  The smartphone’s functionality and design have received great reviews overall, as it offers extremely fast software and a solid build at an affordable price.

Place the Mi4 side by side with the iPhone 5s, however, and it becomes painfully obvious that there we no limitations as to how far Xiaomi was willing to go to copy it. From almost top to bottom. What’s more, the latest operating system is essentially just a copy of Apple’s iOS.

Founder and CEO Lei Jun seems to have no shame in his company’ practices either, often taking the imitation of Apple into the realm of the absurd. Copying Steve Jobs’ wardrobe from previous Apple presentations, and even using Apple’s “one more thing…” closer to wrap up the Mi4 launch last year.

In China and Southeast Asia, where the practice of copying anything and everything is old news for most, there seems to be no slowing down for this young tech developer. Xiaomi already has a second line of hugely popular phones—called RedMi—that are extremely affordable at just over US$100, and the company is reported to have a major new product release coming up this month.

As for expanding beyond Asia, Xiaomi will need to change tack somewhat, focusing instead on innovation and less on imitation. Yes, no matter how great and affordable their products currently are.

As for tapping into the American market? Doubtful that will be happening any time soon.

H/T: The Washington Post