This afternoon Xiaomi, China’s fast-growing smartphone maker, held a meetup in Beijing to announce it would enter some new markets and also reveal a new product it had been teasing for the past several weeks.
At the event, Xiaomi founder Lei Jun confirmed that the company would expand internationally in full force. Specifically, he claimed that the company will enter no less than 10 countries this year:
- Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
- Europe: Russia, Turkey
- Latin America: Mexico, Brazil
Earlier this month Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra listed a few of these territories as upcoming destinations for the company.
Earlier this week Xiaomi launched a new website at Mi.com, marking a symbol of its commitment to going global. “When it comes to ecommerce, a short domain name helps obtain higher user traffic because it is easy to remember,” said Xiaomi VP Li Wanqiang in a statement.
Mystery new gadget revealed
Xiaomi had more to say at today’s event and revealed a product it had been teasing recently. Early photographs showed a slanting, flat device that resembled a trackpad or keyboard… but a mobile-oriented company would have little incentive to sell those sorts of items. So what’s Xiaomi got in store this time?
A router. But not just any router, a mini-router. Retailing at RMB 129 (about US $20), the company claims it’s the cheapest device of its kind on the market.
If you like to dress up your routers in hot pink and lime green, worry not – the mini router comes available in a range of colors.
Xiaomi also announced it will be making its regular, non-mini router available for the public. That device was first rolled out last December as part of a limited beta run, wherein batches of 500 unassembled machines were shipped to lucky fans. Now the router will ship as a single pre-assembled device, which will likely please normal users who shudder at the thought of piecing together a bunch of components. It’s set to retail at RMB 699 (about US $100).
Finally, the company revealed an upgraded version of its set-top box for television. The new palm-sized slab supports 4K video and will retail for RMB 399 (about US $63).
Despite the company’s rapid expansion, it’s worth noting that these three new devices will remain very China-centric in regard to actual usage. While Xiaomi wants to prove that it can ship heaps of phones thanks to its low prices and marketing magic, once those phones are in consumers’ hands, there’s not much that makes them stand apart from its competitors. MIUI, the company’s homegrown Android ROM which powers its devices, remains more evolved in mainland China than in Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (the three other markets where it currently operates). In those territories, Xiaomi hasn’t yet implemented payments for its app store, theme store, game store, or book center. Those are all central to the Chinese Xiaomi experience, as well as a part of Xiaomi’s business model.