The 5 Best and 5 Worst Things About Xiaomi Smartphones

LG exit from the smartphone market and Huawei taking a backseat has seen a shift in power in various markets around the world. In the US, Motorola made a surprising comeback while brands like OPPO and Vivo have been able to rise through the ranks in global markets. All throughout those changes, Xiaomi remained firmly among the world’s top 5 smartphone brands. No longer simply equated as an Apple wannabe, Xiaomi’s brand and even sub-brands have established a presence in almost every part of the globe, including the US. As with anything, there are plenty of reasons to pine for a Xiaomi phone or to avoid one. With the upcoming holidays, you might just be in the market for a new smartphone, and these are some of the things you might want to keep in mind before putting a Xiaomi phone on your list.

Yay: The Price is Right

There is no denying that Xiaomi’s biggest strength is the allure of its pricing strategy. Especially in the early days of the smartphone market, very few even dared to offer smartphones at half the price of a Samsung or an Apple. Those that do often cut too many corners to actually make it a worthwhile investment. Xiaomi dared, and its gamble definitely paid off, cementing its name as one of the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturers globally, even without a presence in the US.

The reason Xiaomi succeeded wasn’t just because of dirt-cheap prices, though. Back then, it offered a combination of decent or even premium hardware specs at affordable prices and sold these phones by the hundreds in order to recoup production costs. Xiaomi also challenged the bias against “cheap” products by actually delivering quality smartphones that you don’t have to throw away after the slightest accident. Today, there are far too many brands that make the same promise, but Xiaomi still remains not only a pioneer but the strongest name in that race.

While Xiaomi has a strong presence in many markets around the world, it remains virtually absent in the US. For years, it has been speculated that Xiaomi would eventually enter that market, especially after hiring former Google exec Hugo Barra. That never came to be, though, and the company’s only official products in the country are still Xiaomi-branded merchandise or products from sub-brands or affiliate companies, particularly in the wearables and IoT industries.

Getting into the US officially has never been easy for smartphone makers outside the country, and even a big company like Xiaomi would be stumped at the barriers to entry. The biggest hurdle is getting deals with carriers since consumers there still get their phones primarily through them. There are, of course, plenty of behind-the-scenes negotiations not just between Xiaomi and US network operators but also between those operators and smartphone brands that might not want Xiaomi to have some space on store shelves.

There is always the direct-to-consumer route that the likes of ZTE and even Sony (after it closed its US stores) employ. There are also third-party retailers that might be willing to import Xiaomi phones into the US, though through probably risky channels since these products might not have FCC approval. The problem here, however, is that not all Xiaomi, Redmi, or even POCO phones are guaranteed to work with US cellular networks, making it a rather expensive gamble that might not pay off in the end.

Yay: Daring innovation

Giants like Samsung and Apple may have the lion’s share of the smartphone market, but their size and popularity don’t come without some costs. Despite having more resources to throw at ideas, these companies have very little wiggle room for doing expensive experiments to sell to the public. Despite having bigger coffers and buffers, every product has to be relatively successful, or their profits take a big hit, and things start to look ugly for investors and shareholders.

In practice, this means that larger smartphone makers often take very few risks in venturing out of their comfort zones. They don’t change the formula very often and sometimes rely on cosmetic changes to sell a new product, aside from the usual hardware upgrades, of course. Case in point, Samsung, Apple, and even Google have mostly stuck with the same charging speeds for years while the rest of the mobile world blazes past them.

Xiaomi isn’t as big as those two, but that never stopped it from boldly going where no phone maker has gone before. It was the first to push the idea of bezel-less phones, although vivo and OPPO took it to the extreme with popup cameras. It didn’t shy away from putting out a foldable phone when only Huawei and Samsung (and Royole) were butting heads in that space. It’s also burning rubber in breaking the charging speed barrier, sometimes with rather frightening implications. It doesn’t always jump head-first, but it isn’t as timid as some well-known phone brands have been.