Xiaomi intends to sweep U.S. consumers off their feet, but it'll take more than a year before that happens.
Global VP of Xiaomi Hugo Barra has outlined the company's plans of expanding to the western market by the end of 2017, moving forward from China as it also gradually touches down in Brazil, India and Southeast Asia.
"I think we have to be in the western markets by the end of next year. It's not something we can wait longer," he tells CNET.
Xiaomi is considered as the second most valuable startup in the world, possessing the potential to deliver the perfect alternative in the smartphone market filled with Apple's iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models.
Considering how the smartphone maker has yet to take a step into the U.S. market, the unveiling of the Xiaomi Mi 5 at the 2016 Mobile World Congress came off as a bit odd.
Attendees of the event were expecting to hear some news regarding Xiaomi's expansion plans to other markets, especially because it was held in Barcelona, Spain. However, they were left with nothing but disappointment when Barra stepped off the stage without saying a word about the anticipated announcement.
"I was disappointed we didn't hear more about the international markets today. I had an expectation today, particularly because it was an event in Europe, that they had an announcement about their plans to expand into western markets," Ben Wood, head researcher of CCS Insight, tells International Business Times.
Just to be clear, the Xiaomi Mi 5 won't be hitting the shelves in Spain anytime soon despite the location of the reveal.
The smartphone in question will come with a price tag of $415, sporting a ceramic rear. It will roll out in China first and then to India soon after.
On that note, Barra sees the U.S. market as the ideal target to get things in gear in the west. Of course, that entails a more tedious process compared to in China.
In the United States, customers often purchase smartphones from carriers, where these companies hold the choice of what devices they are going to put up for sale to the consumers. They'll also subject these smartphones, tablets and other devices through an extensive test for quality assurance. On top of that, foreign manufacturers will have to adjust their devices to be compatible with the spectrum bands used in the country.
In other words, manufacturers who want to penetrate the U.S. market will have a difficult time to launch their products, causing the likes of Huawei and ZTE to sell their devices via their own websites or online retailers.
"It's the hardest market to enter. There's so many frequencies, the carrier requirements are so steep, but at the same time, if we manage to launch a phone in the U.S., from an engineering perspective, we've arrived," Barra says.
According to the executive, Xiaomi is an Internet company, suggesting that it isn't entirely focused on selling smartphones anymore. Instead, it's setting its sight on the active user base it has. Barra notes that there are 170 million people across the globe who use the company's MIUI, which offers home-built Xiaomi apps and services.
To boil things down, Xiaomi will still enter the U.S. market in due time, where these impediments and shift in focus are perhaps the reason for a late 2017 launch.
Photo: Thomas Nilsson | Flickr