Lei Jun, founder of hot Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, took to the stage today at the Beijing International Convention’s Center’s “Xiaomi Festival” to announce two brand new smartphones: the Xiaomi Mi-2S, the Xiaomi Mi-2A.
The announcement follows last year’s launch of the popular Xiaomi Mi2 phone.
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Xiaomi is building up a reputation as China’s homegrown Apple of the East, and it’s got a loyal fan base that would have Tim Cook reeling from jealousy. In fact, Lei took a stab at Apple saying that Xiaomi fans believe its brand to be even better.
The Chinese smartphone company hasn’t disappointed its fanboys, as the phone comes packed with features.
Xiaomi has come a long way since it unveiled Mi-One, its first generation smartphone. Wrought with criticism over its production practices of creating a “false” demand – under-producing phones – Xiaomi defended itself by stating that it wasn’t out to create more phones than it expected to sell. Xiaomi sold 3.5 million Mi-One phones, while the company stocked 7.19 million Mi-Two. This year, as TechCrunch reported last month, with a growing demand for Xiaomi smartphones in China the mobile phone maker plans to stock 15 million units of the Mi-Three without holding overstock.
Xiaomi is finally releasing its third generation of smartphones, of which we’ve already seen a few leaked prototypes. But it’s not exactly what you might have expected. You’ll notice the reference to Apple soon enough.
The Xiaomi Mi-2S (yes, a 2S) comes packed with a quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor in the 16GB model, a bump from the Qualcomm’s S4 Pro Chip that sits inside of the Mi-Two. Following the trend towards larger screen sizes, the Mi-2S sports a 4.3-inch screen with 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. Photo enthusiasts will be pleased. You’ll find a 13 MP rear-facing camera and a 2000mAh battery.
The Mi-2s’s sister phone, called the Mi-2A (or 2A for short) is equipped with NFC (Near Frequency Communication) technology which has potential as a mobile wallet, to exchange contact info, or even as a quick way to pay for bus tickets. The phone will also support 5G WiFi.
As for its other hardware, the processor packs a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 PRO processor. The phone sports a rear-facing 8MP camera, while the front-facing camera is 2MP. The screen size is the standard 4.3-inch and there’s a dual core 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 PRO processor on board.
In addition, Xiaomi’s MIUI ROM interface has received an update with new wallpapers and live icons (showing current weather, data usage, etc.). The camera app also has a new feature through which users can take selfies without having to press a button. Friends can simply say “cheese” (or more likely, “eggplant,” as is said in China), and the camera will snap a photo via voice activation.
For the features that these two phones are packed with, it’s becoming hard to beat Xiaomi on price. The Mi-2S will cost just $370 (RMB 2299) with 100,000 phones available starting today, while the Mi-2A will sell for a dirt-cheap $241 (RMB 1499) and will be available in three weeks.
Fan frenzy over the Mi-2S and Mi-2A is to be expected – last year, as part of joint experiment with Weibo to test the latter company’s new online payment service, Xiaomi sold 50,000 Mi-Twos in just 5 minutes and 14 seconds.
Xiaomi is a growing but quiet threat to smartphone makers – and they don’t even know it yet. The Chinese company has garnered approximately a total of $347 million in funding, with $216 million of that coming from its third round of financing last year. The handset maker has generated $2 billion (RMB 12.6 billion) in revenue from the 7.19 million phones sold in 2012. An astounding 70 percent of these sales were from its online site.
The company has an eye on the West and expects to roll out its smartphones to the European market, which is critical if it hopes to generate a profit in the next two years. Xiaomi’s co-founder Lin Bin has admitted to selling the Mi-Two at a loss.