Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s international plans will take a significant step forward on February 21, that’s the date that the company has just confirmed for its previously announced expansion into Singapore.

Already a hit in China — where it sold nearly 19 million phones last year — the red-hot smartphone maker has quietly expanded sales into Hong Kong and Taiwan already, but the move into Singapore represents its first step outside of Greater China.

Indeed, in preparation for Singapore launch and further global launches, Xiaomi has given its Hongmi (which translates to ‘Red Rice’) device, which will be the first to go on sale, an English name: Redmi.

More importantly though, Redmi — which is Xiaomi’s affordable Android phone — will offer something different to the current market in Singapore.

Priced at SG$169 unlocked (that’s around US$130), it packs a 4.7-inch IPS display, is powered by a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor and includes the same MIUI customization ROM as its mid-range Mi3. No details of other device launches in Singapore have been revealed yet.

China’s tech giants are flocking to tiny Singapore to begin their expansions into Southeast Asia, as TNW’s Kaylene Hong wrote yesterday. It will be interesting to observe how Xiaomi is received by the country’s 5 million population, the majority of whom trace their roots back to China.

High-profile Google executive Hugo Barra was recruited to spearhead Xiaomi’s international development. With Taiwan, Hong Kong, and (soon) Singapore in the bag, we can expect Xiaomi devices to go on sale in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian markets next — but then what?

It will be fascinating to see if, how and when Xiaomi takes a shot at more established markets like East Asia, Europe and the US, where operator subsidies and global brands are central to smartphone sales and deals. Though a different dynamic to China, Xiaomi’s affordable, yet elegant and powerful smartphones could ruffle some feathers in these markets — but there’s a long way to go before that happens.