Months of speculation fueled by leaks ended when Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi launched the Mi5, the latest in their Mi line of smartphones, on Wednesday. A live event hosted in both Beijing and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona confirmed some of the leaks while other product specs were unexpected.
The premier model is priced at RMB 2699 (USD 413) and has 4GB of RAM and an unexpected 128GB of storage. There is also a downmarket version with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for RMB 1999 (USD 306). The Mi5 will go on sale March 1st.
The smartphone will use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor touted for its efficiency in connectivity, graphics, photography and battery power. Its screen-to-body ratio is bigger than both Apple and Samsung’s premium models and it’s as thin as 6.95 mm and weighs 129g, 14g lighter than the iPhone 6s.
One of the main features of the the Mi5 is its 3,000 mAh battery which, with only a 10-minute charge, can be used to play videos for 2.6 hours, navigate the web for 2.7 hours or talk on WeChat for 4.4 hours. Owners of the phone can also lock the device remotely if the phone gets lost.
The smartphone has a 16-megapixel 4-axis optical image stabilization camera and also marks the return of NFC capability for Xiaomi’s Mi line, signaling the popularity of mobile payment.
The Mi5 looks like a significant step up from the Mi4 that was released mid-2014 and the company is clearly trying to create a product with enough cachet and in a moderate enough price range to attract their already-established domestic market while making inroads globally.
Xiaomi came out on top of the race for domestic smartphone market shares in 2015, but its global numbers demonstrate its dependence on the Chinese market. 90% of Xiaomi’s 70 million shipments were for the Chinese market and they missed their downgraded shipment target of 80 million phones in 2015. Globally, Huawei outpaced Xiaomi with over 100 million shipments to move into third in global market share behind Samsung and Apple.
There is speculation that Chinese consumers will turn away from bargain models in 2016 and this more upmarket model may be Xiaomi’s answer to this trend of Chinese customers who originally purchased Xiaomi’s entry-level line of smartphones beginning to upgrade to more expensive models. A more expensive model could revitalize the brand in China while also positioning it to make inroads in other markets, like Europe. For instance, Apple raised its iPhone’s average selling price in Q4 2015 while still achieving growth in sales numbers.
Founded in 2010 by now Chairman and CEO Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s philosophy has always been to provide technology at lower prices. Xiaomi leverages its online sales outlets to cut out retailers and sell phones that run their MIUI operating system, their main revenue stream.
(With contributions from Lisa Zhang)