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Xiaomi tilts at Apple with new phone

2015-01-16 08:56 Global Times Web Editor: Qin Dexing
Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi Inc, holds the company's latest flagship phones at a launch event in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Li Qiaoyi/GT

Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi Inc, holds the company's latest flagship phones at a launch event in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Li Qiaoyi/GT

Firm aims to address lack of patents

Fast-growing Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc took the wraps off its newest flagship phone, its most expensive model ever, on Thursday, directly pitting itself against Apple Inc, the longtime trendsetter in the smartphone space.

The 5.7-inch Mi Note comes in two versions - a regular version going for 2,299 yuan ($371.06) and an advanced version sporting more powerful hardware that is priced at 3,299 yuan - Lei Jun, Xiaomi's founder and CEO, announced at a launch event in Beijing.

The regular version will go on sale starting from January 27, while the availability of the higher-end variant has not yet been revealed.

In his product launch speech, Lei repeatedly mentioned the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, the largest phone Apple has ever made.

Even the more expensive new Xiaomi model is significantly cheaper than the iPhone 6 Plus, which hit the mainland market in October 2014 with a starting price of 6,088 yuan.

Lei, dubbed the "Steve Jobs of China," also mentioned his ambition for Xiaomi to become the top smartphone vendor globally in the next five to 10 years.

The Beijing-based company, which did not start making its own smartphones until 2011, has already become one of the world's top firms in the sector.

In the third quarter of last year, Xiaomi held a 30.3 percent share of the market in China, the world's biggest smartphone market, ranking top in terms of sales, according to data released in November by UK-based market research company Kantar Worldpanel Comtech.

Samsung Electronics ranked second in terms of sales in China during the quarter with an 18.4 percent market share.

In terms of global presence, the latest statistics from US-based research firm Gartner Inc put Xiaomi in fourth place in terms of sales in the third quarter, with a 5.2 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market.

Samsung, Apple and Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies Co were the top three smartphone vendors worldwide during the quarter, with market shares of 24.4 percent, 12.7 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, the Gartner data showed.

Addressing concerns over his company's lack of patents, Lei disclosed that Xiaomi had filed a total of 2,318 patent applications in the whole of 2014, but he did not reveal how many patents the company currently owns.

The lack of patents is considered a key bottleneck for Xiaomi's further expansion, particularly in overseas markets. Swedish company Ericsson is currently suing Xiaomi for infringement of several of its patents.

Xiaomi is expected to continue its dominance in the domestic smartphone market, Wang Jun, a senior analyst at Beijing-based consultancy Analysys International, told the Global Times on Thursday.

However, the smartphone sector will probably see more modest growth in 2015 as the recent boom in the sector is unlikely to continue, Wang noted, adding that like other smartphone makers Xiaomi is branching out into connected objects, widely seen as the next major technology growth area.

Various technology firms are trying to build viable ecosystems for connected objects, Bryan Wang, Beijing-based vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Investing in the development of connected objects that can be controlled by smartphones has become a trend not just for firms like Xiaomi, but also for traditional home appliance makers such as Midea Group Co and TCL Corp.

Lei said in his speech that the company's smartphones will be at the heart of an ecosystem consisting of a wide range of devices and machines.

On the global stage, industry heavyweights such as Apple and Samsung have already launched platforms capable of connecting various devices around the home.

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