Xiaomi unveils new model in tandem with China Mobile

2016-08-26 09:46Global Times Editor: Li Yan

Former phone leader expands presence in nation's smartphone sector

Beijing-based smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc unveiled another Redmi flagship on Thursday, only a few weeks after the release of its Redmi Pro, a move analysts said aims to further its presence in China's crowded low-budget smartphone segment.

In terms of appearance and function, the Redmi Note 4 looks very much like the Redmi Pro, which came online in late July. Both the two sport 5.5-inch displays with the same resolution. The only distinctive selling point of the more expensive Redmi Pro is a dual-camera.

Xiaomi is not the only handset company to accelerate the updating of its product line. In April, Chinese smartphone maker Meizu launched a new smartphone almost every week.

"The frequent launch of new products can help smartphone companies increase the exposure of their brands. This is widely perceived as a last-ditch move to boost sales in a crowded 'battleground' of products that lack competitiveness," Wang Yanhui, secretary-general of the Mobile China Alliance, told the Global Times Thursday.

Xiaomi's phone sales have declined since the beginning of the year, so the company, which is known for its online sales model, is turning to physical stores.

During the launch conference held in Beijing on Thursday, Li Huidi, vice president of China Mobile, told the press that it plans to help Xiaomi sell more than 30 million smartphones in 2016.

The country's largest wireless carrier by subscribers is one of Xiaomi's partners, and it pledged at the conference to offer Xiaomi's latest Redmi Note 4 in its 20,000 branches around the country at a price starting from 899 yuan ($135).

The extension of sales channels via partners can drive up sales to some extent, but it will still be hard for Xiaomi to regain the lead in 2016 sales, said analysts.

Having led the Chinese smartphone market in the second quarter of 2015, Xiaomi fell to fourth position in the same period this year, with domestic shipment volumes declining 38.4 percent year-on-year, market research firm International Data Corp (IDC) said in mid-August.

Lesser-known brand OPPO, which captured the No.2 spot, saw its second-quarter shipment volume increase 124.1 percent year-on-year. Huawei was the leading vendor during the second quarter of 2016, -according to IDC.

"The success of Huawei, OPPO and Vivo in the market can be attributed to concerted efforts to build their brands and aggressive marketing to attract consumers, along with a focus on product differentiation," Xiaohan Tay, senior market analyst at IDC, was quoted in the report as saying.

Xiaomi, which was founded on word-of-mouth marketing, also embraced aggressive marketing methods this year, such as inviting celebrities as advertising endorsers to promote its Redmi brand.

But it seems that such moves turned off some Xiaomi fans like Guan Pu, a 30-year-old Beijing resident.

"Now the once creative Xiaomi has started to learn traditional marketing methods from other brands. That's going backward," Guan told the Global Times on Thursday, adding that endorsement fees could lift the prices of Xiaomi's phones.

Guan, whose smart devices - from wristband to earphone to smartphone - were all developed by Xiaomi, said he is losing confidence in the prospects of the company in the face of domestic powerful rivals.

He was disappointed that Xiaomi's recently launched handsets including the Redmi 4 do not have any surprising or innovative features in comparison with competitors.

While suffering weak demand in its home market, Xiaomi is vying for new growth in overseas markets.

On Monday, the company said it had shipped 1.75 million units of the Redmi Note 3 in India within five months. The handset, which was launched in India in March, is the best-selling model ever in India's online market, said media reports, citing Manu Jain, head of Xiaomi's India unit.

It's also been reported that Xiaomi will sell phones in the US starting in October.


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