Xiaomi Inc, which made its name with low-cost smartphones, now seems unstoppable as it releases a series of smart household appliances under its Internet of Things strategy.
After a high-profile launch of its premium rice cooker late in March, the Beijing-based company got into another hot business, on Wednesday revealing its robotic vacuum cleaner called "Mijia Robotic Vacuum Cleaner."
Mijia is a smart home appliance ecosystem that Xiaomi unveiled in late March to branch out from its line of smartphones, which have posted tepid sales since in 2015.
The ecosystem, which can also support smart lifestyle devices developed by other companies, has wooed 50 million registered users and 5 million daily active users, Liu De, co-founder of Xiaomi and head of Xiaomi's ecosystem project, told a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
Because of a laser function that allows users to preplan a cleaning path, Liu said the round, app-driven gadget can take on iRobot Roomba 980, which is the best vacuum offered by US robot company iRobot at a price of 5,699 yuan ($853).
Mijia robotic cleaner will hit the market at 1,699 yuan on September 6, much less than analysts' speculation of about 3,000 yuan.
But a Beijing resident surnamed Long said the appliance won't be a value-for-money product in comparison with its competitors.
Long used to be a Xiaomi fan, but he's turned his back on the cult brand.
He prefers Ecovacs Robotics, a robotic floor cleaner company based in East China's Jiangsu Province. "The Ecovacs cleaners can also follow a determined cleaning path, but it only costs about 800 yuan," Long told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Analysts also gave Xiaomi's Mijia ecosystem the cold shoulder.
The promotion of smart home appliances mostly relies on physical sales channels, where Xiaomi is weak, said Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based independent analyst.
He said smart home appliances are promising, but it is not the right time for Xiaomi to make the expansion when its core business of handsets is under pressure from scrappy competitors.
Having led the Chinese smartphone market in the second quarter of 2015, Xiaomi fell to No.4 in the same period this year, with shipment volumes in the country down 38.4 percent decline year-on-year, according to an IDC report.
By contrast, less-known brand Oppo, which captured the second spot, saw its second-quarter shipments rise 124.1 year-on-year.