Xiaomi has been evasive to questions on a US launch, but earlier this week vice president of international Hugo Barra confirmed a launch in the West is less than a year away.
Not diving into specifics, ex-Googler Barra said that the company was stocking up on patents to protect itself before launch. Xiaomi will also need to invest in local customer support, shipping and start partnering with retailers and carriers before the launch.
A year is a long time in the phone world, meaning we expect Xiaomi will launch an entirely new device when it arrives in the largest Western market. It might even go global with the launch in the US, meaning a huge ramp up on the production side.
Barra said that for now, Xiaomi is focused on building infrastructure and consumer trust in India, where it launched the Mi 4i earlier this year. India is obviously a bigger market than the US, but the US pays four times the price on average of a device than India.
Xiaomi is in talks with Nokia, Ericsson (who is currently suing them) and Qualcomm over patents. It will be in talks with other providers, alongside getting its own patents verified by US regulators and patent holders.
Even though Xiaomi looks like a strong competitor, it built up a great 21st century reputation for young customers to eat up in China. Online sales, flash sales and lots of social media presence was odd for a mobile company before Xiaomi, but they made it work.
That same plan cannot be used in the US, where plenty of mobile manufacturers keep social media updated. Flash sales for mobile devices are not common in the US, but that could be a route of entry.
Xiaomi has to compete in Apple’s strongest market, and it is already seeing huge losses in the Chinese market with Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus taking over. It will need an amazing smartphone and a hefty sum of money for advertising to be able to win over Americans.