The Chinese company Xiaomi has dazzled the consumer technology world by achieving a stock market capitalization of $46 billion after only five years. The company is nicknamed the “Apple of China,” because of the cult like following of its black-t-shirt-wearing founder and CEO Lei Jun, who made Xiaomi number one in Chinese smartphone sales by bringing incredibly functional products to the world’s biggest market at rock-bottom prices.
Now, in a surprise move, Xiaomi just announced on its Facebook page that it is coming to U.S. and Western markets with a plan to attack Apple’s ecosphere.
Xiaomi is often pronounced, “show me”, but the name means “little kernel of rice.” To the Chinese, this is a metaphor for the small grain that can feed a billion people.
The company just introduced a slew of new products that includes a $96 Redmi 2A smartphone. The product has a 720p display 4.7 inch screen, featuring an 8-megapixel rear-facing shooter and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Their phone is driven by an in-house quad-core L1860C processor that clocks in at 1.5 GHz, a Mali-T628MP2 graphics chip and has two SIM card slots with supports 4G LTE connectivity. Xiaomi’s phones come with a “forked Android version” (MIUI) which, in places, imitates Apple iOS.
Xiaomi doesn’t seem to have any plans to sell its insanely popular line of sophisticated smartphones in the U.S. yet, but it is launching an American online store on May 19 to sell a pair of inexpensive headphones, two power banks, and a fitness wearable.
The company’s $20 to $25 “Piston” line of “bud” headphones have already been enthusiastically reviewed by audiophiles and customers on popular consumer websites.
Xiaomi is entering the U.S. consumer electronics market with a strategy to establish the firm as a valuable brand by quickly taking a huge swath of the headphones market–and competing head-to-head with Apple
Dressed in his iconic black t-shirt, Lei Jun told the Wall Street Journal in an article last month, “Xiaomi: The Secret to the World’s Most Valuable Startup,” he wants Xiaomi to be world’s largest smartphone maker within a decade, but he also wants to bring the good life to developing-world consumers for bargain prices, from television sets to smart light bulbs.
Lei added, “What if we allow all of our products to be this beautiful? What if [the Chinese] no longer have to envy Germany or Japan?”
After Apple CEO Tim Cook convinced his Board to pay $3 billion to buy Beats Headphones last year from rapper Dr. Dre, this type of information about Xiaomi will make Apple’s product management for Beats tremble and reach for the Pepto-Bismol.
Xiaomi is China’s hottest stock and has access to all the capital they will need to take on Apple. Having demonstrated their ability to deliver consumer products with the high-end feel Apple customers crave, Xiaomi intends to be Apple’s worst nightmare.