Attractive price, expected to sell well
‘Look and feel’ important to potential buyers, says analyst
CHINESE handset maker Xiaomi Inc has finally launched its long-awaited flagship smartphone, the Mi Note, in Malaysia – and at a price point that company officials believe will make it an outright hit with local customers.
The RM1,549 (US$409) price tag is “incredibly attractive” for a smartphone “with such pedigree,” Xiaomi South-East Asia general manager Steve Vickers declared at the local launch on July 22.
While acknowledging that the Malaysian rollout of the Mi Note was somewhat late, given that it was first launched in Xiaomi’s home market China in January, Vickers described the move to launch it here as a natural one, due to the number of Mi fans who had been asking for it.
“We are truly excited to bring Mi Note, Xiaomi’s most beautifully designed flagship, to Malaysia. We believe that Mi fans in Malaysia will appreciate such high-quality innovation made available to them at an incredible price,” he said.
The Mi Note goes on sale in Malaysia on July 28, and will be available on www.mi.com while stocks last.
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For those interested in subsidised handsets from mobile operators, Xiaomi has partnered with Digi.com Bhd, U Mobile Sdn Bhd, and Celcom Axiata Bhd to make available such offers from Aug 11 onwards. Maxis however declined to partner Xiaomi for the sale of the Mi Note.
Speculation on the launch of the Mi Note in Malaysia and in Singapore has been rife, although the exact dates weren’t known earlier.
With this launch, Xiaomi, whose last valuation in December last year stood at US$46 billion, continues to train its sights on more established players such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
In particular, the Beijing-based mobile upstart has been constantly compared with the Cupertino, California-based Apple, leading to Jonathan (Jony) Ive, the head of design at Apple, accusing Xiaomi of being a copycat where design and interface are concerned.
Such heated comparisons also led to Hugo Barra, the public face of Xiaomi, denying the copycat label for the umpteenth time, in a video interview with Bloomberg last week.
The Xiaomi international vice president flatly rejected the copycat charge and claimed that people have made too much out of the similarities between the two companies’ designs.
“People just couldn’t bring themselves to believe that a Chinese company actually could be a world innovator, could build amazingly high quality products, and by the way sell them at half the price of a high-end Apple or Samsung device,” Barra declared.
Value for money?
Xiaomi first made its foray into Malaysian shores in May 2014 with much fanfare, when it launched its then flagship smartphone, the Mi 3, for RM889 (US$234).
In an exclusive interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), its president and cofounder Bin Lin then declared boldly that Xiaomi would take on the world with its ‘triathlon business model,’ comprising control over the hardware, software and the services it sells.
Since then, the company has made great strides in raising its brand awareness, and claims to have shipped 34.7 million phones in the first half of 2015, an increase of 33% year-on-year.
The handset maker also recently entered Brazil, the largest South American market.
Neil Shah, research director of Counterpoint Research, believes the launch of the Mi Note in Malaysia would bode well for Xiaomi as its devices are considered great value for money.
“It undercuts tier-1 brands [such as Apple and Samsung], offering the same specs at almost half the price,” he told DNA via email.
Noting that the Mi Note was the second best-selling model for Xiaomi in China in June and the top six globally, Shah said this trend is expected to stay true for other markets.
Touch-feel marketing needed
When asked what could affect its popularity in Malaysia, Shah said Xiaomi needs to ensure that customers are able to ‘touch and feel’ the high-end models such as the Mi Note, rather than just depend purely on online sales and reviews.
“Consumers need to look at it and experience it before they buy it,” he said.
“This is very important in emerging markets, and Xiaomi will have to win consumer trust by not just being competitive on price, but also by offering a better buying experience as well as a strong after-sales support experience.
For this to happen, he suggested Xiaomi set up key ‘experience zones’ by possibly tying up with marquee retailers in big cities, as well as supporting after-sales service networks – just for starters.
“Going forward, Xiaomi will also have to invest in localised content and service partnerships for its business model to make sense,” he argued.
As for the device itself, the Mi Note is crafted from Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and its back panel has a curved ergonomic shape.
Gentle rounded edges have been added to the front panel, extending the smoothness from back to front, Vickers said.
It comes equipped with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz processor, 3GB LPDDR3 RAM, a 3000mAh Sony/LG 4.4V high density lithium ion battery, and supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, which claims to charge up to 75% faster than conventional chargers.
With a thickness of a mere 6.95mm, the Mi Note weighs in at 161 grams – both specs beating the iPhone 6.
It also sports a 5.7-inch Sharp/JDI full HD display, and boast of a high contrast ratio of 1400:1, compared with 1000:1 on normal displays, company official claimed. On top of this, Xiaomi’s Sunlight Display technology also ensures a crystal-clear view of the screen, even under harsh sunlight.
The Mi Note is equipped with a 13-megapixel (MP) f/2.0 rear camera that comes with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). The 4MP front camera is equipped with 2-micron large pixels and is perfect for selfies, especially with the ‘Beautify’ mode which intelligently guesses a person’s age and gender in order to apply 36 smart filters, the company said.
The Mi Note also comes embedded with a professional hi-fi audio system for minimal loss, studio grade sound quality, it claimed.
Its audio module is a dedicated soundcard that meets the standard for 24-bit/192 kHz lossless playback support, and is coupled with a unique two-stage amplifier that claims to provide a high degree of quality and fidelity.
The full Mi Note specs can be found here.
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