A brief history of Xiaomi – China’s tech success story!

A brief history of Xiaomi – China’s tech success story!


Xiaomi have just confirmed that they’re working on a brand new smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi3S, a successor to Xiaomi’s last phone the Mi3 which was dubbed the most powerful smartphone in the world at the time.

But who is Xiaomi? As someone living in the UK I’ve met plenty of people who have no idea who Xiaomi is and that is to be expected as Xiaomi don’t have a presence in the country. But Xiaomi are causing quite a stir in at home and abroad at the moment. In just three years since forming the company has grown from a start-up to the 4th largest smartphone brand in China and the creator of one of the most popular Android custom ROMs Worldwide. It’s time the world learns about Xiaomi, who they are and what they’ve done.

A History of Xiaomi

Xiaomi was founded in April 2010 by ex-Kingsoft CEO Lei Jun, as a software company creating a new custom ROM based on Google’s Android. Their aim was to provide additional functionality that Android had yet to offer and an easy to use user interface. MIUI, the ROM which the team created, became a huge success and has been ported to many devices. As of 2014 MIUI can be downloaded and installed to over 200 devices in both English and Chinese, even non developers can easily install MIUI to their phones using the MIUI Express APK. As of the end of 2013 Xiaomi had over 30 million MIUI users worldwide! Very impressive for such a young company!

The MIUI ROM was likened to Apple’s iOS for being very easy to use whilst providing sophisticated services such as cloud backup, an easy to use music player and their own app store. The team at Xiaomi have alwasy wanted users to feel part of the company and happily take on fan feedback via multiple channels and update the ROM every Friday with bug fixes, optimisation and additional features. To good to be true? Well try it out for yourself as it’s probably available for your device already.

Xiaomi enter the hardware market

In 2011 Xiaomi announced the Mi One phone. Xiaomi was now not only making its own software, but its own hardware too. The Mi One was a top spec phone with a great price way ahead of its time, this has remained Xiaomi’s philosophy from day one.

xiaomi m1 price drop

While commentors are quick to call the Beijing based company “The Apple of China”, Xiaomi prefer to compare themselves to Amazon, they create powerful hardware which they sell at cost price and rely on their services and content to make up most of the revenue. Speaking of which their revenue for 2013 alone over $5 billion extremely impressive for a new company. There are similarities between Xiaomi and Apple however, they are both hardware and software companies, both have strong control over supply chains and both have a feverish fan base. Apart from this the two companies don’t have much else in common, Apple price their smartphones at ludicrous prices and don’t take on much customer feedback where as Xiaomi do the opposite.

Xiaomi Expansion

In 2012 Xiaomi shipped a total of 7.2m smartphones and in 2013 Xiaomi shipped a total of 18.7m smartphones and even shipped more than Apple in one quarter. In the first quarter of 2014 Xiaomi had already shipped over 11m smartphones, more than they sold in the entirety of 2012 and just over half the 2013 sales numbers. Demand continues to increase due to the high specification hardware of their devices and the price they sell their products at.

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hugo barra in india

International markets such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore where Xiaomi are also officially availbable have seen similar demand to China. This continued expansion out of China also prompted the high-profile hire of Hugo Barra (ex-Google android executive) whose job it is to discover new markets. Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and India will see Xiaomi phones next. This may eventually lead to an official European and US launch but nothing is confirmed yet. And besides, those that want Xiaomi phones (and many do) are willing to pay the money to import the world’s best smartphone.

Not just phones

Xiaomi have launched other devices such as a smart TV, Wi-Fi router and are even looking to launch their own tablet (if rumours are to be believed). Xiaomi are without a doubt the company to watch in 2014 as they are estimating that they can ship over 60 million units worldwide by the end of the year. That’s more than triple the amount they shipped in 2013.

xiaomi tv

Even with their huge popularity and large international fan base it remains to be seen if Xiaomi can stay ahead of the competition and if their marketing style will cut the mustard in more mature markets! So far everything seems to be going their way though and the company thrives and certainly one to watch!

Do you own a Xiaomi product? What is your opinion on their marketing methods and selling style? Let us know in the comments below.

You can learn more about Xiaomi and their MIUI software on their websites below

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  • $2548414

    In China its all honky dori for Xiaomi But out side it has to contend with a 1000 lb. Gorilla..SAMSUNG…which has a long lead and has markets like India pretty near sewn up..

    • AhmadCentral

      Yup, Samsung hold over 43% market share in India at the moment. Sony hold 9% and Apple hold 7%. It’s going to take a lot for any company to overtake or even match Samsung.

      It’s also going to be interesting to see how Xiaomi break into India. Will they continue with their “Online only” strategy or will they look to form partnerships with retailers and networks in India.

      • Faux-News

        They will have a hard time selling in India. The people who recognize MIUI in India are just a bare few over the internet and even these few might end up buying the device online for cheaper pricing . Huawei on the other hand recognize this and invested from last year heavily on brand recognition and so i predict Huawei will be the ones expanding into India.

  • Hoàng Vững

    Me, a fan of xiaomi by the way it done. Thank to xiaomi to bring us good product (software and hardware), good communities from Miui ROM. Ive using Mi2 and now mi3. Infact, mi3 not stable enough in comparing with mi2 but its still a good phone at its price. Now my wife using the old mi2 of mine.

    I hope xiaomi dont loose their way on expending overseas. Cause that good for competition. And users will take advantage of that.

  • highwind

    Oh, surprise! Another glorification article about overhyped Xiaomi! xD

    They are really an inspring example for other smartphone manufacturers with not having a single 4G/LTE phone in mid-2014 and building phones with body-to-display ratios of the last century!
    Keep on Xiaomi! We like to see more overhyped products in the future!

    • AhmadCentral

      Well tbh this article is to highlight how far Xiaomi have come in only 3 years. I honestly can’t think of another company in the Chinese phone industry similar to them.

      Plus can’t really blame Xiaomi for not launching a 4G phone yet. 4G only launched in China recently and Xiaomi really only ship smartphones in China. It’s likely the Mi3s will have LTE support.

      • highwind

        If they only ship to china and are only relevant to china, i really wonder why they are mentioned on internationale website (like this one) nearly every single day 🙂
        And why are there constantly news about xiaomi opening new markets/stores in country india/taiwan/indonesia/singapore if they are only available in china?

        • AhmadCentral

          This website is called GizChina?

          That’s like asking why BBC World News report the news about the world…

          Today, Xiaomi’s main market is China so it’s obvious why it would cater to the Chinese market. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are very small markets compared to China.

          • highwind

            So you say this site is a chinese site dedicated to chinese industry/people?
            then i wonder why this site is called gizchina.COM (not .CN) and why the common language spoken here being english (not chinese)…

            you -as an author- probably have “webmaster info” about this site: please tell me, how many websites visits do you have from people from china and how many form europe/usa? 🙂

            • AhmadCentral

              I honestly don’t get your point. About 90% of the articles on here are about Chinese phones that are only released in China. I never said it’s a Chinese site, but a site dedicated to Chinese phones/industry.

              You can read about GizChina in the about us section-

            • ali

              because it’s audience are the people from outside of china…although these things are from china and has no market overseas,but look how many people around the globe buy them online from ali and other shopping sites,even USA customers for these gadgets shows how much people in other countries , like/wish they could have bought it in their own country…
              every one here in gizchina like the news and techs update and reviews and…..which is happening in china, irrelevant to whether they can/want to obtain it or not

            • highwind

              yes, i see how many people from “outside china” buy internationally overpriced and overhyped 1 year warranty xiaomi products lacking lte because of funny gloryfication articels and hyping fanboys 😉

            • Airyl

              Please learn to read. Gizchina is a site about Chinese phones and brands for the international audience. Xiaomi has come a long way and is one of the main reasons the Chinese smartphone market has become more respected than before. You might even say Xiaomi paved the way for Chinese brands to get into the international market. I wouldn’t expect a new reader like you to know this. You only know the latest Xiaomi devices like the Mi3 and Redmi, and have no idea how much this company has accomplished for it’s international recognition. I’d suggest you do some reading on the history of the Xiaomi before posting again.

            • highwind

              yes, xiaomi is pure awesomeness!

    • Browny Brown

      wtf is wrong with you dude?

  • Frank Wu

    Yah, the 1000lb Gorilla Samsung is formidable with their huge advertising war chest. Only fools will buy their junk phones! When people realise that they have been hoodwinked, you will see the fall of an empire!

  • Airyl

    This is well written article, it reminds of the time Xiaomi were new and nobody thought that a small Chinese manufacturer could release something that could impress the western audience. Good job Daniel!

    • AhmadCentral

      Thanks, Appreciate it 🙂

  • Zmain

    Not too ago a lot of people was saying the the Chinese did not have a global brand, Xiaomi proves that all things are possible.

  • carol

    good story, now xiaomi phone go arround the word.we can buy xiaomi product more and more convinient on some chinese shop.as like http://flosmall.com/phones/mp_brand=Xiaomi