Why can’t Xiaomi get the mid range phone right?


It’s hard to believe that Xiaomi is only a 5 year old company… with 4 years worth experience in making phones. Regardless of where you put up — Asia or the West — it is hard to ignore Xiaomi and its antics.

Through the years, Xiaomi has been accused of being ‘inspired’ by other companies for its designs. You might also know that Xiaomi is also called the ‘Apple of China’ (though with time it’s fast turning into ‘Apple of the East’), something Xiaomi doesn’t seem to like very well. Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi once said popularly “Xiaomi looks a bit like Apple but is really more like Amazon with some elements of Google”.

It certainly does look like Apple. But its changing, and changing for good.

Xiaomi is known for cutting the middleman, and thus, extra costs involved in getting the phone to the buyer. This also means that Xiaomi phones are significantly more affordable than phones with similar specifications from other companies.

The affordable phone has defined Xiaomi. Brought up in some of the most fierce markets in China and India, Xiaomi certainly knows how to price its devices such that the demand at all times remains higher than supply. Some even suspect Xiaomi hoard supplies to accomplish that. Whether that’s fact or a myth will remain unanswered.

It’s great. A startup comes out of nowhere and catches the biggest of companies napping… it’s a perfect story for a bestseller book on startups.

Like Apple, Xiaomi too seems happy making phones that aren’t bigger than your hands. Of course, it does have an all new line in the Mi Note series to look after the section of the market it ignored for four years, but it does seem like there’s still an inclination towards sub-5 inch phones.

However, in there somewhere, Xiaomi seems to be missing the trick.

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It’s mid-range phones in the recent (and distant) past haven’t really blown our minds as they were expected to. This is because of two reasons: (i) after being surprised by the first few phones, buyers’ expectations usually skyrocket and (ii) they are making some crappy mid-range phones.

Take for example the recent Xiaomi Mi 4i. It was a phone Xiaomi have bet on more than any other device. Xiaomi took the bold move to launch the phone outside of its home country (and not even launch it there) to show they are looking outside merely China.

Read Also:  Lei Jun leaves the command of another Xiaomi subsidiary

The Mi 4i promised a hell lot, but unfortunately for its buyers and fans, didn’t deliver. As you will have read from our review of the Mi 4i, the device is an ergonomic gem (if you’re a one-handed user), but a disaster otherwise. The lack of euphemism is voluntary.

Going back, another failed attempt at a mid-range phone would be the Xiaomi Mi 2A. The Mi 2A was launched alongside the Mi 2S (which is one of the best Xiaomi phones ever), and was without doubt (as Xiaomi probably would admit, too) a failure.

What went wrong, then? Wish we had the answer to that.

In retrospect, the entry-level (price wise; pretty mid-range otherwise) Hongmi series that later came to be known as Redmi did exceedingly well. After the success of the Redmi line in various markets, it didn’t take long for Xiaomi to follow it up with a full-fledged flagship (so full-fledged, it almost seems uncharacteristic of Xiaomi) in the Mi Note and consequently the Mi Note Pro. While the Mi Note (review) is certainly a force to reckon with, critics suggest staying away from the Mi Note Pro.

Xiaomi is well and truly one among the top few phone companies that manage to keep buyers and critics interested with their innovation and pricing, but one thing as certain as the writing on the wall: Xiaomi need to start making better mid-range phones if they are to conquer the world market.

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38 Comments

  1. rimakus
    July 20, 2015

    I was waiting for Mi 2S successor with 4.7 inch HD or FHD screen, Snapdragon 615, MicroSD slot and FDD-LTE B20. That will never happen unfortunately.

    • thor2001
      July 20, 2015

      Yes, missing B20 and microSD is a big problem (for me) and I’ll never buy that kind of phone.

    • balcobomber25
      July 20, 2015

      SD 615 is one of the biggest reasons this isn’t selling well…

    • thoroc
      July 23, 2015

      I am in the same boat and I am starting to look at LeTV S1 Pro and Elephone P8000. I am getting tired of Xiaomi (that has a really nice UX) to release a decent replacement for the aging Mi 2S.

      Is it too much to ask for something truly up-to-date?

  2. realjjj
    July 20, 2015

    Xiaomi’s growth came on the Redmi line (1/1s and Note) so to claim they can’t get the midrange right is a bit extreme. Those were and are the volume leaders for them and were midrange.
    They can’t get any device right lately, that includes the Note because of it’s pricing at launch.
    So the question is why can’t they get any device right anymore, is it just about the change in pricing strategy? Doesn’t seems so.

    • balcobomber25
      July 20, 2015

      The Note and Mi4i were brand new products to their lineup, until the Redmi Note 2 and Mi5 launch we won’t know if they have changed their pricing strategy.

  3. Bailey
    July 20, 2015

    Sorry here we go again i have been using the mi4i by the end of the week will be a month and i have no complaints am i living in a different world to everyone else? i have played games granted i bought it after the over heating issue was somewhat resolved. But so far everything i use it for has been fine what is it that i am doing it wrong should i be running Asphalt 8 on a loop or something? so i can say it cooks my food. The battery lasts me all day and trust me baring facebook (Which i cant stand) i am subscribed to every tech app and news app going so my phone is always going off. What is the diaster that i should be having is it as quick as my S6 edge no but then again the S6 was price at £700 when it first came out i got this at about £166 because Honour buy were doing free shipping at the time and i live in the UK so didnt have to pay customs. The only thing i might complain about is that i which that i bought the Grey but i didnt want to pay any more for it.

    • realjjj
      July 20, 2015

      But is it worse than far cheaper devices? Similar specs start at far lower prices.A product is as good as it’s price. The overheating fixes lower the performance for the most part so not a very favorable fix.
      In your case since you payed a premium for the 4i, you could have bought a OnePlus at a similar price excluding shipping (no idea how much OPO shipping is in the UK but the price includes VAT) or Iuni U3 with 1440p display and even the Mi4 with 2GB RAM is pretty close in price.

      • Bailey
        July 20, 2015

        But I didn’t want a one+ it to big for me and I never liked the design or all the crap the company keeps speaking and plus all China phones are more expensive when they come to UK. Also I am not talking about what people say I use it day in and day out and I don’t have any problems if it is so bad and so awful as people keep saying I should have a really bad experience I don’t.

        • realjjj
          July 20, 2015

          You can use any device and not have any problems if it’s enough for your needs but that doesn’t mean it was a good choice. Good is a relative term and here people are unhappy with what they are getting for the price and compared with competing products. I’m sure plenty of people are happy withe the Redmi 2 ,that doesn’t mean that it would be equally good if it’s price was 60% higher or that some aren’t just fine with the Redmi 2A.
          If you want you can make a parallel with the Snapdragon 810. It’s horrible yet it’s plenty fast. Problem is that it underdelivers vs expectations and it’s competition.

          • Bailey
            July 20, 2015

            OK for me to happy with a phone remember I said I had an S6 is that all day battery life is a must it can’t be buggy because I don’t have time for that and it has to take decent pictures. This is a budget phone and in the UK a £166 is not expensive for a phone and I could only get it cheaper in India or China. Every app I generally use on my other phones have to work on this one and it does and occasionally I want to play games and phone reception and connection has to be good. This phone does that so what is your problem I am talking for me not others I don’t have over heating issues and it does not crash sorry if you don’t like hearing that. I didn’t want a flagship I wanted a mid range this is what this is and it works for me.

            • balcobomber25
              July 20, 2015

              What does having an S6 have to do with anything? My wife has one and to me it is one of the most overrated phones available. It heats up almost as much as the Mi4i, battery life is terrible and the camera is only good if you have a ton of light. The slightest shadow can cripple that camera. The S6 actually has an excellent SoC, it’s heat issues are caused by a horrible choice for materials that provide no escape for the heat.

            • Bailey
              July 21, 2015

              The camera is not terrible that is total crap. The guy was acting like this phone is a flagship and I was telling him its not as he kept point out that I paid a fortune for the mi4i and I didnt. In fact I have find the S6 to get way warmer than the mi4i ever did

            • balcobomber25
              July 21, 2015

              Where did I say it was terrible?? I did say battery life was terrible, which it is due to the fact that they put a 2k display with a paltry 2550mAh battery. What I did say about the camera is that if there is not plenty of light the camera is crippled, which it is. Photos taken in daylight look excellent on the S6, photos taken in shadows or with low light look terrible. That is something many phone camera sensors struggle with.

              What he was trying to say was that for the money you paid you could have bought a much better phone. If you are happy with the Mi4i that is all that matters. Personally I would have never paid that much for it, that is too close to the price of the Mi4 which in my opinion is a much better phone.

            • Bailey
              July 21, 2015

              And

            • Sere83
              July 21, 2015

              I have to agree with Bailey. What I find extremely bizarre is how people reviewing these devices can have completely polar opposite opinions. Giz China destroyed the mi4i in their review yet I have seen at least 4 different reviews from credible sites saying the mi4i is a good mid range device with decent performance and also seen comments from a few owners who said the same. Same with meizu devices, some users saying flyme is the buggiest thing they have ever used others saying that its a nice OS that works well with minimal bugs. I’m starting to not believe anything people say unless I ask specific owners about specific problems or have the device myself. I am in teh Uk and I got a mi4i on the way paid £135 form official xiaomi singapore store, got an address out there that can ship to me fortunately. I am going to do a proper review of of it and actually get to the bottom of this madness.

      • balcobomber25
        July 20, 2015

        I can’t see paying $260 for a Mi4i when you can get a Mi4 for $20 more. At $205 or whatever retail is, it can be a very good deal if you are not a big gamer.

    • Guaire
      July 20, 2015

      I guess where he lives should be a lot warmer than your country.

      • July 21, 2015

        Maybe it is, but if you ask me the heating up isn’t very far from normal. It is the lag that I’m concerned about, and the fact that $200 can get me a phone a LOT more fluent than the Mi 4i.

  4. Guaire
    July 20, 2015

    You should think about why the Mi4i isn’t selling on China. I suppose if they ever tried to sell the Mi4i in China with that price they would receive (whatever it is) equivalent of middle finger gesture from Chinese consumers.

    For the conquering the world part, to do that they should be there first. Their expansion going on with turtle speed.

    IMO Mi4i’s issues could be caused by Android 5.0 aside from the SD615.

    • balcobomber25
      July 20, 2015

      5.0 is a disaster on just about every device I have used it on. I have yet to find a device that it works well on. Even two Nexus devices I tried it on (7 and 5) it was terrible and caused everything from memory leaks to battery drain. Android M can’t get here fast enough.

      • Max
        July 21, 2015

        It works perfectly well on my LG G2. Better than any previous release of android on it (started with 4.2.2, then 4.4.2, soon 5.1. XD)

        • balcobomber25
          July 21, 2015

          You must have lucked out because most people with a G2 are complaining about numerous bugs with 5.0. From charging to battery drain to the phone becoming so slow its basically a paperweight. I have seen more complaints on forums about LG devices with 5.0 (and 5.1) than any other brand.

          • Max
            July 21, 2015

            Read that too. My system is more perfect than i could wish for. Blazing fast, no hiccups, fully charged in about 1,5h, about 26h battery with 4+h on screen time and (i know no one cares about it, but its good for comparing different androids on the same phone) 39770 antutu, which is about 5000 higher than before and yes, it was the same antutu version, as i know the scores change from version to version. 😉
            It has a perfect screen, very small size with near to no existing bezels, good audio and a decent camera.
            Thats why i don’t want to give it away, but sadly it’s just the 16GB version which just is waaaaaayyyyy too little space for me…

            • balcobomber25
              July 21, 2015

              That’s thing about updates it never effects every device and everyone has different issues. A lot of the times its because of the apps we use. Certain apps can be the result of system crippling bugs. For instance on the Nexus 7 (2012) with 5.0, the FB app brings performance to a crashing halt.

            • Max
              July 21, 2015

              Well, the facebook app doesn’t work at all on nearly every device i and friends had or have. It freezes, it fc, it doesn’t load pictures it drains battery like hell, etc… It’s just the poorliest optimized app ever. We’re all using the browser site since a few updates back. Every now and then trying it again after some updates, but it seems it only gets worse.

          • Guaire
            July 21, 2015

            My G2 screwed after 5.0.2.

          • Guaire
            July 21, 2015

            My G2 screwed after 5.0.2.

      • Paolo T.
        July 22, 2015

        Have you people even considered factory resetting AFTER transitioning to Lollipop from Kitkat? Because nearly every conceivable bug that appeared on our LG G2 and Note 3 when they were first updated were ERADICATED after a factory reset.

        • balcobomber25
          July 22, 2015

          I have tried it with Nexus 7 and 5 and LG G2 it didn’t do much on any of them. And the bigger problem is apps. A lot of the bugs are because are certain apps just don’t work with Lollipop.

  5. MSi_GS70
    July 20, 2015

    xiaomi is worst chinese smartphone brand.. all their phones are crap

    • balcobomber25
      July 20, 2015

      Except for Redmi 1s, Redmi 2, Redmi Note, Mi2s, Mi3 and Mi4 which were all excellent phones….

  6. balcobomber25
    July 20, 2015

    As one of Xiaomi’s biggest fans I would say it is their stubbornness which doomed the Mi4i. It had all the makings and hype to be a really great mid range phone. But instead of doing the smart thing and using the top budget SoC (MT6752) they went with one that was already full of controversy and problems. Qualcomm was completely caught off guard and unprepared for the 64 bit era. Xiaomi refuses to use any SoC’s in their mid to flagship phones these days other than Qualcomm. They could have even used the midrange Exnyos.

    • Tizz
      July 21, 2015

      I don’t agree with you, Qualcomm actually invested in Xiaomi so probably they can only use Qualcomm SoCs, i doubt Xiaomi would use such a bad processor without an actual reason.

      • balcobomber25
        July 21, 2015

        Qualcomm’s intial investment in Xiaomi was back in 2010, since that time Xiaomi has produced products with processors from Mediatek and Leadcore. Many of these companies are funded by some of the biggest suppliers but it doesn’t prevent them from using other components its more of initial capital in exchange for a percentage of sales or if they are public company shares of their stock. Meizu and Mediatek have an investment deal, but Meizu still uses Samsung SoC’s. ]

        • Tizz
          July 21, 2015

          Thanks for the explanation 🙂 I guess they used a Qualcomm’s SoC to appeal more customers.

          • balcobomber25
            July 21, 2015

            Personally I think Qualcomm is giving these companies kick backs in exchange for them to keep using them. Their is no other explanation for why so many companies keep using the SD 810 and 615 which have been PR and performance nightmares for Qualcomm. Especially when Samsung and Mediatek have better SoC’s at both levels.

            • Tizz
              July 21, 2015

              Yeah, it could be that.