Xiaomi feeling 'phabulous' about new phablet

Updated: 2015-01-20 11:28

By Lian Zi in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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"Made in China" products have long drawn scrutiny, as the shanzhai (copy and imitate) approach was rampant. That is especially true in the smartphone industry, which depends on technological innovation.

But some Chinese companies have started to change all that.

Xiaomi has brought its own brand of innovation to the world stage with premium electronic products, said Wang Xiao, CEO of Innospring, a Santa Clara, California-based technology incubator.

"It is a misconception that Xiaomi doesn't have technology innovation," said Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi, who stressed that his company attaches great importance to technological innovation and patent protection.

In 2014, Xiaomi successfully applied for 2,318 tech patents. Of those, 665 were approved overseas, Lei said.

"Xiaomi indeed doesn't have enough patents right now, since it is still a startup company that only has five years' history," Lei said. "But how about 10 years later? I am sure that Xiaomi will have more than 10,000 patents around the world then."

Lei spoke at last week in Beijing after unveiling the company's 5.7-inch "phablet (phone-tablet)", the Mi Note, which also happens to weigh 5.7 ounces.

Lei took aim at Apple's big-screen product, and said Mi Note has a larger screen but smaller bezel, and is thinner and lighter than the iPhone 6. Meanwhile, the Mi Note's camera doesn't stick out, as it does on the iPhone 6, Lei said.

Apple did not return a call to its media line for comment.

Catering to young people who care about design, the Mi Note uses curved glass to give it a graceful contour, Lei said. The price starts at $375, half the cost of the iPhone 6 in China.

The innovations are major steps in mobile device-development history, Lei said.

After Lei's speech, Xiaomi again was accused of copying Apple products by foreign media.

Xiaomi didn't immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the allegations. However, Global Vice-President Hugo Barra said earlier to other reporters that charges that Xiaomi copied Apple were a "sweeping, sensationalist statement".

"Grasping such a lot of attention from people wasn't an accident for Xiaomi, as the company keeps updating its system versions based on users' needs," Wang said.

If there were no innovation, Xiaomi would not be as successful. The best response is customer satisfaction, Wang said.

In only five years, Xiaomi has become the world's third-largest smartphone maker, selling 61 million units in 2014, and raking in more than $12 billion, Wang said.

"It is indisputable that Xiaomi's current performance is better than Apple in its early stages," Wang said.

Xiaomi's success has bolstered the Chinese smartphone industry as it drives partners and competitors to innovate and has improved overall industry standards in China, Wang said.


(China Daily USA 01/20/2015 page1)