Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Xiaomi M1 Phone: a $310 "Superphone"?

Being back means that I will once again be providing some coverage of any exciting gadgetry or new technology announced. The latest is the so-called "Xiaomi M1" (translates to "smile" in Chinese) by a Chinese company of the same name. From all the information available, the company Xiaomi is a new Chinese start-up whose main goal is to profit from the ever-growing Chinese smartphone market. A combination of affordability and patriotism will surely score them points with at least the domestic population, if not across the seas too.

As reported by Engadget, the Xiami M1 is scheduled to be released in October 2011 but can be pre-ordered as recently as August 29th. It is an Android-running "superphone" that integrates Qualcomm new MSM8260 chipset that runs at 1.5 GHz, in addition to 1GB of RAM and a massive 4GB of ROM. Other features include a gigantic 1930mAh battery that promises at least 2 days worth of "real-life" usage, a 4-inch HD touchscreen, aGPS, Bluetooth, and a myriad of other sensors. What makes it very interesting --aside from the impressive specifications-- is its svelteness of mirroring the Apple iPhone 4's dimensions as well as weight. This seems to put it in the ballpark of the Samsung Galaxy S II too. Furthermore, the company announced that the superphone would ship with MIUI OS, which is a custom UI based on the Android 2.3 Gingerbread; owners of the device will even be able to flash whatever ROM their heart desires.

But by far the biggest draw for the Xiaomi M1 is its price: $310, or 1,999 renmenbi. While any other major handset manufacturer can probably build a phone with similar specifications, I highly doubt their price will be anywhere close to $310. You simply cannot buy an unlocked, dual-core superphone for that price. (For comparison purposes, the iPhone 4 retails starting at $649 unlocked or $199 subsidized from a carrier.) I am guessing that if this announced price holds, the Xiaomi M1 will make a killing against all its competitors -- possibly with the exception on the most fanatical of customers. It will create a market for itself.

While I personally will not be buying this phone (waiting to see what Nokia has in store), I can see the success of this phone radically altering the cell phone industry. It wouldn't be as revolutionary as what the iPhone has achieved, but will put heavy pressure for prices across the board to decrease. Customer loyalty holds little meaning when a similar alternative can be brought for 1/2 the price. In addition, I think this may mark a turning point for Chinese hardware manufacturers. Until now, manufacturers have been dominated by (outside of Apple), Taiwanese companies like HTC or Korean ones like LG and Samsung.

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