For Chinese phonemaker Xiaomi, the home market is looking increasingly saturated which is why it has been expanding in a number of ways – such as its foray into IoT devices, and Global VP Hugo Barra recently told reporters that Xiaomi is testing its phones with US carriers, and hinted that a US launch could be in the next year or two.
Although Xiaomi’s phones have received praise from many for build quality and performance at reasonable prices, the company has stayed away from the high profile – and highly competitive – US phone market until now. The American carrier system forms a barrier to entry for many smaller companies, as the telecom providers in the country wield tremendous power – carriers subsidise the cost of handsets which can influence a person’s spending decisions, and provide a physical touchpoint for people to actually see the phones they are going to use.
Xiaomi will be entering into this system for the first time in the US, and this includes doing a lot of testing to ensure that its phones are compatible with the carriers’ networks. Barra confirmed that this process is now underway, saying:
Earlier this year we had a special version of Mi 5 that we made just for testing in the US, just so that we can start testing and doing small-field trials to sharpen our chops, if you will. And now we have Mi Note 2 which is another device that we can use for some field testing in the US. That’s again just another small step in the right direction or in the direction of being able to launch full-on products there.
Xiaomi does already have a presence in the US, thanks to its Mi Box set top box. The Mi Box went on sale in the US for $69 (approximately Rs. 4,600) in October, and Xiaomi could use the same channels to sell directly to the consumers. However, it’s very unlikley, particularly given Barra’s comments about the tests Xiaomi is carrying out right now.