Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Global and Chinese Phone Startups entering the West

I recently bought a phone from Xiaomi. While probably not the perfect expression I feel that it was my second phone manufacturer ‘directly’ from China after early adopting the Oneplus 1 and 2.

Xiaomi hailed as the apple of china has been the highest valued startup in the world.

They recently saw increased pressure from global customers to explore other markets like Taiwan. With the Global Edition (=Special Edition) of their popular (in China and India) RedMi Note 3 phone they have decided to include the LTE base bands which also fit the European market (Germany, UK, etc.).

For years the major no-go against alternative phone providers for me and likely a many others has been that they lacked in hardware quality control, local net compatibility and software refinement. Furthermore it was harder to import their hardware and in the case of the Xiaomi Notebook I wanted they even lacked necessary certificates.

So how much better did it get over the years?

Hardware

Good — The hardware with a late octa-core snapdragon processor points to rather high quality/internationally used components. In trial the response is snappy and fast. I have the bigger 3GB RAM version, which seems to be paying off as I constantly have around 1.3 GB RAM left. With 2GB I would have likely hit the limit more often than I would prefer. The 4000mAh battery is bigger than usual and lasts me for about 1&1/2 days as a power user.

Bad — The cheapest component seems to be the camera, which still can’t compete with e.g. iphone cameras by a long shot as pictures are more shaky than I would prefer. NFC was skipped, which depends on preference but I don’t need that currently.

Interesting — The fingerprint reader is on the back of the device. A thing that more providers try now and I didn’t know I would like that much.

Software

I’ll likely flash another Android OS soon, but so far as I tried the original Mi Rom that’s provided with the phone I am actually impressed how highly useable it has become for international customers. There are no more translation errors, besides that I couldn’t choose the UK as a country on setup, it seems to run fine. I’ve resisted trying many of the Xiaomi integrated and non deletable apps, as I didn’t want to agree to their privacy policy, but some functions they’ve added actually add additional value to the device I haven’t seen before. For example you can clone apps like twitter, whatsapp, giffgaff (my net provider) to be logged in on multiple accounts at the same time.

Connectivity

The baseband seems to work and I’m getting 4G connection, even though I have to say even in central London it reverts back to HSDPA+ quite often, which doesn't really make sense as there is enough LTE coverage.

Import

While only Oneplus has set up shop directly in Europe, there are many importing middle man sites (Ali Express, Geekbuying, Gearbest, etc) that import Chinese hardware and even keep stock in European countries. Some are still plagued by bad reviews and you have to pay attention on who you give your money to, but with higher import rates the number of customers that receive a fully functional phone without problems seems to have increased. I feel the fear of import issues are the biggest reason why people are opting to not buy from Chinese phone manufacturers, but this might increasingly change when they start to internationalize themselves like Oneplus did.

Final Conclusion

It’s a good budget phone and drops the price even lower than Oneplus did. The major impact I feel is that Chinese phones might become part of the new standard in western countries and given the huge price difference, I’m not sure how phone makers like Apple, Google, Samsung etc. plan to compete if they don’t want to loose the lower and middle class market. Innovation is the usual answer, but it is faster to copy than to reinvent and even Xiaomi isn’t stopping. Their premium line is dabbling in very innovative concepts that are starting to look more ‘bold’ than inventions coming from the competition, at least on the outside. https://www.xda-developers.com/xiaomi-mi-mix-now-in-white-at-ces/

We can be curious what the next years of phone manufacturer competition will bring and we’ll see if some might have to recite the Nokia CEO’s quote — “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. As the Oneplus brand has been adopted quickly and we’re seeing phone makers like Xioami, Honor (Huawei), Wileyfox spring into gear to sell globally, it might be that todays better known companies loose ground against these new competitors, making consumers opt to buy comparable hard- & software for 1/3rd of the price.

Edit Additional Articles: Mi-Mix won innovation awards, Xiaomi Strategy