back to article Xiaomi the way: Hyped Chinese giant begins its battle for Britain

Xiaomi's entry into Europe is as feared as it is anticipated. With its vow to keep profit margins on hardware below 5 per cent and make the rest up on services, er, somehow, the Chinese firm threatens a consumer electronics price war that goes way beyond phones. But it might be harder than pundits think. Xiaomi was described …

  1. Dr_N Silver badge
    Trollface

    Won't work in the UK...

    People in the UK don't like cheap stuff. They like to pay through the nose to feel better about themselves.

    "You only paid 150 quid for your phone? You tightwad. Mine costs over a grand. Clearly you can't afford the better quality stuff."

    1. juice Silver badge

      Re: Won't work in the UK...

      To a degree that's true - but I'd expect that to be true in any country. Certainly, in an office with a fair percent of tekkies, there's one or two with showcase mobiles (e.g. iPhone X), but there's a fair mix of older models and "second-tier" brands - LG, etc. One person is even actively waiting for the OnePlus 6 launch tomorrow.

      Personally, I think the biggest issue is that they're coming into a mature market where there's very little (from a consumer perspective) functional differences between manufacturers or models: barring brand-name bragging rights, pretty much the only two differentiators are "iOS or Android" and whatever camera-enhancement gimmick has been bolted on.

      Then too, the second-hand market is flooded with older handsets which are more than fit for purpose - e.g. you can pick up a 2-year old Samsung S7 for around £200 if you shop around, and it's still a competitive all-rounder.

      So good luck to Huawei - I think they're going to need it!

      1. PerlyKing Bronze badge
        Happy

        Re: good luck to Huawei

        Huawei may need luck as well, but the article was about Xiaomi ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Won't work in the UK...

      "You only paid 150 quid for your phone? You tightwad. Mine costs over a grand. Clearly you can't afford the better quality stuff."

      They are quite familiar with that attitude so they should have no issues setting out their stall correctly. If you think UK is exemplary you have not seen the "newly born" Chinese "middle class".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Won't work in the UK...

      "You only paid 150 quid for your phone? You tightwad. Mine costs over a grand. Clearly you can't afford the better quality stuff."

      Meanwhile those idiots are paying Wonga or whoever about 1000% APR to look flash, fur coat and no knickers as my Gran used to say.

    4. iron Silver badge

      Re: Won't work in the UK...

      In the south of England maybe. Clearly you've never heard of the sterotypical tight Scotsman or Yorkshireman.

    5. K Silver badge
      Pint

      It's doubly hard in the UK; the market is going backwards

      Its only Fanbois (not just Apple) that would think this, once Joe Blogs and Co figures they can have high-quality products for a lot less, then brand loyalty goes out of the window.

      Given the price point that Xiaomi sell at and the breadth of products they have, they could own the whole European market. For example

      1) Their "Flagship" phones cost 50% less than Samsung (Comparing Mi Mix 2S to Galaxy 9S),

      2) They have a massive eco-system of home-automation products, which are inter-operable will nearly every system out there (as they use Zigbee), these devices sell at 60-80% less than Samsung, Fibaro, Belkin and Philips (Ironically .. The Xiaomi Lights are actually made by Phlips, but rebranded for the Chinese market and cost upto 50% less)

      I won't deny I'm a huge fan of Xiaomi.. I'm personally waiting for the Mi Max 3..

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Won't work in the UK...

      People in the UK don't like cheap stuff

      Well, I'm well impressed with my Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X that cost £160 via a UK importer on Ebay. Much of the UK does in fact love a bargain.

      I suspect, however, that by the time Xiaomi have bought the services of an expensive "brand" agency, spent a fortune on a marketing programme and an EU head office, and allowed mobile operators to add their fat (and undeserved) margins, their phones will cease to be such good value.

    7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Won't work in the UK...

      I certainly reckon I see more I-Phones in the trams and on the streets in Manchester than I do here in Germany, but I think the bloodbath of delayed renewals is coming for all the makers.

  2. 89724102116719271992214I9405670349743096734346773478647852349863592355648544996313855148583659264921 Bronze badge

    Can't wait for their cheap folding bikes!

    They've created some very impressive folding e (and non-e) folding bikes for the Chinese market, hoping they try and flog those here, fully enclosed and covered with impact detecting airbags would be added bonuses, plus a knife to slash yourself out of said kevlar? bags after you've bounced off the surrounding houses to a halt.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Can't wait for their cheap folding bikes!

      Trouble is with EU tariffs, those bikes cannot be sold at a competitive price due to the punitive taxes protecting a couple of French eBike makers.

      I could walk out of any hotel in China and buy a cheap eBike for £120- £150 right now; but the taxes alone for that bike to enter the EU mean it would cost me ~£650 (shipping is almost nothing if you know the right people).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. tip pc Bronze badge

        Re: Can't wait for their cheap folding bikes!

        Thats interesting, i was looking to buy a mountain bike from the US the other year, i investigated shipping and the import tariff's where prohibitive, even if shipped without wheels. Turned out a full bike with electric motor was taxed less and was significantly cheaper than the part bike the eu import people still regarded as a full bike for import purposes.

        Bike with no motor = 14%

        If most of the bike is being imported together apart from the pedals and for example the saddle it will still be classified as a bicycle in heading 8712

        https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff/headings/8712

        Bike with motor less than 250w = 6%

        https://www.trade-tariff.service.gov.uk/trade-tariff/commodities/8711601000

        Looks like something changed in late 2017 though.

        http://www.bike-eu.com/laws-regulations/artikel/2010/04/import-duties-on-non-eu-bicycles-1018983

        https://www.ft.com/content/174de482-e65a-11e7-8b99-0191e45377ec

        http://www.bike-eu.com/laws-regulations/nieuws/2017/12/eu-announces-start-anti-subsidy-proceeding-e-bike-imports-china-10132458

      3. Kerbside Gruntfuttock

        Re: Can't wait for their cheap folding bikes!

        All import tariffs in the EU are sequestered to go towards the cost of the Brussels bureaucracy - https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/money/revenue-income_en -

        So stop moaning about high tariffs. The money us being well spent. /s

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't wait for their cheap folding bikes!

      Good luck with the knife to slash your way out of Kevlar, my Wilkinson Kevlar scissors are already starting to go blunt after only two projects. That stuff really is tough. Stick to ballistic nylon.

      1. 89724102171719271992214I9405670349743096734346773478647852349863592355648544996313855148583659264921 Bronze badge

        Re: Can't wait for their cheap folding bikes!

        Diamond dentures? Chew my way out...

        1. K Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Can't wait for their cheap folding bikes!

          Oooo When a shark bites.. you could bite back

  3. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Meh

    Phone quality is nothing without the software/Firmware back to back it up

    And sadly, Xiaomi has lost the plot on that front.

    Updates riddled with flaws and bugs that arent getting fixed - sometime ever; a desktop suite that hasnt been updated since 2015, and hasnt worked since 2016.

    Dont get me wrong, the phones are great, I have been buying Xiaomi for years; but the constant messing around with features - some of them core features, and the buggering up of said features has become a big issue; as is the lack of spares for some the newer phones.

    (I can get spares for my 2014 phone, but not for my 2016/17 phones).

    I blame the diversification into anything and everything, you can get Xiaomi branded umbrellas now FFS!!!

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Phone quality is nothing without the software/Firmware back to back it up

      My RedMi 4X is working fine. An annoying notification bug was fixed in January after a month or two but apart from that no issues for me.

      They do have an annoying habit of removing MIUI features that aren't getting much user feedback.

      Like the chilld mode and automatically switching the screen to reading mode based on the app you are running tooo name two.

  4. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Spain

    It is not that people are less concerned about brands in Spain.

    The situation is more complicated than that for Xiaomi.

    People in spain have lower salaries than in the UK, and while groceries and rent are cheaper, electronics are more expensive.

    Xiaomi has a very dedicated fan base in Spain, and was a big seller way before Xiaomi came to Spain "officially". One of the top sellers, with forums dedicated to the scene, etc. most just came direct from China, with some low quality resellers.

    Now they are selling in Spain big time, and the reasons are clear:

    -Better band for the buck. WAY better.

    -Top of the line phones are trully top: ceramic phones, noch free full fron screen,etc

    -Middle range phones are great, with great battery and quite cheap

    -Cheap range is quite good.

    -they all have the appearance of great support. They support phones 1/2 years more than Samsung, add cheaper price, long (albeit slow) support and nice phones.. no wonder they sell well.

  5. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Forgot to add.

    Older Xiaomi phones were easy to root, so custom ROMS were everywhere; the new generations are locked down; you can only get root by contacting Xiaomi and requesting the phone be unlocked.

    So far, so good; except the unlock request page seems to turn up in Chinese 99% of the time, and uses active scripting, so Google Translate doesnt help.

  6. Simon Rockman

    "an impending bloodbath of phone brands, in which the survivors other than Apple or Samsung".

    There is nothing to say that Apple or Samsung will survive. In the early 90s the dominant manufacturers were Motorola and NEC. Motorola with all the skills and IP was untouchable.

    In the early 2000s it was Ericsson which had the RF sewn up and Nokia which was supreme with amazing product platforming, distribution and efficiencies.

    Nothing is a given, least of all Apple which is a fashion play.

    New technologies are often the cause of disruption and 5G might shake the shape of the industry.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Why is 5g going to be a shake up?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Why is 5g going to be a shake up?"

        Because at 5g the current generation of execs won't be able to get out of their chairs while the young, entrepreneurial Chinese ones (with their daily fitness routines inculcated as Young Pioneers) will?

        Not so much a shakeup more an enforced sit down.

        ...oh you meant that kind of 5g?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Xiaomi diversified into making TVs, a fitness band and an air purifier,

    hurrah, that's what humanity needs - more telly boxes, plastic fitness bands (but look, bilions of people getting in shape means NHS won't need them 350 m per week!). And air purifiers, definitely. WE NEED!!!

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Xiaomi diversified into making TVs, a fitness band and an air purifier,

      Depending on the features you want, their fitness band isn't that bad. Its major feature is the price (for me, $20). There was that scary phrase in the license agreement (that I was not permitted to use this device in any way that would hurt the cause of national reunification), but I decided just to use an alternative open source app, gadgetbridge, so I could plot against Xi Jinping all I want. I mostly got it for the silent vibrating alarm function, but it does seem to work as a fitness tracker rather well if that's your thing.

  8. 45RPM

    The problem, as far as I can see, is that Xiaomi has no USP. In fact, almost the entire industry is commoditised and USPless. If you want a laptop or desktop, the important part - the ‘differentiator’ - is nearly always the same (Windows). If you want a mobile phone the situation is the same - except substitute Android for Windows.

    Apple has played a canny game, albeit one that nearly killed it, in retaining its USP. You can complain, and many do, that Apple’s products are overpriced - but what you can’t deny is that, where it counts, they’re different. And if you want the benefits that that difference confers, there’s only one choice (it’s up to you to decide whether those benefits are worth the money or not).

    So, given that one Android phone is much the same as another (differing only in performance, from sluggish to not-the-quickest, and in build quality, from plasticky bin-fodder to best-in-the-business) and given that the market is saturated, with every niche from the cheapest to the most expensive filled, why should I choose a Xiaomi over a Samsung or a Xperia, a Huawei or a Pixel, an LG or an HTC?

    I’m sure that the Xiaomi will be very acceptable - but acceptable enough to muscle in to the established encumbents? The Xiaomi boss might fancy himself the reincarnation of Steve Jobs (complete with unacknowledged children?), but it takes more than a silly outfit to claim that mantel. Xiaomi will need to own their stack from CPUs, through to OS, if they want a real USP - and they’ll have to innovate with it (innovate - not invent, necessarily!) - but I don’t think that they have the chops or imagination to do that.

  9. greenawayr

    FWIW, bought a Mi 6 about 9 months ago. Nice piece of hardware, that's performed well, not so impressed with the update that cause my phone bluetooth to stop streaming after being interupted by a call or notification and caused a number of apps to crash constantly.Took about 3 weeks for the next update to roll out. Phone was usable during that time, but annoying. They need to get more savvy with their updates though.

    I was quite keen on their electric scooter when I was working near home, but then work changed and now it seems unsuitable for the 60 mile trip up the A303.

    Overall though, I think you get fantastic bang for your buck from them and whilst being tempted by the new mi 7 when it coes out, I must try and be restrained, as my main argument for buying the phone was that I couldn't justify to myslef, spending £800-1000 on a phone that would probably get replaced in a couple of years, so if I go around buying the new iteration every year...

  10. Paul

    El Reg missed a trick, the headline could have been

    Xiaomi The Way To Google Home

    from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show_Me_the_Way_to_Go_Home

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      I think you mean the Fleetwood Mac song:

      "I Want You To Xiaomi Huawei"

      h/t: Thomas Newton for that one.

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  12. Nezumi
    Holmes

    Stock Android as USP?

    Just a thought... Might get timely updates as well...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Profit from "services" = you are the product?

    ... including data collection "services" on behalf of various governments?

  14. 89724102171719271992224I9405670349743096734346773478647852349863592355648544996313855148583659264921 Bronze badge

    Anyone suggest alternatives?

    I want a bike which occupies very little space folded, extremely light, not stupidly expensive (therefore not stressful to have stolen) and available in the UK.

    Not available in the UK - 7kg Xiaomi ELECTRIC bike. Probably not waterproof:

    http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/product-news/xiaomy-qicycles-234720

    At 11kg, the lightest ever reasonably affordable British Folding Bike is the Radnal Microbike from 1970, folds smallish, also not very good with water, apparently:

    https://bootiebike.com/micro/micro.htm

  15. .....*......................................

    They're very good phones, (at least the two I've had, have been), but the camera's are poor (no idea if it's the lens or something else), but screen is pretty good.

    Current year old unit :

    Dual SIM, deca-core, 64GB storage and 4GB RAM for less than £200, with infra-red and a finger print reader on the rear (where it makes more sense) as you unlock as you pick it up. (infra-red is essential when wife hides the remote, or at those trade shows where there is no remote for the screens).

    Unfortunately you can only have data active via one SIM at a time, but you can switch quickly and easily, and you can turn SIM's off too if you are travelling or want privacy.

    It is also possible to encrypt the device.

    Flexible, powerful, cheap ... what's not to like ?

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