Last year wasn’t very kind to Xiaomi. Reports are that it missed its sales target for 2015 and that investors, who had pegged the company at a valuation of $46 billion, are now little jittery. Worse, according to some market analysts, the company lost its number one position in China to Huawei. Meanwhile, in India it was battered by Lenovo and YU.
In fact, in India we saw that the buzz Xiaomi created in 2014 was missing last year. The reasons were many. But primarily, it can be said that in 2015 Xiaomi had no halo products. It couldn’t launch the flagship Mi 5, although the reasons might have been beyond its control in 2015. Worse, it failed to introduce devices like the Mi Note, which could have created some buzz, in India.
But all that seems to be behind it. This year, the company is definitely starting on a very strong note, if the Redmi 3, introduced in China on Monday, is any indication. By all accounts, the Redmi 3 looks like a formidable phone. With its metal body and sleek design, it is probably going to be the best looking phone in the Sub-Rs.10,000 category. And then there is the hardware. While we have seen similar hardware in this price range from companies like YU, this is for the first time that Xiaomi would be offering a Snapdragon 616 — which is actually similar to the Snapdragon 615 — at a price that is going to be somewhat closer to Rs.8,000.
The deal with Xiaomi is that it offers good enough devices at a price no one else can. That made the Mi 3 a big hit. That was also the reason why in the Indian market people loved the Redmi Note and Redmi in 2014. But in 2015, Xiaomi offered almost same products at a prices that were marginally higher. With the Redmi 3, the company is seemingly returning back to its roots.
And then there is the upcoming Mi 5. We still don’t know everything about this phone. But if whatever has leaked or has been revealed so far is any indication, it seems almost certain that this phone too will prove to be a winner, granted Xiaomi doesn’t kill it with a bad price. At this point it seems almost certain that the reason why Xiaomi didn’t launch the Mi 5 in 2015 was because the company didn’t want to put the Snapdragon 810 in the phone. The Snapdragon 810, even though it powers many high-end phones, doesn’t have a very good reputation. It is barely faster than the snapdragon 801 outside benchmarks and unless phone makers don’t take extra pre-cautions it heats up badly. Sony’s Xperia Z3 Plus is a prime example of a good phone let down by the hot Snapdragon 810.
So, it seems that Xiaomi waited for Snapdragon 820.
But all indications are that the Snapdragon 820, which powers the Mi 5, is a very different beast. It uses custom cores, just like the Snapdragon 800 did and it seems not only fast but also power efficient. That bodes well for the Mi 5. We have also seen the leaked photos of the Mi 5 and irrespective of how you look at it, the new Xiaomi flagship seemingly has a very attractive design.
Of course, having a few nice devices in the portfolio is no sign of success for any company. the smartphone market, especially in China and India, which are Xiaomi’s biggest markets, is very tough. Even though if it has devices, it will have to execute. Last year, the execution part too was missing. In India for example, devices like the Mi Note never arrived. But at the same time, it can also be said that the last year Xiaomi neither had great devices, nor it managed to execute the way it did in 2014. This year, at least, it will have probably have a few great devices that it can offer to consumers.