It seems that it will be some time before we see Xiaomi perform its sales and marketing magic in the US. Perhaps disappointing fans, Hugo Barra, former Google exec and now Xiaomi’s VP for its international thrust was, somewhat ironically, the bearer of sad international news. Barra hinted that, while the company is of course interested in leaving its mark in the US, it doesn’t have an aggressive schedule to do so, content to make its presence felt through accessories and toys while waiting for the US market to become ripe for the picking.
In China, Xiaomi is a mobile miracle worker. Each and every smartphone sells like pancakes thanks to a lethal combination of price tags to die for, specs to vie for, and an Internet-based ecosystem to take care of all your needs. With the Chinese market at the point of saturation, Xiaomi has set its eyes outside, expanding to its neighbors in Asia, where its magic seems to be replicated. The US, on the other hand, might prove to be a tougher nut to crack.
Barra mentions several barriers to entry in the US market, primary among which is the culture of subsidies. Most consumers still buy their smartphones from carriers, which is in stark contrast to how Xiaomi, or most Chinese OEMs for that matter, sell its wares.Huawei acknowledged this issue and has come up with its own way to overcome it. Xiaomi, for its part, doesn’t seem to be interested in taking that route.
Another sticking point is the ecosystem and pricing. Though things are changing, US consumers are still less price-obsessed than their Chinese counterparts. Xiaomi also does most of its business online, from software to customer services. Users in the US, on the other hand, rely more on phone support or service centers. Setting all those up definitely takes time.
The only sliver of hope that can be gleaned from this is that Xiaomi is still interested to make it big in the US. When it plans to do that, however, is anyone’s guess. For now, fans will have to satisfy themselves with accessories and wearables like the Mi Band.