Xiaomi the gadgets: Chinese tech giant arrives in Ireland with Three

2 Nov 2018

Xiaomi smartphones. Image: TbTb/Depositphotos

The arrival of this Chinese tech dynamo is less of a gentle introduction and more of an onslaught of interesting and affordable new tech.

We were expecting smartphones. And there were phones but there were also scooters, digital weighing scales, smart watches, fitness bands, speakers and headphones.

Yes, that’s right, Xiaomi, the Chinese tech manufacturer that regards itself as an internet company first, has come to Ireland in partnership with Three with a flamboyance that sets the tone for other Asian tech mavens likely to follow. In all, it brought 12 new connected products as it launches in Ireland today (2 November).

‘We are the only smartphone brand in the world that has this kind of resonance with our users’

As reported by Siliconrepublic.com in May, Xiaomi, the fourth-largest smartphone seller in the world after Samsung, Huawei and Apple respectively, is making a new home in Ireland.

Smart mobility

A picture of the Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter standing up.

The Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter. Image: Xiaomi

The company doesn’t have users, it has fans. Even ahead of the launch in Ireland, according to Elaine Carey, Three’s chief commercial officer, Xiaomi already counted 3,000 hardcore fans in Ireland.

At launch today, Three will introduce three Xiaomi handsets that include the Mi Mix 2S (from €459.99), the Redmi Note 5 (from €199.99) and the Redmi 6 (from €149.99).

Crucially, in what is a departure for Three, too, the launch also includes a number of new connected smart products that include the M Band 3 (€39), the Amazfit Pace Black (€159), Mi ANC USB-C In-Ear Headphones (€59), the Mi Body Composition Scale (€39), Mi Bluetooth Speaker (€39), Mi In-Ear Headphones (€12), Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro (€29) and Mi Sports Bluetooth Earphones (€35).

The most intriguing new device – one that tips a hat to the future of urban smart mobility that other mobile operators may also follow suit with – was the Xiaomi Mi Electric Scooter, which costs €449.

The scooter charges in an hour and a half, has a battery that can carry you 30km and can reach top speeds of 35kph. This correspondent can attest to the speed of the thing as it nearly sent him careening at 35kph into a crowd of people with plates of food and clinking glasses who had no idea of what almost happened to them. Luckily, he found the brakes in time and his dignity remains almost intact.

Fans are the secret to Xiaomi’s success

A close-up of two black-coloured smartphones with bright colourful screen.

The Mi Mix 2S. Image: Xiaomi

Known as ‘China’s Apple’, Xiaomi is an eight-year-old tech player that makes high-quality smartphones and other products such as notebooks and TVs at affordable prices.

The company was only founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Lei Jun. After building its first Android-based firmware (MIUI), its first smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi 1, followed a year later. Since then, the company has expanded to make tablet computers, laptops and smart TVs, and keeps its prices low by keeping a tight control on stock and executing online flash sales.

The company sold 27m smartphones in the first quarter of 2018, which is interesting when you consider established tech giant Apple sold 52.2m in the same quarter.

Speaking last night, Carey said that Three is excited to see where Xiaomi goes next. “We want to drive them to number three, number two and, you never know, they could be number one in times to come.

“We worked really hard with Xiaomi in recent months and we put our heart and soul into this because this stuff doesn’t normally happen. It is really special because it is bringing new technology and amazing designs to Ireland at accessible prices.”

Xiaomi is now in 80 markets globally, said Wilkin Lee, the sales and marketing director for telecoms at Xiaomi UK and Ireland, last night.

“As a company, the way we are structured, we don’t make more than 5pc on average for hardware itself, because for us we are not just a hardware company, we are an internet company and also a new retailing company. We sell directly to consumers offline and online, and through partners like Three as well.

“The fact that we can provide the best quality and the best specs that you can expect from the leading manufacturers in this industry at super, honest, competitive pricing is down to input from fans, especially into the Mix series.

“That’s why we are different as a manufacturer. Instead of spending loads of money on crazily expensive marketing plans, we work with and trust in our relationship with fans to drive this by word of mouth through friends, family, colleagues and fellow netizens as well.

“We are the only smartphone brand in the world that has this kind of resonance with our users,” Lee said.

Xiaomi smartphones. Image: TbTb/Depositphotos

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years