Xiaomi is ready to do it again. The company just introduced its latest smartphone and it looks fantastic. Xiaomi is no longer a company that looks to others for inspiration. Xiaomi is no longer an upstart, it’s a global leader — one that has high expectations and a lofty $45 billion valuation — and the new Mi 5 has the goods to be a trendsetting device.
The Mi 5 is an important device for Xiaomi with a lot of improvements over older models. It’s the first Xiaomi phone with a physical home button and front-mounted fingerprint sensor. (Last year’s Redmi Note 3 has a scanner on its reverse.) There’s even a special edition of the phone that’s available in a body made out of ceramic, which is another first for Xiaomi.
However, most importantly, this is the first Xiaomi device that could hit new markets. At this time the company is only saying it will be released in China on March 1st and India will follow shortly. Xiaomi VP Hugo Barra hinted at other markets today at the closing of the Mi 5 unveiling, which was held at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona — the company’s first press conference held in Europe.
The device looks a lot like the company’s Mi Note smartphone yet evolved in several ways. The Mi 5 is curved like the Note yet in a more smooth way. It’s also thinner and more compact than the larger Note.
The Mi 5 packs a lot into a small package. It rocks a 5.15-inch screen in a body made out of what Xiaomi calls “3D glass body” or “3D ceramic body”. The bezel is tiny. And yet, even in this small frame, Xiaomi managed to find room for a Snapdragon 820, 3,000 mAh battery, fingerprint sensor and 16MP camera with 4-axis image stabilization.
There are three versions of the phone. The standard edition has a CPU clock speed of 1.8Ghz, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. Step up to the next version of the phone for 2.15GHz clock speed and 64GB of storage. Both of these models are made out of a 3D curved glass body and is available in gold, white and black.
The Mi 5 Pro edition is only available in black and is made out of ceramic and is equipped with 4GB of RAM and has 128GB of storage.
Xiaomi employed zirconia ceramic and says the material is more durable and resists abrasions better than other materials used in smartphones Apparently the ceramic feels like marble or jade. It’s only available in the most expensive Mi 5 model as Xiaomi says making the case costs 75% more than bodies made out of other materials.
The Mi 5 adds up to a substantial device that should have an impact on the market.
Since launching just six years ago Xiaomi has lead a shakeup in the smartphone world, standing tall against Apple, Samsung and Lenovo and becoming the top smartphone brand in China and fifth in the world.
Xiaomi greatest innovation so far hasn’t been hardware but rather its distribution model that gets handsets to consumers without using third party retailers. The company ships a large chunk of its devices directly to buyers.
Even though Xiaomi pulled in sales of over 70 million last year and was one of the few to actually grow its share of the global smartphone pue, it fell short of its annual target. That had many pundits wondering if the firm is overvalued, while its chief competitors have upped their game in terms of both device quality and direct-to-consumer distribution.
The bulk of Xiaomi’s sales are from its low-end family — Redmi — but the Mi 5 has higher margins and, as a flagship, a good reception could boost the company’s brand and keep it looking fresh in the market.
The Mi 5 starts at 1999 RMB (or about $262 USD or $238 Euros) with the Mi 5 Pro commanding RMB 2699 (or about $354 USD or about $321 Euros).
The Mi 5 will be available in China on March 1st at the aforementioned prices. A release in India is next followed by “other global markets”. America? Europe? The company isn’t saying just yet.