NEW DELHI -- Xiaomi Inc. released its flagship smartphone Mi4 in India, priced at 19,999 rupees (about $325) for the 16GB version, even as it slid to second spot at home as more Chinese consumers begin to crave Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6.
The Mi4 was launched in China in July last year, when Xiaomi barely had a presence in India. Since then, however, the Chinese smartphone maker has sold over a million handsets in the country, exclusively online on the Indian ecommerce site Flipkart, including its entry-level Redmi phones and the Mi series phones, of which Mi4 is the latest.
The handset, which does not support 4G LTE technology in India, will go on sale in the country on Feb. 10, Hugo Barra, the company’s vice president for international operations, told reporters at an event in New Delhi to launch the smartphone on Wednesday. Pre-registrations start today on Flipkart's website at 6 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. EST).
The Mi4 features a 5-inch display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.5GHz 801 processor, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, but no micro SD card slot. With a 13MP primary camera and an 8MP selfie shooter, the Mi4 is a compelling rival to the Moto X second-generation smartphone, which is a full 10,000 rupees costlier on Flipkart. Although Motorola’s handset offers a marginally larger screen and the option of expanding storage, it has the same Qualcomm chip, only 2GB RAM and a front camera that offers only 2Mp shots.
Like other Xiaomi phones, the Mi4 uses MIUI, a modified version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system, which runs on most smartphones around the world. Barra told reporters in New Delhi that the MIUI 6 update, built on Android’s latest version, Lollipop, will be made available in India as well, but didn’t specify a date.
Mi4 has a generous 3,080mAh battery, which can’t be removed though. A steel band around the phone and other design features of the Mi4 have prompted many to compare it to Apple’s iPhones. Until the Mi Note, which Xiaomi released earlier this month with a distinctly un-iPhone-like design, the Chinese company was widely mocked as China’s Apple.
Xiaomi rose from being an unknown company to the world’s most valuable privately-held technology company in just four years since its inception in 2010. In 2014, the company sold about 61 million smartphones, mostly in China, to become the largest phone maker there.
Apple’s iPhone 6, however, saw “staggering” demand, as CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday, helping it outsell Xiaomi as well as Huawei Technology Co Ltd. to become the top smartphone seller in China. The iPhone 6 is also raising Apple's profile in India, helping it boost its modest sales there.
Xiaomi recently raised $1.1 billion in private equity money at a valuation of $45 billion. It is at once trying to expand overseas into markets such as India, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia, and build out its ecosystem of software, Internet-based services and hardware products including wearables and smart home devices.
Earlier this month, Xiaomi released the Mi Note, its latest high-end smartphone, with a display larger than that of the iPhone 6 Plus and a lighter and thinner body as well. The Mi Note is expected to arrive in India in the last quarter this year, around the festival of Diwali that marks the peak of India's holiday shopping season, Barra said.
This story has been updated to note that the Mi4 does not support 4G LTE technology in India.