Xiaomi looks abroad to boost shipment demand

BROADENING HORIZON::The smartphone maker is expanding its market to areas outside China and plans to make inroads into Singapore early next year

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Dec 09, 2013 - Page 13

Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi Corp (小米) expects its shipments to double next year from this year’s 19 million units as the company looks to fourth-generation (4G) telecommunication service migration in China and overseas markets to boost demand for its phones.

At the beginning of this year, Xiaomi aimed to sell 15 million units, nearly doubling last year’s 7.9 million units.

Overwhelming demand has lifted sales to more than 3 million units this month, the Shenzhen-based company said.

Xiaomi, which earned a reputation as the “Apple of China” when it launched its first cellphone three years ago, is now contending with the US-based company for the No. 5 position in China, the largest smartphone market in the world.

“Now, there is still a serious shortage [of Xiaomi cellphones]. Demand has greatly exceeded our expectation. This [growth momentum] will carry into next year,” Xiaomi cofounder and president Bin Lin (林斌) told a media briefing in Taipei on Saturday, before the launch of its low-cost Hongmi model in Taiwan today.

Demand would also come from China’s migration into the 4G long-term evolution (LTE) platform and the firm’s expansion to new overseas markets, Lin said.

The unlisted company is to be ready with 4G LTE smartphones when China’s 4G LTE license holders commercially launch the services in the middle of next year at the earliest, Lin added.

On Wednesday last week, China granted 4G LTE licenses to the country’s big three telecommunication operators, China Mobile (中國移動), China Telecom (中國電信) and China Unicom (中國聯通), which are now customers of Xiaomi.

China’s smartphone market is expected to grow to 400 million units next year, up 33 percent from an estimated 300 million units this year, Lin forecasted.

The global smartphone market is projected to show high-speed growth over the next three to five years, he said.

Xiaomi is expanding its market to more areas outside China after it began selling its products in Taiwan in April.

The company plans to make inroads into Singapore early next year, Xiaomi Global vice president Hugo Barra said on Saturday.

“Singapore is the regional hub. That’s why we research the area first,” Barra said.

Barra is a former head of product management at Google Inc with deep involvement in marketing Nexus phones.

He joined Xiaomi in September.

The company also hopes to deepen partnerships with Taiwanese assemblers and component suppliers, Lin said.

FIH Mobile Ltd (富智康), a handset manufacturing arm of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), and Inventec Appliance Corp (英華達) assemble phones for Xiaomi.

Component suppliers to the Chinese firm include chip designer MediaTek Inc (聯發科), touch-panel makers TPK Holdings Ltd (宸鴻) and Wintek Corp (勝華), handset camera lens maker Largan Precision Co (大立光) and camera module maker Lite-On Technology Inc (光寶).

The Chinese company sells its phones in Taiwan exclusively through Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信).