Xiaomi break outs of Asia, introduces phones to Brazil

Xiaomi is tapping Foxconn to build its phones in a local factory to reduce costs

Xiaomi offices in Beijing

Xiaomi offices in Beijing

Chinese smartphone vendor Xiaomi will finally begin selling product in Brazil, marking the first time it has sold handsets outside of Asia.

On Tuesday, Xiaomi unveiled its Redmi 2 phone for Brazil, which will cost BRL499 (US$160) when it goes on sale later this month.

The company hopes to repeat the success it has had in China selling feature-packed Android handsets at low prices. In just a matter of a few years, Xiaomi has become the country's largest smartphone vendor. Some in the media have called it "the Apple of China" due to its rising popularity.

Outside of China, the company has also been expanding mainly in Asian countries such as India. A year ago, it announced that Xiaomi would enter into ten foreign markets, including Brazil. But the roll out has taken longer than expected, as Xiaomi needed to set up a factory there.

On Tuesday, Xiaomi said its product in Brazil would be assembled locally through a partnership with Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant. This will help Xiaomi produce low-cost phones, according to the company.

It will go up against other foreign brands, including Samsung, Motorola and LG which lead the country's smartphone market. Samsung has a 30 percent share, while Motorola has 23 percent, according to research firm Canalys.

Xiaomi's Redmi 2 is a 4G handset with a 4.7-inch 720p screen, and a 8-megapixel camera. Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 1GB of RAM and a 2200 mAh battery. The product's low price could entice consumers. In contrast, an iPhone 6 costs US$1100 in Brazil and electronics are generally expensive there, partly due to high import taxes.

The Chinese company hopes to become the world's top smartphone vendor in five to 10 years. But analysts say the young company, founded just five years ago, will need to secure more patents.

In India, for instance, the company is facing legal troubles over a patent dispute with Ericsson. At the same time, it's facing off against rivals including Samsung, and local players such as Micromax and Intex, which lead in the country's smartphone market, according to Canalys.

Xiaomi also has plans for the U.S., although so far it's only started selling accessories through its website. The company has said it will need more time and effort before it can introduce smartphones.

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Michael Kan

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