Xiaomi's Barra says US market 'on the radar'

But Hugo Barra isn't giving away any secrets

China's top smartphone maker is thinking about launching its phones in the U.S., the head of its international business said Wednesday.

"On the radar," Hugo Barra told IDG News Service, when asked about plans to launch its new flagship Mi 5 phone in the U.S. But Barra wouldn't be drawn on whether that would be in 2016. "Not sure, it would be hard to say."

Barra's comments came on the sidelines of the launch of the Mi 5 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It was the first time the company used a high-profile international event to launch a flagship phone -- something that some had interpreted as signaling a wider international release.

Xiaomi surpassed LG Electronics to became the number five smartphone company in the world in 2015, but most of its sales are concentrated in China, India and Brazil.

Its entry into the U.S. and European markets has been long-awaited, but to date the company hasn't taken a step into those markets.

"Historically, they've had issues with intellectual property," said Ian Fogg, an analyst with IHS Technology, voicing a common belief in the mobile industry that patent licensing issues are holding the company back.

160223 barra 3 Martyn Williams

Hugo Barra, vice president of international at Xiaomi, speaks at a Barcelona news conference on Feb. 24, 2016.

Xiaomi has never confirmed that, but on Wednesday Barra sought to underline the 3,600 patents it has applied for over the last few years. And Barra brought on stage Qualcomm President Derek Aberle, with whom Xiaomi signed a patent licensing agreement last year.

A sizable patent portfolio would make it easier for Xiaomi to enter major international markets because it could sign cross-licensing deals with other major patent holders, rather than have to get into specific agreements, Fogg said.

The cooling Chinese economy might also be pushing Xiaomi to think about wider sales of its phones. Last year it missed its own sales forecast by about 7 million phones, largely because of declining growth in China.

To western consumers, Xiaomi's main attraction will likely be the high-specs and low price. The Mi 5 that was launched on Wednesday has many of the same or similar features as the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 phones, but it costs about half the price.

But the company will also have to work on its software. Xiaomi is famous for releasing its own Android user interface, called MIUI, on a weekly basis. Each release includes features suggested by users, but a lot of those features and functions are aimed at consumers in China where Google services are not available, Fogg said. Internationally, that becomes less of a selling point, so the company will have to work on how to make MIUI attractive outside of China.

"Everyone is expecting it," Fogg said of Xiaomi's global launch. "I think it will come."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags MWC 2016

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?