Watching Xiaomi roll out its line-up of phones is like watching the Harry Potter series of films unleashed on Potter-crazed, giddy schoolchildren desperate for their fix. Xiaomi will hope that its coffers fill up with billions of dollars as speedily as it did for Warner Brothers, producer of the Potter series, but, so far, the Chinese brand hasn't done too shabbily in India.
In fact, it has done sensationally. Xiaomi has sold more phones through the internet in India -- specifically, the Redmi 1S, the Redmi Note, and the Mi3 -- faster than any brand to date in the last six months through exclusive sales via Flipkart. And from all accounts, Xiaomi is just warming up, since it's been holding back volumes by dribbling out phones in the tens of thousands.
All of Xiaomi's phones have been ultra-coveted and ultra-successful because they offer a combination of specs and price that is virtually unbeatable. And this is what also makes the Mi4 such a potential sensation. (Incidentally, it was launched mid last year, but is only being released in India tomorrow.) Its specifications are either on par or very close to the top-of-the-line Android phones available on the market, like the Samsung S5.
However, it costs about a third of the S5. Yes. A third. It's hard to fathom how this is the case. And in a market like India, where, by and large, plans do not subsidise phones, people buy their phones outright. Therefore, Xiaomi's proposition is taken very seriously.
For anywhere between Rs 18,000 ($290) and Rs 20,000 ($320), you get a 5-inch (1,920x1,080 pixels) IPS display with 441ppi resolution, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, along with 3GB of RAM -- which means nirvana to even the most ardent of gamers.
Its rear shooter is a 13MP camera with LED Flash and 4K video recording, which is unheard of, especially at this price. Selfie addicts will be thrilled with its 8MP front-facing camera with Sony Exmor R sensor. Vanity has never been so coddled as it has been here. It comes with Android 4.4.3 KitKat preinstalled, and its MIUI OS skin has apparently appropriated the best ingredients from both Android and Apple.
Even if the phone launches at the upper end of the range (Rs 20,000), it will be interesting to see how any of the brands offering either premium phones (like the Samsung Galaxy S5) or mid-range ones will fend off the onslaught of this Chinese brand. For instance, the mid-range Motorola Moto X, which will be at least Rs 7,000 ($110) more expensive than the Mi4, looks like it will be consistently outgunned in almost every department.
With the launch of the Lenovo 4G A6000 a few days ago, which I wrote about here, and now the Mi4, January is proving to be the month of the dragon in India.