Xiaomi hitches Uber rides for prelaunch Mi Note delivery in Singapore

Chinese smartphone maker lets Uber riders pay for the smartphone, priced at S$569, via their Uber accounts and have it delivered by the car booking service a day before the July 28 official launch date.

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Xiaomi is letting Uber riders in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur pay for its new Mi Note smartphone through their Uber account, as well as have the device delivered to them a day before the July 28 official launch in both cities.

Priced at S$569, the Mi Note will be available for pre-launch order through the Uber app on July 27, giving users an extra day to secure a unit before it is available on Xiaomi's website. It is also the Chinese smartphone maker's first model to be sold exclusively through Singtel in Singapore, where its other devices can be purchased through the country's three mobile operators including M1 and StarHub.

Speaking to ZDNet on the sidelines of the media launch Thursday, Xiaomi's Southeast Asia general manager Steve Vickers said it inked the agreement with Singtel because the telco showed the most interest in pushing the device. He added that there was no time limit on the exclusivity, noting that all other Xiaomi devices here will remain available through the three telcos.

Elaborating on the Uber partnership, Vickers said the delivery service offered Xiaomi customers an avenue to get their hands on the smartphone before anyone else in both Asian cities. "And Uber has been stepping into the delivery of e-commerce orders, so this isn't completely off base for them," he explained.

On July 27, a fleet of designated Uber cars will be stocked with "limited quantities of Mi Note" and will deliver the smartphones to riders who place an order through the car booking app. Just like Xiaomi's other flash sales, the Mi Note will be available through Uber until stock runs out.

The smartphone maker declined to reveal how many units or Uber cars would be made available for this one-time sale. "Depending on how well it's received, we may run it in other cities and for our other devices," Vickers said, but did not want to reveal the targeted sales number that would determine the extension of this service.

Xiaomi sold 34.7 million smartphones in the first half of this year, up 33 percent from last year. It does not break down sales numbers by markets.

Critics had said the device manufacturer would intentionally limit its inventory to drive up demand, resulting in customers frustrated at not being able to get their hands on a unit.

Vickers, though, dismissed such suggestions, noting that Xiaomi "works very hard" to ensure sufficient inventory in the markets it plays in. "Historically, there's been a mismatch between demand and supply in all the markets we launch our products...the demand often is so great we simply don't have enough stock," he said.

He added that its inventory typically fell below demand during the company's flash sales, during which there would be a set number of units available for purchase at a certain time and day. "Apart from these, we have inventory available online for many of our devices via e-commerce, through our website," Vickers said, adding that its stock levels would only be constrained during the initial days following its product launches.

The 5.7-inch Mi Note comes with 64GB storage and supports dual-SIM. It is bundled free with Singtel's Combo 3 plans and above.