22 March 2021

Wired UK: “Xiaomi is undercutting the whole tech industry. And it’s working”

Out-clucking the Colonel is all well and good, but Xiaomi’s shifting some serious product, having had greater year-on-year growth than any other top-five global smartphone maker between Q4 2019 and 2020. Diving into specific territories, it climbed to the number one spot in Spain in May 2020, overtaking the established leader, Samsung, and hit number two in Russia, with 23 per cent of the market in Q3 2020.

In fact, this minimalism could be the common thread in much of Xiaomi’s non-smartphone portfolio that woos us the most. There’s an almost Muji-like, unbranded quality to some of the best Mi products, which, when matched with reliably competitive prices, is compelling for anyone suffering label-fatigue.

There’s plenty Xiaomi is doing right, clearly. However, the path to world domination isn’t guaranteed for any business, not least of all a Chinese one. US-China tensions play a part in its future, given the fact Xiaomi has been put on a US military blacklist, preventing local US investment in the company. This isn’t the crippling blow dealt to Huawei (the entity list Huawei is on results in tougher sanctions than the military blacklist), but it could still damage confidence in the brand.

Basil Kronfli

There is a vague sneering tone underlying this article, beginning with the byline, where the author labels Xiaomi products ‘half-baked tech’. This feels like the typical smugness of people who only buy Apple-branded gadgets. I own a Mi band and have used it constantly for almost three years, so from my experience the product does its job perfectly fine at a decent price.

I also own a digital scale made by Xiaomi, but I haven’t used it for so long that I am now wary of stepping on it and seeing how much weight I’ve gained after a full year working from home.

Xiaomi Mi Band 5

I have bought the band mainly to monitor my sleep patterns, where it performs very well generally, with some occasional false readings when I lie in bed for too long watching TV. The vibration alarm function is especially useful: I find a gentle vibration on my wrist more comfortable for waking me up than a loud phone alarm. And if you are sharing the room with somebody else, it won’t disturb them as much either.

I have no idea whether its step counts are more accurate than those recorded by a smartphone, but at least the band is almost always at my wrist, whereas the phone needs to be charged daily. With my light use (without any exercise tracking or phone notifications), the Mi Band can comfortably hold a charge for some five weeks, so you don’t need to constantly worry about charging an additional device. The heart rate monitor is surprisingly accurate, and I check it whenever I feel agitated to see if my heart rate is elevated. I also regularly use the timer feature, as it’s easier to start than reaching for the phone.

Overall a great product, and I will most likely buy a newer version of the Mi band when it’s time to update.

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