Who is the world's largest Android company

What you should know about the smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi

By Adrian Mühlroth | October 09, 2020, 1:40 p.m.

Xiaomi has been enjoying great popularity in this country for a long time due to fair prices and good hardware. The company has also been officially represented in Germany since August 2019. TECHBOOK took a close look at Xiaomi - and explained where consumers should be careful.

Founded in 2010, today market leader

The company was founded in 2010 and launched its first smartphone in 2011. The group is now the market leader in China and India, the two largest smartphone sales markets in the world. Worldwide, Xiaomi ranks fourth behind Samsung, Huawei and Apple in the ranking of the largest smartphone manufacturers (provided that BKK, to which Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus belong, is not counted as an individual manufacturer). In wearables, the company ranks third behind Apple and Fitbit (now part of Google) with its widespread Mi Bands. Xiaomi's smartphone brands include Mi and Redmi. Mi is the name for Xiaomi's high-end smartphones, while Redmi includes affordable entry-level and mid-range devices.

In addition to smartphones, Xiaomi's portfolio also includes numerous other devices, gadgets and software, including apps, laptops, headphones, fitness bracelets, TVs, smart home and IoT (Internet of Things) products, as well as razors, bags and shoes . In the "Fortune Global 500" list 2019, Xiaomi ranks as the youngest company in 468th place. The company went public in July 2018 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The company is now represented in more than 80 countries around the world. When asked by TECHBOOK, Xiaomi announced that it was represented in almost all key markets in Europe, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. The smartphones are sold online, in stores and also from telecommunications providers. Since August 2019, the official devices can also be found on Amazon.de, Media Markt, Saturn and in the shops of providers such as O2.

The word "Xiaomi" has a meaning

The name "Xiaomi" literally means millet and stands for the small start of the company and an eye for details. According to Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Xiaomi, millet is related to a Buddhist wisdom, according to which a small grain can be as important as a mountain. The brand name “Mi” also has a meaning: The abbreviation supposedly stands for “Mobile Internet”. Xiaomi himself also says that it also means "Mission Impossible", allegedly due to the difficult early days of the company.

How can Xiaomi offer smartphones so cheaply?

While flagship smartphones such as the iPhone 11 Pro and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra have now broken through the 1000 euro mark, even the latest and most powerful Xiaomi smartphone costs just half that. With devices like the Pocophone F1, the company even succeeded in 2018 in offering a smartphone with hardware that is otherwise only found in high-end devices for less than 400 euros. Xiaomi's self-defined goal is to make high-quality technology accessible to everyone. So far, it seems to have been able to meet this resolution quite successfully.

On its own website, the company writes that manufacturing costs are being reduced by throwing products onto the market first in order to benefit from lower component costs. In plain language this means: Xiaomi gives priority to other manufacturers when it comes to bringing smartphones with the latest hardware onto the market as early as possible. Usually the prices for memory, processors and other components drop significantly afterwards.

Smartphones are just a mainstay for Xiaomi

According to its website, Xiaomi has built the world's largest IoT platform, with over 150 million smart devices (excluding smartphones and laptops) connected to the platform. In response to a TECHBOOK request, a spokesman confirmed its market leadership: Xiaomi had "as of the end of June 2019 by far the world's largest consumer IoT platform with over 196 million connected smart devices - smartphones and laptops are not included". The products include smart home, mobility, accessories and peripheral devices.

Since the start of Germany in 2019, the company has further expanded its presence in Europe with smartphones and IoT devices. Germany is one of the first overseas markets to offer the latest Xiaomi products. The Internet of Things offer is also to be expanded on the German market. Five to eight new products are already being introduced per month in other EU markets, and Xiaomi is currently trying to bring Germany up to date. In China, the group already has “a portfolio of around 2000 IoT-related smart hardware and lifestyle products,” the Xiaomi spokesman continues. However, the expansion is problematic because a lot of market research is required. It takes time to “ensure that the products comply with local laws and standards”.

Flagships with 108 megapixels: that's what the Xiaomi Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro can do

These are the most important Xiaomi smartphones of 2020

High-end: Mi 10 Ultra

Xiaomi has been playing in the smartphone league for years and in 2020 the company has again brought a smartphone onto the market that is packed with high-end hardware. The Mi 10 Ultra complements the Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro upwards and knows how to convince above all with the quad camera and the ludicrous loading speed.

Quad camera with periscope lens

Instead of a cheap depth sensor or macro camera, the Mi 10 Ultra has a 48 MP main sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS), a 20 MP ultra wide-angle sensor and two zoom cameras. The larger of the two has a resolution of 48 MP and uses periscope technology for up to five times optical zoom with OIS. The second zoom camera has a resolution of 12 MP and offers twice the magnification.

Extremely fast loading

According to Xiaomi, the Mi 10 Ultra charges its battery to 41 percent in just 5 minutes and fully charges in 23 minutes with its extremely powerful 120 watt power adapter. Even wirelessly, the smartphone charges with a massive 50 watts to 100 percent within 40 minutes. For comparison: A Samsung Note 20 charges with 25 watts and an iPhone 11 with just 18 watts. With 120 watts, the charger of the Mi 10 Ultra offers more power than most laptop power supplies. Reverse wireless charging of other devices is also unusually strong at 10 watts.

120 Hertz and 16 GB of RAM

Otherwise, the Mi 10 Ultra meets all the requirements that will be placed on a high-end smartphone in 2020. The 6.67-inch OLED screen has a refresh rate of 120 Hertz, supports HDR 10+ and competes with the iPhone 11 with its maximum brightness of 800 nits. The built-in Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 is also a smartphone upper class for an Android smartphone. The Mi 10 Ultra is available with up to 512 gigabytes (GB) of internal memory and a hefty 16 GB of RAM. In the basic version, however, it comes with 128 GB and 8 GB, respectively. 5G is of course also on board.

Alternative: Mi 10 Pro

The Mi 10 Ultra is currently not yet available from any German retailer. A good alternative is the Mi 10 Pro, which offers the same performance but has to make compromises in some areas. There is “only” 90 instead of 120 hertz, no periscope camera and charging with 50 instead of 120 watts. The main camera has a resolution of 108 instead of 48 MP and the basic version already has 256 GB of memory.

Middle class: Poco F2 Pro

With the original Poco F1, Xiaomi achieved a trick in 2018. High-end performance for less than 400 euros was previously unthinkable, but the Chinese company has made upper class socially acceptable at a cheap price. In 2020 Xiaomi added several Poco smartphones, but the real successor in the spirit of the F1 is only the F2 Pro. Again, the smartphone has a flagship for under 400 euros and again it offers performance that we otherwise only know from devices that cost 700-800 euros or more.

Great performance for little money

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, which can also be found in the premium devices Mi 10 Ultra and Mi 10 Pro, is responsible for the high performance. There is also 128 or 256 GB of internal storage and 6 or 8 GB of RAM. For the best performance, TECHBOOK recommends the version with 8 GB RAM, as this is not only larger, but also faster thanks to the new module type (LPDDR5 instead of LPDDR4X).

Screen okay, half of the camera too

Fortunately, Xiaomi did not save on the screen, because a 6.67-inch OLED panel with Full HD + resolution is used here. A small drawback: the screen only has the previously typical 60 Hertz instead of 90 or 120 Hertz, which are now standard in many high-end devices.

With the camera, on the other hand, you immediately notice that Xiaomi has put the red pencil on. Of the quad setup, only the main sensor (64 MP) and the ultra-wide-angle option (13 MP) are practically usable. The 5 MP macro and 2 MP depth sensors are more there to beautify the data sheet. None of the sensors offer optical image stabilization (OIS).

According to Xiaomi, the generously sized 4700 mAh battery fully charges in just under an hour using the 30 watt power adapter supplied.

Budget Redmi 9

When it comes to inexpensive smartphones, Xiaomi is hard to beat. The company proves this again and again with models like the Redmi 9, which go over the counter for less than 150 euros. Sure, there is no upper-class performance at this price point. But the Redmi 9 also has enough reserves for everyday use and even casual gaming.

Sufficient performance and a good screen

This is made possible by the Helio G80 from the Taiwanese chip manufacturer Mediatek. There is also 32, 64 or 128 GB of memory and 3, 4 or 6 GB of RAM. A 6.53-inch LC display is used as the display. The panel achieves a good 400 nits of brightness and has a resolution of Full HD +.

As in the Poco F2 Pro, the camera is more appearance than reality. Only the 13 MP main sensor and the 8 MP ultra wide sensor can be used. The 5 MP macro sensor and the 2 MP depth camera are only included in order to meet the requirements of the “quad camera”.

The battery measures a huge 5020 mAh and charges quickly with the included 18 watt power adapter. Big plus point: A USB-C port is used as the charging socket. Not a matter of course in this price segment.

Data protection is a problem area

The own user interface MIUI runs on Android smartphones from Xiaomi, which has been developed since 2010 and which has already received major criticism. In 2014, it was reported that Xiaomi had sent user data, logs and contact information to its servers in China via its cloud messaging service. With an update, the company gave users the option to issue the service, which also prevented data from being passed on. In 2016 it became public that Xiaomi smartphones not only send personal data to China, but also have a back door that allows the company to install apps on the smartphone without the user's permission.

According to their own statements, "Xiaomi devices create files for internal settings and some applications, but do not collect any personal user data". In response to a request from TECHBOOK, Xiaomi assured us that data collected from users in the EU will also remain in the EU. The company was pursuing this strategy even before the GDPR existed. Depending on the location, the data is processed by the cloud servers from Amazon, Microsoft and Alibaba Cloud.

Despite all the assurances from Xiaomi, skepticism is still more than appropriate. It cannot be ruled out that data will be passed on in other ways due to possible security gaps.

What about warranty and updates?

From the consumer's point of view, it is not only important which new devices are thrown on the market, but also whether these are provided with updates by the manufacturer after purchase. Xiaomi is a little behind when it comes to closing security gaps. However, our Xiaomi contact explains that an average of five out of twelve security patches per year would appear on smartphones as over-the-air updates (OTA). However, since only the average was given, TECHBOOK cannot say how the security updates are distributed. Either it means that all devices, regardless of whether they are cheap or flagship, get five updates. However, it is more likely that flagship devices will receive patches almost monthly while others will miss out. After all, Xiaomi is also developing its latest MIUI 11 operating system for devices that are two years or older. However, that does not mean that you will get the latest version of Android. Because MIUI is based on Android 8, 9, 10 or 11, depending on the device. However, the Mi 10/10 Pro was one of the first alongside Google's Pixel smartphones to receive the update to Android 11 in the form of a stable beta.

Devices that were purchased in Germany from August 2019 onwards have after-sales services and a guarantee from Xiaomi, as the company informed us. The after-sales services are offered in partnership with third-party providers such as Ingram Micro. Anyone who buys elsewhere must have services such as repairs carried out by the respective dealer. According to the Xiaomi spokesman, devices that are bought in the EU are not sent to China for repair, but processed on site.

Xiaomi does not give an international guarantee or guarantee against physical and water damage. The company also does not offer a guarantee for devices that were not purchased directly from the company but from other sites and dealers.

What can we expect from Xiaomi in the future?

The goal is to make innovative smartphones accessible to everyone, said the Xiaomi spokesman for TECHBOOK. The focus is primarily on a large screen and the so-called screen-to-body ratio - the ratio of the screen area compared to the housing size. For example, the Mi 9T and 9T Pro have a very high screen-to-body ratio of 91.9 percent thanks to their motorized camera, which makes a camera above the screen superfluous.

The pop-up camera could also be used in future Xiaomi smartphones, the spokesman believes. When asked whether a camera under the screen, which would make both the pop-up camera and notch superfluous, was planned in the near future, they said: “Our solutions for camera setups (are) a mixture of all available technologies , also with even more surprising inventions. "

Connections to the Communist Party

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