Xiaomi Prepares US Launch – But Not A Smartphone In Sight

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Mobile manufacturer will also open up a factory in Brazil as it looks to expand global reach

Chinese mobile manufacturer Xiaomi has revealed its next step towards world domination by announcing the launch of its first US online store.

The up-and-coming company, regarded as one of the major success stories in the mobile market over the last few years, is set to open shop in North America, but surprisingly won’t be selling any of its smartphones.

Instead, the Xiaomi will be using its first US Mi store to sell headphones, smart wristbands and other accessories as it looks to gain a hold on Western shores.

Hugo BarraFeedback

“We’re trying to learn about what people will think about our products,” global operations vice president Hugo Barra (pictured left) said at a press gathering in San Francisco. “We’re trying to understand which products will be most successful. US consumers are very sophisticated. They’re very opinionated. They have access to so many different products from so many different brands. We want to be a part of that conversation. We want to be a part of that feedback loop.”

However, Barra said that getting Xiaomi’s smartphones and tablets cleared for sale in the US would require an “incredible amount of work”, meaning that a potential launch “is not in our plans”.

“We’re accelerating our entry in a sense by bringing simpler products,” he added. “Hopefully, that’ll be the beginning of really having America experience the Xiaomi brand and the quality and craftsmanship of our products.”

XIaomi NoteGoing global?

Alongside this North American launch, Xiaomi has also announced a push into South America, revealing that it is close to securing a manufacturing partner in Brazil.

Barra also confirmed that the company would begin sales in the country, one of Latin America’s largest economies in the first half of this year.

He added that the company is in “extremely advanced discussions” with at least half a dozen manufacturing partners in Brazil, a move which should help it avoid punishing tariffs on imported electronics, which can be taxed at as much as 60 percent tax.

Set up in 2010, Xiaomi has enjoyed a rapid rise in the technology industry, and was rated as the world’s most valuable start-up following a $45bn round of funding in December.

This growth has come primarily from its low-cost Android smartphones, which enjoy huge popularity in China, and more recently India. However the company has looked to diversify its product offerings so far in 2015, most recently with the unveiling of two flagship ‘phablet’ devices, the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro, aimed at taking on Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets.

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