Currently one of the world's top five smartphone makers, Xiaomi didn't start by manufacturing mobile phones. Instead, its first product was MIUI, the custom Android ROM that some of you are already familiar with. For those who may not know, Xiaomi is a really young company. It will celebrate its fifth year of existence (and the fourth of selling smartphones) this summer.
How did a company founded in 2010 manage to disrupt the industry and sell more smartphones (61 million in 2014) than well-known manufacturers like LG, Sony, Motorola, and others? Well, it seems to have made it thanks to a combination of perfect timing, good leadership, and a well-rounded portfolio of handsets (usually priced significantly lower than comparable devices from the competition). Another important thing to note here is that Xiaomi started its business only after raising funds from powerful Asian investors, as well as from Qualcomm (which explains why many of the company's devices are using Qualcomm chipsets, rather than cheaper alternatives from Asian makers).
Granted, right now Xiaomi is irrelevant when it comes to very important markets like North America and Europe, and it's been often criticizes for borrowing various ideas from Apple. Nevertheless, this is a company that everyone involved in the smartphone industry should keep an eye on. It's no longer a China-only vendor, currently shipping smartphones in various other Asian countries, and planning a global expansion. This being said, we're going to take a look at how Xiaomi's smartphones have evolved since 2011, ultimately allowing it to become a force to be reckoned with. Join us below.
Xiaomi Mi 1
The Mi 1, or Mi-1, is Xiaomi's very first smartphone. It was released in China in October 2011, though pre-orders had been available since September. That year, Samsung's Galaxy S II was the Android smartphone to beat, and Xiaomi tried to do that by offering the Mi 1 at a very attractive price: about $300. Specs-wise, the Mi 1 more or less matched the Galaxy S II, offering a 4-inch display with 480 x 854 pixels, an 8 MP rear camera, dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S3 processor, and 1 GB of RAM. Xiaomi received 300,000 Mi 1 pre-orders in 3 days, which, at the time, was something noteworthy. A slightly faster variant of the Mi-1, called Xiaomi Mi-1S (featuring a 1.7 GHz S3 processor), was launched in the first half of 2012.
Xiaomi Mi 2
2012 (in August) was also when Xiaomi introduced the Mi 2. Once again, this was offered at a ~$300 starting price, while bringing specs only seen on expensive flagship handsets that year, including a 4.3-inch display with 720 x 1280 pixels, a quad-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, and 2 GB of RAM. The Mi 2S variant had a faster, 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 chipset.
Xiaomi Redmi 1
In the summer of 2013, Xiaomi announced its first non-high-end smartphone: the Hongmi. Initially costing around $130 in China, this handset offered (and still offers) a nice set of features for that price: 4.7-inch 720p display, 8 MP rear camera, 1 GB of RAM, and expandable memory. While the Hongmi is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor, its international version, called Redmi 1S, comes with a Snapdragon 400 processor. Both variants are wildly successful.
Xiaomi Mi 3
Available in China since October 2013, the Mi 3 quickly became Xiaomi's fastest selling handset, with 200,000 units being purchased in 3 minutes since launch. The Mi 3 was Xiaomi's flagship for 2013, including features like a 5-inch 1080p display, 2 GB of RAM, 13 MP rear camera, and a 3050 mAh battery. The handset has two variants, one powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, and another one using an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor.
Xiaomi Redmi Note
For those who want an affordable 5.5-inch 720p smartphone, in March 2014 Xiaomi introduced the Redmi Note. Powered by either an octa-core MediaTek, or a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, the Redmi Note costs around $160, and is another hot seller.
Xiaomi Mi 4
The Mi 4 is, of course, the successor to the Mi 3, and it's been available in China and other Asian markets since July 2014, for prices that are hard to beat: $320 (16 GB model) and $410 (64 GB model). The Mi 4 comes with a 5-inch 1080p display, 8 MP front-facing camera, 13 MP rear camera, Snapdragon 801 processor, 3 GB of RAM, and a battery that can offer two days of normal usage.
Xiaomi Redmi 2
The Redmi 2 is an incremental upgrade over the Redmi 1, keeping the 4.7-inch 720p screen, but adding LTE connectivity, and a 64-bit Snapdragon 410 processor. The handset was announced in early January, and costs around $110.
Xiaomi Mi Note and Mi Note Pro
Finally, Xiaomi's latest handsets (announced two weeks ago) are the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro. They share most of their features, with some notable differences: the regular model has a 5.7-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 801 processor, and 3 GB of RAM, while the Mi Pro steps things up with a 5.7-inch Quad HD (1440 x 2560) display, 4 GB of RAM, and a 64-bit Snapdragon 810 processor. Right now, only the Mi Note is available (in China), for prices starting at under $400. The Mi Note Pro should be released in March for around $530, being Xiaomi's most expensive handset to date.
Mi Fans, which is your most loving one?