Why You Will Never Buy a Xiaomi Phone

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January 22, 2015 by ...

Most of you reading this will probably never buy a Xiaomi, and why would you? With the likes of an IPhone, Nokia or even a Samsung, you are probably quite pleased. For the most part, those handsets are equipped with all that your smartphone needs.

‘But Xiaomi is the next big thing. Their kit is selling the same thing as Apple, but for less,’ you say.

Hmm despite all the hype surrounding Xiaomi phones, I would have to disagree. Sure it’s true that Xiaomi has aped Apple designs and solicited similar suppliers, yet a Xiaomi will always be just a Xiaomi. Comparing them to Apple is putting the cart counties before the horse. In fact, they are not even up to Samsung standards so far. Viewed in this light, comparing them to Apple should be considered libelous.

The logic behind this is obvious. Apple essentially invented smartphones and is miles ahead of the pack. Not only are their designs incredible but the IPhone experience is as well. Samsung makes decent phones which lack in creativity, as did Nokia, prior to the Microsoft issue. Sony probably has a leg up as far as quality goes, but none of the gear mentioned can hold a candle to Apple. Far from an Apple fanboy, I am merely pointing out the obvious.
Unconvinced? Well allow me to explain some more.

Why you will never buy a Xiaomi

Reason 1- user experience
I own a lot of phones. My stable includes Xiaomi, HTC, Gionee and iPhone as well. Previously I was was a Nokia loyalist. That was until smartphones entered my life. I played with everything from Apple to HTC and there is no comparison, in terms of user experience, Apple is a man among boys.

By using a modified version of Android and cribbing Apple look and feel, Xiaomi fails to impress. Simply put, there is not compelling reason to change.

I don’t know what it is about Apple gadgets, but they just feel different. Apple tends to remove the pain of all this by making their phones fun to use. Maybe it’s the aesthetics or perhaps design, but holding an iPhone just tends to feel different. In addition, shooting pics takes on an added dimension when the beautiful results are splashed across the IPhone screen.

If you do not think that Apple has redefined the term ‘experience’ then explain to me why in the world of computers all brands but one are merely called ‘pc’.

As for Xiaomi, it offers a ‘Mi too’ experience which is characteristic of all phones on the market.

Reason 2- ecosystem

Xiaomi has its own ecosystem, but if buying Chinese apps or communist soldier-themed mascots is not your thing, then you will be disappointed. Because of its makeup, Xiaomi phones don’t get along with Googleplay. As a result, you are essentially limited to Xiaomi favored apps. Unless your Mandarin is pretty sharp, most of these will be useless to you. In addition to this, they tend to be China/Asia-centric and find little favor outside the Chinese mainland.

As of yet, Xiaomi’s focus has been squarely on China. Comprising over 90% of their market, this only makes sense. Once they leave, they must up their game, however. This may be more difficult than one might think. User expectations across the globe differ dramatically and simply put, we have been spoiled. We expect our phones to work as promised and don’t want to perform mental gymnastics in figuring out what ‘close the alarm’ means on one’s Xiaomi.

It is easy to conquer a semi-controlled market with the backing of Beijing’s big boys, but quite another to take on free markets. This does not mean that they cannot do so, but as of yet, Xiaomi is more like a Wal-mart than Apple. They sell on the cheap but even more importantly, they have no global focus.

The Apple ecosystem is phenomenal but limited. Due to quality and security concerns, Apple limits what you can do with their phones but what they offer is the best. Take Itunes U, for instance. It’s got a great selection of classes which are pretty similar to Coursera. This is pretty impressive considering that offering education is all that the latter does. Aside from this, Apple included an app which charts steps walked and other metrics, a thing which Xiaomi can only do as an add-on. Comparing them in this realm is little more than a waste of resources which could be better used doing things like play ‘1010’ or ‘HayDay’, for example.

Rather than considering Xiaomi in the same breath as an Apple, one would be better off sticking them on a shelf directly below a Google phone. After all, Google gear is foreigner friendly and has apps that we can all enjoy.

Reason 3- Quality

China is known for quality miscues and Xiaomi is no exception. Last year they lead China in complaints, even though their market share was relatively small. They follow the Chinese maxim of selling on volume and letting quality fend for itself.

Face or image is big in all Asian countries and China in many regards leads the pack. In fact, that 40% of the value of all New Year’s gifts sold here in China is in the packing. In other words, what you actually use comprises little more than one-half the cost of the Chines gift you receive.

In face-centric countries, looks are paramount. They do their best to remove any trace of irregularities on the outside and then concern themselves with the guts.

This seems to be bad news for Xiaomi fans as even in this Xiaomi fails. Sure their phones look great from afar, but closer inspection is telling. Buttons tend to be off center and the screen not flush. The problem is not isolated to their phones but other gear too. My Xiaomi power brick, for example, proudly displays the ‘Xiao’, while the ‘mi’ is barely visible. In the vernacular of a numismatist, this is a mis-strike. Such a thing creates great value in a Buffalo nickel, but concern when buying a phone.

If quality control can miss such a glaring defect in the customer facing-side, then what catastrophes are lurking under the hood? It is not with a little trepidation that I ponder the build integrity of my Xiaomi gear with its off-center bezels and canted USB port. My go to is that it’s easy to crib a design, but harder to steal expertise.

Think of it like this, if you ever bought an iPhone, did you save the box? Of course, you did. Now look at the packaging of any other phone or electronic good you have purchased, can you say the same. The thing is not only functional but looks great too. It sparked the whole ‘unboxing’ phenomenon we have today.

The only feeling I had while unboxing my Xiaomi was pity. The whole thing felt like a low-brow attempt at being something you are not. Just like the cross-eyed little girl with Indian corn hued teeth at Halloween, wearing a Miss America mask does nothing to hide what lies inside.

Reason 4- Why should you?

This may sound flippant but it’s rooted in logic. With all the great cell phones in the world, why should you buy a Xiaomi? It sports a China-focused ecosystem atop a rejiggered Android platform and designed to look like an IPhone. Xiaomi guts are ok, but build integrity is questionable and attention to detail is lacking. With that background, what would compel you to buy one?

Your money your choice

Ultimately you one day may be faced with the gazilllion dollar question, ‘Should I buy that Xiaomi phone?’

Of course, I cannot answer this for you, but provide food for thought. Consider all the great Chinese products you have purchased over the years and distill that into one product and there you have a Xiaomi. An over-hyped product which looks great but definitely does nothing to dispel quality concerns you may have. They source from the best, but the build integrity is all Xiaomi. Attention to detail is of little importance to a firm which has grown from selling 10 million to 60 million units in a matter of years. Xiaomi hopes to outproduce complaints which are sure to follow. Their phones have not been in the market long enough to raise the alarm that they have here in China, but it will only take time. Lei Jun is in a sprint to the billion dollar payoff line and hopes Xiaomi buzz stays positive until he can do so. One day, Xiaomi will pull a Liaoning and list to its side, futilely billowing angry brown smoke. Take it from me, my first Mi-Phone did just that.

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