Mangled English, Xiaomi Not Ready for Prime Time

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June 29, 2015 by ...

Screen grabs show why Xiaomi is still a China-specific player. 

Do those words look like English to you?   
After setting my Mi to ‘English’, this is what my Mi looks like. As you can see, I’m left with a grab bag of English properties sprinkled with Chinese apps. Not surprisingly, ‘wechat’, a future phenom is one of the few Chinese to get it right. 


Can’t even translate the ‘money making Mi store?’

What is odd is how the Xiaomi app is in perfect Mandarin. It is the Orange button which looks like skank. Aesthetics aside, Lei Jun should be more serious about the user experience. Why waste real estate with objects I cannot use?

Not known for originality, this is one piece of IOS that China’s ‘Apple’ could have riffed. Getting the language component right is a low cost -high reward proposition. When I set up my Samsung, Nokia, Sony and Apple successfully, I need not worry about errant programs in Korean, Finnish, Japanese or the Queen’s English.

Just good enough to be second rate

No, those companies know what it means to keep us happy, Xiaomi, on the other hand, is stuck in command-economy mode. They produce things which are ‘just good enough’ , but never rise above.

Sure their kit has good specs, but Xiaomi phones are notorious for conking out at the one year mark. They know that irrespective of what you may have heard, Chinese are not the most demanding consumers. The communist party still dictates what gets sold, and the playing field is not level. Chinese firms with questionable quality thrive because Beijing keeps out the competition.

Chinese consumers take what they can get

As a consequence, many Chinese take what’s tossed at them and Xiaomi plays to this group. This creates industries filled with companies catering to the lowest common denominator of quality, and that is a pretty low bar. 

 Returning to this:

Xiaomi handicaps it’s cash cow

Xiaomi claims they are an ‘internet company’ and make nothing on phones. They take in cash from apps and the Xiaomi site. 

If this is true, then why kneecap the Xiaomi store? That is the mud orange icon front and center. The least they could do was to translate that goop into English. It is their cash cow, right?

Why give me a phone, which is merely a platform to purchase from, and force me to be fluent in Mandarin or ignore the money making app all together? 

Wouldn’t it make sense that if the handset was created to drive sales and those sales are made via the Xiaomi store, that at a minimum I could browse their wares? But of course you cannot. 

Even worse is that if you are lucky enough to figure out that this button activates the Xiaomi store: 

Then you are faced with this:

Mandarin mish-mash

Common sense tells you what you’re buying, but not much else. Navigating hieroglyphics is not what I had in mind when I set my Mi 4 to communicate with me in English.  This is even a more terrifying prospect should I see something I wish to buy and then click to purchase. Doing so throws me into this den of inequity:

If I want to buy, I’m faced with two choices-be one hell a guessed or give up.  Yeah, not the most user friendly device out there, is it?

Get it right or stay home…

All-in-all, the Xiaomi experience shows that the firm isn’t ready to compete abroad. I live in China and bought from their website so the phone is not a fake.  I turned the settings to English, and was ‘fortunate’ to find that one-half the icons obeyed this diktat. 

Buying from the major players never presented me with such a dilemma. Knowing I’m not fluent in Korean, Samsung serves up options which my language skills enable me to utilize, they are in perfect English, Sony and LG, they all do the same. In fact, only my Gionee Elife and Xiaomi have forced me to play the, ‘Hey let’s hit this button and see what it does,’ game. Unfortunately Chinese vendors do.

Apologists would call it part of growing pains, but as for me it’s sloth. Chinese learn English from grade school on, it’s mandatory. I would like to believe they could cook up proper English, but know better. But at least they could try. My Gionee does so:

Ok I have no idea what ‘revert’ and ‘save’ have to do with my wi fi settings, but at least it’s in English. To me this shows that they care. Perhaps they are too miserly to consult native speakers on the verbiage, but nouns and verbs are things I can figure out, Chinese characters on the other hand, are not. 



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