Xiaomi might release a Mi phone in the U.S., but not until 2019

When Xiaomi unveiled the Mi6 last week, notably absent was any mention of a U.S. release. While the China-based company launched its first stateside product late last year, the Android TV-based Mi Box, it has yet to debut a handset for the U.S. market. But Xiaomi isn’t giving up on the dream.

Xiaomi’s senior vice president of strategic cooperation Wang Xiang said in an interview with CNet that the company is taking its time with its global expansion, despite recent hints that it was attempting to break into the U.S. sooner than later. He told the publication that Xiaomi is hoping to launch its first handset “in two years, if not sooner,” so it would seem that U.S. buyers will have to wait until the Mi8 to get their hands on one.

Xiaomi’s former global head, Hugo Barra, had teased a more ambitious plan for the company’s expansion, but after a splashy event at CES this year, Xiaomi still found itself on the outside of the U.S. market looking in. Other Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE have had limited success with U.S. releases, but partnering with carriers has proven to be a big barrier to availability.

However, Xiaomi may be further along than they are letting on. Last year, Barra suggested that the Mi5 was already being tested on U.S. networks, but it’s unclear how official they were. Overseas phones operate on a different band than U.S. carriers, so manufacturers need to pass a series of lab tests before they can be offered for sale through AT&T or T-Mobile stores.

At any rate, Xiaomi is clearly interested in becoming a larger player in the increasingly crowded smartphone game. As Wang said, “We don’t want to make a random decision, oh say, here’s the Mi 6, let’s try the US market, if it doesn’t work let’s just leave,” Wang said. “No, we want to be well prepared and make a boom in those markets.”

Xiaomi, don’t tell me: The U.S. market is the toughest nut to crack for China-based phone makers, so we won’t be surprised if we never see a Xiaomi handset. While the company is taking the right approach by biding its time and exploring all options, the fact remains that none of its mainland competitors have been able to hit on a winning formula for success, especially for higher-end handsets. Part of it is the tremendous competition from Apple and Samsung, but there’s also the carrier compliance. Unlocked phones may be nice, but if they aren’t being sold by the major carriers, adoption is that much more difficult. Still, we’d love to see a Xiaomi phone work on U.S. networks, even if we have to wait until the Mi8.

IDG Insider


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