It was the brand that got Xiaomi underway in India in dramatic fashion in July 2014. Three years later, it went on a sabbatical of sorts. So much so that many felt that it would never really make it back to the center stage, not least because its sister brand, Redmi, had emerged as the front runner in its absence. Well, that could change, for Xiaomi says that the Mi brand – the one with which Xiaomi started its India journey (with the Mi 3) – will once again have a significant presence in the country.
This is not to say that the Mi brand has been totally absent from the Indian market. Yes, the phones have largely gone missing – the last Mi flagship to be launched in Indian was the Mi Mix 2 in the second half of 2017 – but the Mi brand has been more seen on televisions, air purifiers, fitness bands, and other products, leaving the phone arena largely to the Redmi series of devices. Indeed, the Android One Mi A series apart, the Mi brand has largely been MIA in the Indian phone market. Pun totally intended.
That is going to change. No, we have no details of exactly which Mi devices will be coming to India this year, but suffice to say that the market will see more Mi phones than in the past. And as per what we have been told, the Mi brand will go back to its original positioning as being the slightly more “elite” than Redmi. It will not cross the line and get into the crazy expensive zone, but like in the past, the Mi range of devices might get slightly better features and design than or features before their Redmi counterparts. This has something we have seen in recent times as well, with the Mi A series sometimes getting slightly better features than the Redmi Note series, in whose vicinity it has often been priced – it got dual cameras and an AMOLED display as well as an in-display fingerprint scanner before the Redmi Note series, for instance. That trend is expected to continue.
Unlike in its initial years when the Mi and Redmi devices had addressed different target segments, this time around their portfolios will “overlap.” The 2014-2016 period had been marked by Mi devices generally occupying the flagship and upper mid-segment space with devices from Redmi being in the affordable range. So for instance, in 2016, the Redmi Note 3 was available starting at Rs 9,999, the Redmi 3S at Rs 6,999 and the Redmi 3 for Rs 7,999, while the Mi 5, Mi Max and Mi 4i were available at higher prices.
However, the period from 2017 to 2019 has been marked by the Redmi range expanding dramatically in India, while the Mi range was limited to the Mi Max 2 (in the second half of 2017) and the Mi A series. Interestingly, this period has also seen the prices of Redmi devices go up and now you actually have the Redmi K20 Pro for Rs 27,999, a zone that was previously occupied by Mi flagships. Incidentally, Xiaomi has not launched its Mi 6, Mi 8 or Mi 9 flagships in India or even the successors of the Mi Mix 2. It is this that is likely to change in 2020 if what we were told is an indication. We have not been told exactly which Mi devices will make it to the Indian market this year, but come they will. We were even shown the Mi Mix Alpha concept device, complete in its all-display glory, although once again we were not told any date or possible price (note: it is likely to be very high if it does come!).
This time around, however, Mi’s range of phones will compete – in some segments at least – with its Redmi siblings. The most notable of these is likely to be the contest in the flagship segment where the likes of the Mi 9 and its successors are likely to go up against the Redmi K20 series and those that follow. And of course, there is likely to be no let-up in the release of Mi devices in other segments such as televisions, air purifiers and the like – there are some even hints being dropped that notebooks could be added to the mix (a mouse is being released shortly if our sources are right).
All of which is excellent news for Indian smartphone users, who will end up getting more options. It will, however, be interesting to observe how Xiaomi manages the Redmi-Xiaomi rivalry/partnership in the country. Interesting times indeed.
And for the record, no, there’s no news about Poco.