Xiaomi Mi 3 comes to India: Will Micromax and Co hit panic button?

Xiaomi is a major force to reckon with in China, as many brands have found to their detriment. However, it’s only now taking baby steps outside of its home country and one of the first few landings has been in India.


Xiaomi brought its flagship Mi 3 to India today at a scarcely-believable Rs 13,999. With a Snapdragon 800 on board, this is by far the cheapest high-end phone in the market, making it competition for the likes of Nexus 5, Galaxy S4, Xperia Z at nearly half the price. But the big targets, the ones who should be really scared are the Indian phone makers. In addition to the Mi 3, the company also announced the pricing of the Redmi 1S and Redmi Note, priced at Rs 6,999 and Rs 9,999 respectively.


While the Nexus 5 is a direct specs competitor, we don’t feel the Google-blessed phone is under any serious threat. For example, when Android L becomes available, the Nexus 5 will be running that version of the OS, while others still hang on for it to roll out. That’s one of the crucial benefits of Nexus 5, which is hard to top, especially for users who like to live on the bleeding edge.


However, Indian brands have reason to worry. The likes of Micromax, Karbonn and Lava have had a tough time in the market, despite quite a few noteworthy launches. That’s down to a surfeit of new brands in the market. While Motorola is not new, it made the biggest splash with the Flipkart exclusive launches of Moto G and Moto E. Oppo, Gionee, Huawei and other Chinese brands have also launched competitively-priced phones, which has definitely added bite to the market, that was largely a Samsung-or-Micromax affair.


With the Mi 3, Xiaomi has one-upped its Chinese counterparts and poses further threat to the Indian brigade on more than just the price front.


Xiaomi has got quite a few things right with the Mi 3 besides the price. Firstly, it’s offering a highly differentiated UI experience, the kind which Oppo and Gionee have tried to ape. But MIUI has a huge development community and lots of resources and tools that make it a veritable contender against TouchWiz and Sense. In comparison, Indian brands offer a version of stock Android with some minor changes to the UI. It’s not as well differentiated as MIUI.


Secondly, the company has addressed the oft-seen poor build quality in this price point as well. The Mi 3 looks sturdily built using a magnesium alloy frame coated in thermal graphite film. In addition, Xiaomi claims 120 laser-cut cutouts for the speaker grille and a metal-reinforced USB port. In fact, it’s distinctly better looking than any other offering at this price point, including the Moto G, which we believe has the best build quality in the mid-range segment.


Xiaomi has really thrown a big challenge to Indian manufacturers and it’s not just because of the price. But the biggest proof of whether it has managed to become a force will come on July 15, when the Mi 3 goes up on sale. Will India show the same voracious appetite as China for Xiaomi?

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