Chinese upstart phone maker Xiaomi debuted a new smartphone today, the Android Lollipop-based Mi 4i, which will be sold exclusively in the Indian market.
The announcement event took place in New Delhi, where Xiaomi’s vice president of international, Hugo Barra, made the big reveal live. This was the company’s first major launch outside of China.
The dual-SIM Mi 4i comes in five colors and, at 12,999 rupees ($205), is a less expensive version of Xiaomi’s deluxe Mi 4 smartphone, which was released last year starting at 19,999 rupees ($315), though this was recently lowered to 17,999 rupees ($285).
The Mi 4i features a 5-inch full HD (1080p) screen that sports a new “sunlight display,” which the company said makes it much easier to view outside in bright daylight. It also has a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, and a pretty impressive 3120mAh battery which Xiaomi said will run for 1.5 days under “normal” use. It charges up to 40 percent in an hour, and gets to full juice in three hours, according to the company.
The phone is powered by a second-generation 1.65GHz octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor — a slight step down from the Snapdragon 801 chipset that powered the Mi 4. Also, it’s worth noting that while the Mi 4 has 3GB of RAM, the Mi 4i has just 2GB.
The MIUI 6 user interface that runs on the phone is based on Android 5.0.2. That’s a step up from the MIUI 6 interface on the Mi 4, which is based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat. MIUI (pronounced “Me You I,” a play on “UI,” the common abbreviation of the words “user interface”) is an aftermarket firmware platform based on Android.
The debut of the Mi 4i signifies a serious push into India by Xiaomi — India is the third-largest smartphone market in the world, behind China and the U.S.
Xiaomi debuted in India last year, and has been setting up “experience stores” across India so that consumers can get a feel for the phones and the company. Like Apple Stores, Xiaomi’s stores have phone experts to help with support and repairs.
Xiaomi will be competing with market leaders Micromax, which currently sells 22 percent of the smartphones in India, and Samsung, which has a 20 percent market share.
The Indian market, which is also the fastest-growing smartphone market in the world, is keen on low-priced phones. That’s what Micromax and Samsung sell there, and that’s why Xiaomi is offering a down-market phone on its Indian debut. Apple, with its premium phones, ranks eighth by units sold in India.
Though the Mi 4i is a lower-end phone than the Mi 4, it still packs a bunch of higher-end specs, so it should go down well in India. It’s open now for presale registrations, but won’t go on sale properly until April 30.