Samsung rose from unknown phone brand to market leader in barely a dozen years. With Huawei following in its footsteps, yet another unknown brand, Xiaomi, is also threatening to repeat history, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Once upon a time, about a dozen or so years ago, there was a little up-and-coming smartphone brand called Samsung. It was well-known for its appliances. So, when it announced a new “lifestyle” range of cellphones, many joked that they would be the size of fridges. Instead, Samsung electrified the world with clamshell phones that looked like fashion accessories. Before long, it rolled out messaging phones that were the cutting edge of cool, but went unnoticed by a media that was obsessing over a new smartphone from a company called Apple. Then, suddenly, Samsung was the number one smartphone maker in the world.
Meanwhile, just a few years ago in a galaxy not so far away from there, a little up and coming smartphone brand called Huawei announced it had launched the thinnest smartphone in the world, at half the price of equivalent devices from Samsung and Apple. There was much laughter in the kingdoms of the giants, and from the hip court jesters of tech media. But suddenly, Huawei was the third biggest smartphone maker in the world, and prepared to take its place among the giants.
If it seems like an eternal story that keeps being retold, that’s because it is. In the same way, names that once ruled have been vanquished by newcomers who looked to the future instead of resting in the past. BlackBerry and Nokia had their Kodak moments of glory, and then their Kodak moments of ignominy. None of the wizards or wise men of the courts can tell us which will go next, only that others will follow. And others will rise to greatness.
Now, it is time to tell a new story. Of a name that few outside its homeland can even say correctly. Xiaomi is pronounced “Show me” with the “o” stretched out in a Texan drawl. That may be amusing for critics of a brand that is little known outside its Chinese homeland, but the joke will be on them if they don’t pay attention.
Launched in 2011, it took a mere three years to hit 60-million smartphone sales in a year, mainly through selling high-spec, low-cost phones online in China and India. Briefly, it became the third biggest smartphone maker in the world, before giving up that spot to Huawei. It had a secret weapon up its sleeve, though: the new Redmi brand, launched in 2013. Within three years, it had sold 110-million units. That is more than one phone sold every second. And that is not counting the Mi brand, a wildly popular budget range that takes its name from Mobile Internet and Mission Impossible.
Around a year ago, Xiaomi finally came to Africa, via Johannesburg-based distributor Mobile in Africa (MIA). A few months ago, it brought the Redmi Note 3 into South Africa, positioning it as a viable alternative to the Samsung Note range – at well below half the price of any recent models.
While the self-destruction of Samsung’s Note 7 has left a massive gap in the market for the large-screen Apple iPhone 7 Plus, it has also opened the path to lower cost alternatives. And this is where the Redmi comes into its own. With a 5.5-inch high-definition display, its price point of R3 799 is quite startling, It even beats out its lookalike competitor, the HiSense Infinity Elegance, also a 5.5-inch phone from a Chinese manufacturer. The latter sells for R3 999.
Both have a gold metal design, but the Redmi packs a powerful 4000mAh battery, compared to 3000 mAh on the Elegance. The Redmi also wins in camera quality, with a 16Megapixel rear camera compared to 13MP on the Elegance. This puts its price advantage in full perspective, positioning it as one of the best value-for-money phones on the market.
This didn’t save Xiaomi from seeing its sales plummet globally in the first half of 2016, as nimble new competitors emerged with a mission to out- Xiaomi the previous nimble new competitor.
Last week, however, it came out with guns blazing, with the follow-up to the Redmi Note 3. The Redmi Note 4A was the top-selling smartphone in China on November 11, China’s biggest shopping day, known as “Singles Day” after the two number ones in the date. It claims to have sold no less than one-million of the phones in 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the brand has also opened physical stores across China, making a dramatic departure from its traditional positioning as an online-only brand.
In South Africa, it is sold largely through the mobile networks themselves, while the rest of Africa largely follows the Chinese online model. We can expect to hear a lot more from the brand in the coming year, and consumers may even learn how to say its name.
Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com
This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.
Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.
What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.
However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.
As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.
It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.
The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.
To enter the competition follow the steps below:
Competition entry details:
3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.
4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.
5. The competition is only open to South African residents.
Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist
Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.
Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.
The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela. It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.
“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time. We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”
The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba. It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.
Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.
“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”
This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.