In China’s massive mobile market, where international companies have often failed to gain steam amid a crop of beloved local competitors, there’s a brand new leader in town.
Four-year-old Xiaomi, little known outside of Asia, has superseded Samsung to become the country’s top smartphone vendor, according to new findings from technology research firm Canalys.
Additionally, eight of China’s top 10 vendors are Chinese, illustrating the world’s largest smartphone market’s decidedly homespun affinities. The only international vendors on the list are Samsung and Apple.
Xiaomi’s swift assent, however, has less to do with bottom-barrel pricing than an innovative marketing strategy that has resonated deeply with local audiences, Canalys analyst Chris Jones told The New York Times.
For its progressive branding prowess, the company has even been called the “Apple of the East” by the Chinese media, which often likens Xiaomi’s CEO, Lei Jun, to Steve Jobs.
(Jun, a self-professed Apple admirer, has even been known to dress like Jobs at product presentations -- complete with black top, blue jeans and sneakers.)
Xiaomi’s many unique initiatives include Miui, a crowd sourced version of Android software that its own customers help to create and for which new versions are released every Friday.
The company also regularly hosts “festivals” to show appreciation for its customers, reports the Times.
Competitive pricing and strategic hiring have also helped Xiaomi expand its reach. While the company sells its phones roughly at cost, the majority of its earnings come from sales of apps, games, Android themes and Internet services.
Additionally, Jun poached Google’s top Android exec, Hugo Barra, last year, who has “used his industry clout to help Xiaomi for new partnerships with carriers and expand into other markets,” according to the Times.