2020 was a great year for Xiaomi. Not only did it breakthrough into the third-place globally for smartphone shipments, but overseas sales now contribute 55% to the companyâ€™s bottom line. This bodes very well for the brandâ€™s global strategy entering 2021.
Xiaomi also took a much stronger focus on the premium end of the market. Stellar phones like the Mi 10, Mi 10 Pro, and the Mi 10T, made its devices legitimate competition for current incumbents like Samsung. In fact, while the South Korean manufacturer inched towards the value flagship segment with its own excellent Galaxy S20 FE, Xiaomi took a sure step towards the premium.
In India, Xiaomi is distancing itself from being just an entry-level segment player by spinning off Redmi into its own entity. Meanwhile, Poco, yet another Xiaomi subsidiary, reinvented itself as a separate brand.
Suffice it to say that the brand had a lot going on for it in 2020, and this paid dividends in its growing market share. However, maintaining momentum is equally important. Strong competition is bound to bring its own challenges. Hereâ€™s what we want to see from Xiaomi in 2021.
Read our other 2021 wishlists:
1. A more cohesive brand identity
In 2020, Xiaomi distanced itself from the budget player image it had inadvertently cultivated over the years. While the Redmi series remains the bread and butter of the brand, Xiaomi released a series of hits in the Mi 10 series of phones. However, itâ€™s a long way to the top. Especially in India, the manufacturer has its work cut out for it.
Unlike European markets, Xiaomiâ€™s budget phones in India and China ship with an ever-increasing loadout of third party apps. Now, I get the reasoning for this. Pre-loaded apps and interstitial ads help offset hardware costs and allow them to hit those appealing price points.
With the average selling price of smartphones in India hovering around Rs. 11,500 in India, this is the experience that most Xiaomi buyers are used to. However, it sets a bad precedent for higher-end Xiaomi phones that do not have any ads. While positive consumer sentiment for the Mi 10 series suggests that Xiaomi is gradually changing mindsets, it could do a much better job of conveying the right message for its high-end smartphones. This is necessary if it wants to truly stand out against brands like OnePlus.
This brings me to Poco. Despite being spun off into its own entity, the brand has issued a curious mix of rebranded Redmi products and the one-off original design. This mixed-signaling does little to build brand confidence. It is also detrimental to building a unique brand identity. Poco needs a series of original hits backed by its unique flavor of ad-free MIUI to have an impact.
Elsewhere, the Redmi K series has languished in India with no new release since the K20 Pro in 2019. Incidentally, the Chinese Redmi K30 Pro got rebranded to the Poco F2 Pro. This brings us back to the lack of a well-differentiated brand identity. Definite room for improvement there.
2. A leaner portfolio
Tying into the entire issue of mixed signaling is Xiaomiâ€™s constant rehashing of phones with minor variations. The company released as many as eight variants in the Redmi 9 series in 2020 and added another this week. Sure, some of them were more alike than others, but a cluttered product portfolio does not help the customer.
A leaner portfolio with a more focused approach towards product differentiation would serve the brand well going into 2021.
3. Reduced bloatware
Xiaomiâ€™s Redmi lineup has been extremely successful on the back of its exceptional value proposition. However, a common thread amongst the hardware line-up is the presence of just a bit too much bloat. This problem is exacerbated in markets like India. There, the company doubles down on the third-party additions and incessant advertising.
When notification spam gets detrimental to the user experience, it might be time to reconsider the brand strategy.
Software partnerships and associated advertising are essential to hitting the rock-bottom prices Xiaomi achieves with the Redmi line-up. However, when the pop-ups get to a point that they are detrimental to the user experience, perhaps it is time to reconsider the strategy.
Read more: How to remove ads from MIUI
The company has taken steps towards allowing most of these apps to be removed. Nevertheless, I wouldnâ€™t mind a one-click switch to remove pre-loaded applications. It might be expecting too much from the brand to offer a slightly higher priced SKU without the advertisements. An in-software purchase that offers a clean slate might be the solution itâ€™s looking for.
4. Expand the ecosystem
Xiaomi has a formidable ecosystem portfolio of products in China. From instant translators to keyboards, and even rice cookers, the company has made investments into hundreds of portfolio brands. That has allowed it to cultivate an array of products that would surprise you. If youâ€™re curious about some of the more â€˜out thereâ€™ products, weâ€™ve got a list of some of the most interesting products made by Xiaomi.
In India, the company is already the largest smart television vendor. It has even dipped its toes into the competitive value laptop segment. Elsewhere, the companyâ€™s Mi Band portfolio has long been a fast seller. In the US, the company has a select offering of audio products, streaming boxes, and more.
Going forward, Iâ€™d like to see more of the companyâ€™s ecosystem portfolio available globally. Xiaomi has already dabbled in the crowdfunding model for products like the Mi Robot Vacuum Mop P. The Share Save platform was also an interesting foray towards making products available to a wider audience.
Bringing this to global markets could be an effective way to test the waters before a widespread category launch. In fact, with brands like Huawei increasing their focus on an ecosystem beyond just phones, a wider release of these products could help Xiaomi get a leg up on the competition in 2021.
5. Foldable future
Xiaomi has long been rumored to be working on not one, but three different foldable devices. Among them is the canceled Mi Mix Alpha which had a unique take on foldables with its wrap-around screen. There also was an early prototype shown off way back in 2019, and a bevy of patents. It is clear that the company has been dabbling in a range of foldable smartphones.
Between Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei doubling down on a foldable future, it is only a matter of time that we see Xiaomi enter the mix.
A recent rumor suggests that Xiaomi is finally getting ready to enter the market with not just one, but all three varieties of foldable phones â€” in-folding, out-folding, and a clamshell.
While it remains to be seen if Xiaomi will try to commoditize foldable smartphones as it has with its well-priced flagships, the phones would be a clear fit in its upward trajectory into the premium segment.
You tell us: What do you want to see from Xiaomi in 2021?
What would you like to see from Xiaomi in 2021? Let us know via the poll below. You can also add your own thoughts via the comments section.