Today's the day people, the day Xiaomi extends its European operations and brings its phone to the UK. Officially anyway, meaning you don't need to go to a possibly-sketchy importer to get yourself one of the company's low-cost handsets. Here's everything we know about the launch, and where you can get a Xiaomi phone.
It's pronounced 'Shao-me'
Shao that rhymes with how. It's not pronounced show-me, rhyming with know. Now you know, and can look smart in front of all your friends.
The First Mi Store Opens on 18th November
While Xiaomi originally announced the Mi Store would open on the 10th November, it's now been confirmed it will open on Sunday 18th at Westfield shopping centre in London. It's the first authorised Mi Store in the UK, and while the company has partnered with other retailers this will be the go-to place for all things in Xiaomi's Mi- ecosystem.
No word on whether the company will expand its retail ambitions, but if things go well you can be sure more of these will be popping up.
A Bunch of Stuff Has Been Confirmed for Us
It would be easy for Xiaomi to kick off its UK launch with a single phone, but with an entire store to fill there are plenty of devices heading our way. The main one is the Mi 8 Pro, a flagship device with a price starting at £499.
It comes with a 6.21-inch full screen AMOLED display with FHD+ resolution, a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a pressure-sensitive in-display fingerprint sensor, a 3,000 mAh battery, Qualcomm QuickCharge 4, DualSIM, Bluetooth 5, USB-C, a 20MP front camera with f/2.0, a dual 12MP rear camera array with f/1.8, 2x optical zoom, AI, portrait mode, and HDR. There's no microSD card slot or headphone jack, however, and Face Unlock will be added as an OTA update in the near future.
There's also the regular Mi 8, which is coming to Three, that is mostly the same but with a few small differences. The battery is bigger at 3,400 mAh, and it has a rear-mounted physical fingerprint scanner instead of the futurey in-display sensor. Both run on Android Ore (8.1) for some reason.
A Mi 8 Lite has also been announced, though it's not entirely clear when that will hit the UK. Soon, according to Xiaomi. It has a 6.29-inch FHD+ display, a Snapdragon 660 chipset, a 24MP front camera, a 12MP and 5MP dual camera array, HDR, portrait mode, a 3,350 mAh battery, Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3, Dual SIM, Bluetooth 5, and USB-C. Two models are available, one with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and another with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Both have microSD expansion up to 256GB, no headphone jack, and like the Pro Face Unlock will be coming in the near future.
We also have the ultra-cheap RedMi 6A, with prices starting at a ludicrous £99. That comes with a 5.4-inch 720p display, a 3,000 mAh battery, a 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera (both with portrait mode), a MediaTek Helio A22 SoC chipset, 32GB of storage, microSD expansion, and a headphone jack.
On a non-phone side of things we have the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, complete with an OLED touchscreen, a heart rate monitor, 20 day battery life, and 50 metre water resistance which will be available for £27. It will be available from 9th November from Amazon, Mi.com, Three, ebuyer.com, SCAN, buyitdirect, Box, Currys/PC World, and Carphone Warehouse. It'll hit the physical Mi Store on 18th November.
Finally there's the Mi Electric Scooter, which costs £399. It can travel 30km on a single charge, offers regenerative braking, has an LED headlight, and has a companion app that can be used as a dashboard.
Pricing is Going to be Kept Low
One of the things Xiaomi is known for is the fact that it sells its phones for absurdly low prices. Which is great, because who wouldn't want amazing specs for a low price? The good news is that the company plans on keeping the prices as low as humanly possible, though it's been confirmed that they won't be as cheap as they are in China and India.
That's purely down to logistics. Obviously the cost of getting the phones here from the factories in Asia is one factor to consider, as is the fact we pay more in VAT/sales tax than some of the other countries Xiaomi has an established presence in. That said, Xiaomi's rule is that they don't earn more than five per cent markup on devices, they also don't do celebrity endorsement and limit their advertising - all of which deliberately keep their costs down.
Xiaomi primarily sees itself as a software company, and earns most of its money from revenue sharing schemes in its software products. Much like how Apple and Google earn a slice of money every time you buy something from their respective app stores, including subscriptions, media, and so on. Having a Xiaomi phone gets you in the ecosystem to spend money on its own services, which is why they're able to sell them off so cheaply.
Xiaomi Has Partnered With Three
If you want to get your Xiaomi phone on contract, it's been announced that the company has partnered with Three. That means Xiaomi phones will be available from 327 Three shops up and down the country, as well as the network's online store. They go on sale tomorrow (9th November).
When Three initially announced the partnership in May it said would have an exclusive on Xiaomi's phones, but the more recent confirmation said it would be the "first UK network" to stock Xiaomi products. That suggests other networks may be coming, but until the announcements are made it's safe to assume it's going to be Three-only for the foreseeable future. Of course Xiaomi will be selling directly to customers if they want an unlocked device, but it's not clear whether they're trying to court other networks.
That said, Xiaomi has confirmed the Mi 8 Pro will also be available from Amazon, Argos, John Lewis, Carphone Warehouse, Currys PC World, Very, gomobile, mobile phones direct, Katana, as well as the Mi.com website. So it's not like you have any shortage of places to go and pick one up.
More Products are Coming
Xiaomi is more than just a phone company, and has invested in a wide-range of businesses that produce various seemingly-random products that bear the Xiaomi name. Devices include things like scooters, suitcases, battery packs, and so on. The company itself primarily focuses on phones/tablets, laptops, networking products, and TVs, but invests a large number of independent companies that produce the other Xiaomi branded products.
It's not clear which Xiaomi products will make it here yet, but the fact is the company is just starting up its official UK presence. That means it's going to take some time before it local presence comes close to the level it is in the likes of China or India. For now this is a good start.