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Xiaomi Smartwatch Report: Blazing Path of Dominance

Often called the Apple of China, Xiaomi has made quite the splash in the few years it has been around. Buoyed mostly by rapid market penetration in its Chinese home market, the company has risen rapidly to become the third largest phone maker in the world, behind Samsung and Apple. With the Xiaomi Smartwatch joining the fray, the stakes are rising.

Xiaomi smartwatch price when reviewed: $261.00

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Xiaomi vs Apple & Samsung

With such phenomenal growth, Samsung and Apple have reason to be worried. Xiaomi has managed to create Smartphones as good as the Galaxy S7 and the iPhone but at a fraction of the price. Samsung is especially threatened as Xiaomi is eating into its market share in developing countries such as India and Brazil.

As if disrupting the Smartphone market is not enough, Xiaomi is readying itself to enter the smartwatch arena. This is not the first wearable they will be producing. They already have a Xiaomi smartwatch for kids and a fitness band. In fact, their wearables are doing so well that they have dislodged Apple to become the second biggest wearables vendor behind FitBit.

It will be going up against Samsung’s Gear line and Apple Watch among many other smaller brands such as Garmin. The wrist wearable will be produced in collaboration with Huami, the tech company that manufactured the ultra popular Mi Band.

As early as 2015, there were reports that Xiaomi was studying the possibility of launching its own Smartwatch. The CEO of Huami even announced that it would be available in the second quarter of 2016. In April 2016, the VP and co-founder of Xiaomi, Liu De, confirmed the existence of a Xiaomi Smartwatch but announced that it would be launched in the second half of the year.

The final and surest confirmation of the coming Smartwatch was the addition of a Smartwatch category on Xiaomi’s website. Even though the new watch was not listed, this move is a sure signal that it is in the works.
The biggest question on our minds as we await the big unveiling is whether Xiaomi can really take on Samsung and Apple with its Smartwatch. Remember that the two giant rivals are also releasing new Smartwatches this year; the Samsung Gear S3 and Apple Watch 2.

Will the company bring the Xiaomi smartwatch to the US market and at what price? It will be especially interesting to see whether Apple can surpass Xiaomi in wearables sales. Here is what we know so far regarding the Xiaomi Smartwatch.

Partnership with Huami

Huami has been a long time partner of Xiaomi. The company specializes in manufacturing Xiaomi’s wearables. One of their best performing products was the $22 Mi Band, easily the cheapest fitness tracker in the market. Other wearables they have collaborated on include a kids’ smartwatch that was priced just as cheaply as the Mi Band.

This partnership has already produced splendid results in the past and we expect no less with the Xiaomi Smartwatch.

Design

As competition between smartwatch makers heats up, design has become an increasingly important part of the wearable. Samsung understood this perfectly when they unveiled the Gear S2 with a chic looking round display. Apple opted for a not-so-appealing blocky design with their first go. Maybe they will try something else with the second iteration.

For Xiaomi, it is extremely important that they get the design right. This is their first splash into the smartwatch market and first impressions make all the difference. The design will be even more important if they plan to sell it in the US where it will compete against Apple Watch 2.

There are no concrete reports on which style Xiaomi is angling for but a single (highly untrustworthy) sketch seemed to indicate a rounded display with thick bezel.

But even without these rumors, it is a good bet that Xiaomi will likely go with a round watch face. They are already adept at copying designs off other brands such as the iPhone. They could copy Samsung’s design, tweaking it just enough to make it unique.

There are no reports (or rumors for that matter) on whether the company will provide customization options for the bands. Seems we just have to wait until the official launch later in the year.

Availability in the US/UK Market

Despite its potential to upturn Apple’s hold in the US and UK market, Xiaomi does not seem willing to get into a tug of war yet. It has mostly focused on its home market, where its products have been welcomed positively. It has also entered developing countries where it is threatening dominance of brands such as Samsung and Huawei.

What most people expect is that the Mi Watch (as we expect it to be called) will only be available in China. If they do decide to go beyond there, it could be later and maybe in other countries other than the US and UK.

One reason why there might be a delay in selling the Mi Watch outside China is that Xiaomi takes quite some time to globalize their products. They cater first to their home market before going beyond the borders. If they do decide to sell in the US and UK, either immediately after launch or later, Samsung and Apple will face stiff competition. Xiaomi has developed a knack for creating amazing products and selling them at ridiculously low prices, a major reason for their fast growth.

Expected Features

1. OS

What operating system will the Xiaomi smartwatch run on? This is one of the biggest questions on everyone’s lips. Xiaomi has several options in this regard.

1. Use Android Wear

Ideally, using Android Wear is the best option. The OS comes with big capabilities and plenty of great features and apps. But if the company, as we expect, is focused on its home market it is unlikely that they will use Android Wear.

2. Create a customized version of Android Wear

The other option is to get Google’s permission to create a customized version of Android Wear. This is what they have done with their Mi Smartphones. They run on MIUI, a firmware based on the Android operating system. For the Xiaomi smartwatch, things could go either way.

3. Use a third party operating system

They could also turn to one of several third party operating systems in China. One of the best known is TenCent, which is used in a variety of products including certain Smartphones. While this is a possibility, I do not see Xiaomi surrendering their Smartwatches to another ecosystem. They will want to keep it in-house.

4. Create their own proprietary operating system for the smartwatch, like Samsung’s Tizen

 

The remaining options are either to create a customized version of Android or simply create their own OS. Creating their own OS, though it will give them freedom and control, comes with its own challenges. The biggest challenge is the availability of third party apps. With a whole new OS, you have to create plenty of apps yourself or encourage developers to create apps for it. This could cause a delay in product uptake. Additionally, a proprietary OS is unlikely to be as good as Android Wear, which could lower user experience.

The biggest challenge will materialize if Xiaomi decides to expand beyond China into the US and UK, where Android Wear is well established and Apple’s WatchOS is set to get dominant.

2. Apps and capabilities

Smartwatches are still in their infancy. Their functionality still very much limited compared to full featured Smartphones. In the early days of their emergence, they were a big headache to use. While they have certainly gotten better over time, there is a long way yet to go before they stop feeling like a strange novelty.

A big part of this progress is having enough apps available for Smartwatch users, one of the biggest challenges facing Xiaomi’s new venture. The number and quality of apps will determine how functional the wearable actually is.

Even without any leaks, there are certain basic features we can expect. Users will be able to receive text, call and email alerts and respond with quick texts. Users will also be able to listen to music, either streamed via Bluetooth from the phone or stored in the device’s internal memory. You should also expect various fitness features such as heartbeat readings and measurement of workout activities.

Xiaomi could also collaborate with other companies to provide a few other apps to complement the device’s existing features. This is what Samsung did with Gear S2 and what we expect them to do with the Gear S3 to be released later in the year.

Most reports suggest that the Mi Watch will not use Android wear, providing an even bigger challenge in creating apps that ensure the Xiaomi smartwatch is not just an expensive paperweight.

3. Compatibility

This is another area with scant reports or rumors, all we have are educated guesses. It is obvious that the Mi Watch will be compatible with Mi Phones. This will expand Xioami’s already large ecosystem, especially if the company uses a version of the OS it has on its phones. The question among many people is whether compatibility will be possible with other phones, especially those running Android.

Again, this comes down to whether the Xiaomi Smartwatch will leave the Chinese market. If they do decide to focus on the home market, there will not be much incentive to provide compatibility to Smartphones outside their ecosystem. In fact, they can opt to limit compatibility to their own phones in an effort to increase uptake of the smartwatch.

If they decide to venture into the US/UK markets, they will have no choice but to provide compatibility with Android-run Smartphones.

Either way, we are sure of one thing; the will be no compatibility whatsoever with iPhones. There is no way Apple, with its own Smartwatch to sell, would agree to such a deal.

4. Variants

Will Xiaomi unveil a single smartwatch or will there be a number of variants? Most smartwatch sellers including Apple and Samsung opt to provide several variants. This ensures that they cater to a large portion of the market, from those with tight budgets to those who do not mind spending on luxury products.

This is the most likely route Xiaomi will take when it raises the veil on the Mi Watch later this year. Variants could be based on price, features or design. If the watch comes to the US, some of models could be carrier-specific while others will come unlocked.

Xiaomi Smartwatch Price

At this point, it is beyond doubt that a Xiaomi smartwatch is on the way and will arrive soon. Now, a lot of interest is heating up around the price details. Xiaomi has a reputation for setting very low price points without sacrificing product quality. The Mi Band is only $22, the Kids’ smart watch (Mi Bunny) is only $46 and the iPhone-like Mi 5 starts at $260. This is one of the major reasons why the company has taken off so quickly in just a few short years, creating a big threat to established sellers like Samsung.

Many people are now wondering whether Xiaomi can pull of the same thing with the Xiaomi Smartwatch. There is even speculation that they could produce a smartwatch that sells for under $100. If it goes above that, it is unlikely to pass the $200 mark.

A great low-cost Xiaomi smartwatch could be what disrupts the smartwatch market and Xiaomi could be the one to disrupt it. They know how to create great products and are able to keep them low priced. This has proven to be a wildly successful formula in China. If the smartwatch ever comes to the US, it could prove just as successful to the detriment of Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, Garmen and other smartwatch vendors.

Release Date

In April, while confirming plans to introduce a Smartwatch, the VP and co-founder of Xiami stated that it would be available in the second half of 2016. This could be anywhere from July to November or December.
Incidentally, most other companies are also planning their own smartwatch releases around this time. Apple Watch 2 and Samsung Gear S3 are expected to launch in November.

2016 is proving to be an interesting year for the wearables industry, with companies shoving to become the dominant force. With Xiaomi poised to join the fray, the stakes have gone higher.

Final Words

Not long ago, Xiaomi was a shadowy company known only in China. In just a short time they have earned the moniker, the “Apple of China”. They have lived up to that name with their Smartphones, can they do the same with a smartwatch?

Let’s wait and see.

Do you think the Mi Watch could be as good or even better than Smartwatches from Samsung and Apple? Leave your comment below.

Title image credit: techfactslive.com

Xiaomi smartwatch price when reviewed: $261.00

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