Xiaomi smartphones could make official US debut this year
Just four years ago, a Xiaomi executive was asked whether the company needed to sell phones in the US. The answer? “Frankly, we don’t.”
Xiaomi already sells a number of products in the US -- like cameras and fitness trackers -- through its own online stores, as well as Amazon and Walmart. But selling smartphones will present a whole new set of challenges.
The main one? Finding a carrier to partner with, in a country where 90% of all smartphones are sold through carriers.
Huawei stumbled earlier this year when both AT&T and Verizon scrapped plans to sell its phones, forcing them to sell smartphones without a contract -- meaning that even with discounts, Huawei’s handsets cost vastly more to consumers than their competitors.
On the other hand, ZTE -- which has partnered with AT&T and Sprint -- is currently the fourth biggest smartphone brand in the US.
Another potential roadblock for Xiaomi: Scrutiny from government officials. US spy chiefs have recently expressed their doubts about letting Americans buy smartphones made by Chinese companies.