Xiaomi Corp, the world’s fourth largest smartphone vendor, plans to forge ahead in the higher-end handset segment, in an aggressive bid to grab market share from China’s market leader Huawei Technologies.

“Xiaomi has already dropped price limits… and we will go all out in the high-end market,” said Lei Jun, founder and chief executive of Xiaomi, on social media platform Weibo on Monday.

Founded in 2010 and based in Beijing, Xiaomi Corp is one of the world’s largest Android smartphone suppliers. (Picture: Shutterstock)

The commitment to the high-end market comes after Xiaomi, whose smartphones are mainly priced in the mid to low price range, revealed its latest 5G smartphones, the flagship Mi 10 series, last month via a live-streamed conference amid nationwide restrictions on travel and large gatherings because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Huawei currently has more than an 80% share of China’s high-end smartphone market.

“Xiaomi 10 is the first product to carry the company into the high-end market,” said Lei in a group interview after the product launch. “I think our previous customers were mainly young people… and we now have to put effort into all aspects… to get acceptance for Xiaomi from high-end smartphone users.”

“Oppo and Xiaomi have been growing rapidly in recent years through their differentiated go to market models. However, this is no longer enough and can be easily replicated by the competition,” said Nicole Peng, vice-president of mobility research at Canalys. “The move to the high-end is not merely a pricing strategy but also demonstrates both companies are gaining confidence in their technological know-how… they will face the ultimate test from high-end consumers though who are constantly looking for the full package of user experience.”

Xiaomi’s Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro models began shipping in China last month, starting at 3,999 yuan (about US$570) and 4,999 yuan, respectively. Rival Oppo, meanwhile, recently announced its flagship Find X2 series with a starting price of 5,499 yuan.

“February and March are always intensive months for smartphone makers to ready flagship and high-end products… Everyone has a common question now: Why is the price getting higher and higher?” Xiaomi vice-president Lu Weibing wrote on Weibo. “Today, if you want to make a high-end flagship, you must use the best materials at any cost.”

Xiaomi and its main Android handset rivals, which include Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, had been hoping to boost sales this year with the release of more 5G smartphones, which are compatible with the next-generation mobile infrastructure being rolled out by the country’s three telecommunications carriers.

The coronavirus outbreak, however, has forced the temporary closure of smartphone factories across China, as authorities locked down a number of communities and imposed restrictions on large groups of people gathering in one place.

As a result, research firms have slashed their forecasts for China’s smartphone sales in 2020. Canalys and Strategy Analytics both expect shipments to drop 50% in the first quarter from a year ago, while IDC sees a 30% slide.