Xiaomi steals the show with launch of 'iPhone 8 killer' on eve of release of Apple's 10th anniversary model

An attendee holds the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 smartphone during a launch event in Beijing, China, on Sept 11, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
A Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 smartphone sits on display during a launch event in Beijing, on Sept 11, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING - Chinese phone-maker Xiaomi has unveiled its most expensive device - Mi Mix 2 - on the eve of the widely anticipated release of Apple's 10th anniversary model.

Xiaomi's latest model, unveiled in Beijing on Sept 11, features an all-screen design that shares some characteristics with Apple's premium model, the iPhone X.

The Mi Mix 2 has an all-ceramic "unibody" design by Philippe Starck and comes with a full-screen display that retails for 4,699 yuan (S$969.40). A variant retails between 3,299 yuan and 3,999 yuan, reported Chinese media.

"We're always striving to provide consumers with better products at cheaper prices" all the time, the Beijing-based company's founder and chief executive Lei Jun said on Monday.

It will be available in China from Sept 15 and will make its way to selected global markets at a later date, according to Xinhua news agency.

Apple plans to unveil on Sept 12 three iPhones, including two that are upgrades to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus called the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus and a premium model called the iPhone X.

The new "iPhone 8" is tipped to have a price tag upward of US$1,000 (S$1,346.80), compared with less than US$800 for the top-end iPhone 7 Plus. That is unlikely to make a major dent in US sales, analysts say, but could have a greater impact in the world's biggest smartphone market, where the cost is roughly double the average Chinese monthly salary.

Xiaomi's new Mi Mix 2 model is smaller in size than the company's first full-screen display smartphone the Mi Mix, which has a 17:9 aspect ratio screen. The Mi Mix 2 has a 18:9 full screen display, making the screen look like it almost entirely fills the front surface.

The updated version also has a hidden speaker and a stronger ultrasonic proximity sensor.

Supported by 43 networks, the Mi Mix 2 can be used almost anywhere in the world, making it convenient for travellers who often use different networks, according to Xinhua.

Mr Lei Jun, chief executive officer of Xiaomi, speaks during the launch of the company's Mi Mix 2 smartphone in Beijing, on Sept 11, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post said the release of Xiaomi's latest smartphone model marked the company's progress up the value chain. Xiaomi's smartphones outsold Apple Inc in China during the second quarter of this year.

The success of Apple's next iPhone in China is crucial for the Cupertino-based firm, which has seen its once-coveted phone slip into fifth position in China behind offerings from local rivals Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi Inc.

Greater China, which for Apple includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, accounted for roughly 18 per cent of iPhone sales in the quarter ended in July, making it the company's top market after the United States and Europe, according to a Reuters report.

Attendees look at the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 smartphone during a launch event in Beijing, on Sept 11, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Yet those sales have been declining steadily and are down 10 per cent from a year earlier, in contrast with growth in all other regions. And the iPhone's share of China's smartphone shipments fell to 9 per cent in January-June, down from 14 per cent in 2015, showed data from consultancy Counterpoint Research. While the iPhone 6 took China by storm in 2014, models since have received a more muted response.

Mentions of "iPhone 8" on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo - an indicator of consumer interest - were running slightly ahead of the similar period before the iPhone 7 launch, but were far more muted than with the iPhone 6, reported Reuters.

Besides Xiaomi, the US company must also fight off competition from Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, all of which are releasing Android-based devices at cheaper prices, but with comparable, if not better, hardware specifications, reported SCMP.

Attendees look at the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 smartphone during a launch event in Beijing, on Sept 11, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Huawei, the world's largest manufacturer of network and phone hardware equipment, surpassed Apple as the world's second-largest seller of smartphones by shipment in June and July for the first time, according to report by Counterpoint Technology Market Research. August also looked like a good month for the Chinese company, analysts said.

"Chinese players such as Xiaomi and Huawei have become increasingly competitive in the high-end price range between 3,000 yuan and 4,000 yuan, that is in line with their effort to shed their old cheap image and Chinese consumers' demands for better quality products, " Jin Di, research manager with IDC China, was quoted as saying by SCMP.

Samsung, the world's largest smartphone brand, recently launched its own trio of well-received phones, the Note 8, Galaxy S8, and Galaxy S8+. The company on Tuesday (Sept 12) said pre-orders for its Galaxy Note 8 premium smartphone have hit the highest-ever for the Note series, beating its predecessor Note 7 over five days by about 2.5 times.

Google is expected to announce new versions of its Pixel phones in October, reported Washington Post.

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