Welcome to the first issue of Ends of the Extreme, a series where we compare extremities in the smartphone market.
For this issue we take a look at why some smartphones sell out within seconds of their launch and why others end up collecting dust.
Xiaomi. Heard the name? It’s a relatively new company and a rising new star in the smartphone industry. Since its founding in April 2010, the company has risen from the mediocre ranks of Chinese smartphone makers, and is now seen as the “Apple of China”.
Yes, this Chinese brand has converted many diehard Chinese Jobs worshippers to the Android army, and it all has to do with their insanely low prices, gorgeous design, and great software.
In fact, former Vice-President of Android product management Hugo Barra moved over to Xiaomi in August 2013. It can be seen that they’re getting a lot of international attention, and they’ve been expanding internationally too.
Just last month, Xiaomi expanded into Singapore, its first base in the Southeast Asia region. Its Xiaomi Redmi smartphone (read more about it here), providing Moto G-like specs for SGD$169 (that’s about USD$130) off contract sold out within 8 minutes of its online launch. A week later, a new batch of Redmis sold out in 6 minutes.
Xiaomi then brought in the Mi3, which is basically a LG G2 going for SGD$419 (that’s about USD$325) off contract. Now that sold out in just 2 minutes. (Read more about the Mi3 here)
On the other side of the world though, things are a little different. Apple apparently has trouble selling its iPhone 5c. According to GSMArena, Apple’s stockpile of it has reached over 3 million units, 2 million of which are in Pegatron, the Taiwanese manufacturer of the 5c, while the rest are sitting sadly in shelves of stores all around the globe, waiting for someone to take them home.
So why the extremes?
Simple. Xiaomi is able to charge phones with great specs for half the price of their competitors because they’re a Chinese company. Everything gets done in China, keeping production costs down. And that’s how they get away with selling a G2 for half the price. Whereas for other smartphone companies such as Apple, they have to hire a Chinese manufacturer to do it (Foxconn or Pegatron).
The 5c in particular is selling extremely badly for a number of reasons. It’s only $100 cheaper than the 5s (which is vastly superior) for specs similar to the iPhone 5, which is 2012 hardware. Not only is it the same as the iPhone 5 in terms of internals, but in terms of externals, it’s worse due to the fact that it’s made of plastic.
Personally, I’d rather get myself an iPhone 5 than the cheap-looking 5c. That and the fact that many people prefer the premium metallic black/white of the 5 to the colourful shells of the 5c.
We have our doubts too. When the Xiaomi Redmi sold out within 8 and 6 minutes respectively, we questioned the number of units that Xiaomi had imported to Singapore. Since then, they’ve recently announced that the Redmi will be available again on 13 March, Thursday, 12pm.
This time they’re bringing in 5000 sets, which they promise is much more than what they previously had. 5000 isn’t a large number to begin with, when it comes to smartphone sales. Our hunch is that the first 2 batches of Redmis (and the batch of Mi3s that sold out in 2 minutes) probably fell short of a thousand sets or thereabouts.
Either Xiaomi is trying to test out the demand in Singapore, or it’s just a marketing stunt. And evidence shows that it might be the latter. In China, 100,000 Redmis sold out in 4 minutes; in Taiwan, 10,000 sets in 10 minutes. And here’s the big one – hold on to your seats – 10,000 units in Hong Kong disappeared in a mere 36 seconds.
So you say 5000 units are coming here next week? We’ll see how long those will last.
But in the meantime Apple better learn a thing or two about cheap smartphone manufacturing from the “Apple of China”, because we don’t think those 3, 000, 000 sets of iPhone 5cs are going to sell out any time soon. Unless of course, they sell it at half the price.
That’s all for our first issue of Ends of the Extreme. Do give us a thumbs up on Facebook and sound off in the comments below!