Xiaomi

Just four years old, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has shot up sales rankings to become the top smartphone seller in China, the world’s largest smartphone market, according to data by Canalys, the technology research company.

In a report released this week the company said Xiaomi’s shipments in China grew 240 percent year on year, to 15.1m in the second quarter, write Charles Clover. 

Xiaomi’s latest flagship smartphone looks much like Apple’s rival handsets except for one crucial difference: the price – which is less than half that of the similarly metallic iPhone 5s from the US group.

The steel handset was unveiled in Beijing by chief executive Lei JunLei on Tuesday, with reports that the crowd murmured “iPhone” as it was unveiled. Hugo Barra, the Google executive who joined Xiaomi as global vice-president last year, was also at the event. 

Sarah Mishkin

A Beijing customer buys two new iPhone 5s

A customer celebrates buying two new iPhone 5s at the Wangfujing flagship store in Beijing

When Xiaomi, a popular Chinese smartphone maker, overtook Apple’s market share in China the second quarter, the shift prompted a double take by consumers and investors who had never heard of the small but growing brand.

The ascent was short-lived. Apple’s two new iPhones have proved popular in China, enabling the US company to shoulder past Xiaomi in the market share rankings for the three months ended in September.

But Apple and everyone else are still miles behind the clear market leader — Samsung, which now has a fifth of China’s smartphone market, up from 14 per cent in the third quarter of last year. 

There is more than one way to lead in the smartphone industry, and China is at work on all of them.

No longer content to copy foreign products. China is developing brands to compete with Apple and Samsung. Xiaomi is known as its answer to Apple, and Huawei and ZTE, the equipment companies, have moved into handsets.