Top Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has US in its sights, but not for phones

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Top Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has US in its sights, but not for phones

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Could Xiaomi, China’s best-selling smartphone maker, be thinking of taking on Apple in its home market?

Xiaomi has announced it will test the waters in the United States by selling its headphones, smart wristbands and other accessories such as air purifiers online there in the coming months.

The wristbands – which will sell in the US for the super cheap price of $12 (10.50 euros) – do things like monitor how much you exercise and analyse your sleep, feeding the information on to your smartphone.

It is part of planned expansion by Xiaomi that includes selling its phones in Brazil early this year. That is a logical move given that the company’s vice president for international sales Hugo Barra is Brazilian. He was hired from Google.

The company is in “extremely advanced discussions” with at least half a dozen manufacturing partners there which will help it side-step a roughly 60 percent tax on imported foreign electronics.

The US may be a more difficult market to crack however as handsets and tablets are sold there as part of a contract with the phone carrier and are heavily subsidised, which eliminates Xiaomi’s low-cost advantage.

The company – a five-year-old upstart whose name means “Little Rice” – says its main intention for now is to engage American consumers and try and build a community there.

It will use the same tactics that have worked in China and India – fan events and interaction with users on social media such as a dedicated Facebook page to learn local preferences.