It’s taken just 3 years for a smartphone brand that we were hardly talking about locally for it to not only conquer the world and in the process become unavoidable but also get here. It’s here.
Chinese device maker Xiaomi will be continuing its African rollout in Kenya starting next week. The company, which has registered successes in its home market of China where it has consistently been the top device maker and in other Asian markets like India, Malaysia and Singapore, will be introducing several devices into the Kenyan market.
The first of those devices will be the Redmi Note 2 and the Redmi 2 Pro, two budget smartphones that it unveiled in the global market in August and October 2015 respectively.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 is a 5.5-inch device while the Redmi 2 Pro is much smaller at just 4.7-inches. The former has a full HD display while the latter has a HD display. They are both dual-SIM devices.
Other specifications of the two include 2 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage and Android Lollipop with Xiaomi’s MIUI 7 layered on top. The Redmi Note 2 has a bigger 3,060mAh battery while the Redmi 2 Pro has a 2,200mAh battery unit. The Redmi Note 2 has MediaTek’s Helio X10 processor while the cheaper Redmi 2 Pro has a Qualcomm-made Snapdragon 410 chipset. The Redmi Note 2 has a 13-megapixel camera at the back and a 5-megapixel sensor on the front. The Redmi 2 Pro has an 8-megapixel camera at the back and a 5-megapixel sensor on the front for selfies. The main cameras can both shoot full HD video.
We’ve had some hands-on with both devices and have one of them (the Redmi Note 2) in for a review so we’ll dive in to further details in due course.
The Redmi Note 2 will go for Kshs 21,000 while the Redmi 2 Pro will be priced at Kshs 15,000.
The pricing puts the two devices at the same price range as several devices from brands like Infinix and Tecno which have recently taken the Kenyan mobile market by storm.
Xiaomi believes that its devices’ impressive feature set which includes quality build materials and specifications like the processors used will make it stand out from the crowd. In addition, the company will also be courting enthusiasts to provide valuable feedback on its popular online forums that will see several localized features incorporated in future builds of MIUI, the customized software that its devices run. Xiaomi is promising a quick-fire update approach that will see its devices receive a software update at least once every month.
In anticipation of the expected rollout of LTE networks across the country by mobile operators like Safaricom and Airtel, Xiaomi will only be bringing into this market LTE-ready devices, something it also believes will give it a leg up against many of the competitions’ 3G-only devices.
The Redmi Note 2 and the Redmi 2 Pro will not be the only devices that will make it to the Kenyan market. They are just for the start. Like we’re really crossing our fingers for that $100 champ, the Redmi 3, to become available here. Or the high-end benchmark-topping Mi5.
Kenya becomes the third African country where Xiaomi is expanding into after South Africa and Nigeria where its devices became available first late last year.
In Nigeria, the company has suffered a setback since a High Court ruling in that country prevents its devices from being in the market thanks to intellectual property (IP) infringement claims raised by Mi-Fone, a device company that distributes mobile phones and accessories in several African countries. Mi-Fone lays claim to the “Mi” branding Xiaomi uses on several of its devices.
Unlike in Nigeria where Xiaomi and its distributor on the continent, Mobile in Africa Limited, used online sales channels like Jumia, Kenya, like South Africa, will be handled the old way – brick and mortar. Traditional sales channels are what the company is counting on to get to customers. It will have salespeople in stores across Nairobi to showcase features of its devices as well as do sales activations. The same will be replicated in other parts of the country.
The entry of Xiaomi, a global smartphone brand, in the local mobile market will increase competition in an already highly-competitive space. Compatriot Huawei is eyeing at least a quarter of the Kenyan smartphone market by June 2016. It has introduced several devices in the entry-level and mid-range categories to woo the Kenyan smartphone buyer. Another Chinese device maker, Oppo, which set up shop in the country last year, has started the year on a high bringing its latest budget devices into the market earlier than was previously the case.
Xiaomi’s claim to fame and the reason for its success in its home market and continent has been its ability to design and manufacture devices that have desirable features and specifications while not breaking the bank. To provide the experience of high-end Samsung Galaxy devices and Apple iPhones at bargain prices. This has seen it rise from a brand recognised only in China to a top 5 smartphone vendor. It will be interesting to see how it manages to navigate the increasingly competitive Kenyan mobile market and the African market at large.