Author(s): Peter Bryer
Xiaomi just opened its online store in certain Western markets, but the excitement is tempered by the limited selection and vacant shelves. The shop is currently a ghost town, but it's just a place holder for bigger things.
As of today, consumers in France, Germany, the UK and the US can order devices directly from Xiaomi. The company says that the store is in "beta mode", meaning selection is very limited — we see only four smartphone accessories listed, and all are out of stock. The extremely low prices are countered by shipping charges and import taxes that could more than double the cost of an item like a $10 Power Bank portable charger, but there's apparently been a rush for the stock.
Xiaomi won't be selling its smartphones via the site for now. This is likely to disappoint many fans, but we believe that intellectual property rights and local regulatory issues continue to present an obstacle for Xiaomi's quick expansion into the global cellular device market. A search of the Federal Communications Commission's site, for example, shows no approved Xiaomi handsets for the US. This means that direct phone sales to American consumers aren't likely for some time — a grey market has formed for Mi smartphones, but Xiaomi's flagship products are off limits through standard channels.
This delayed entry into some key Western smartphone markets offers little comfort to makers of other products. Xiaomi's $15 Mi Band, for example, is a fraction of the price of some competing activity trackers, and priced very close to bill of materials.
The four products found on Xiaomi's new store — its activity band, two portable USB chargers and headphones — make up a very limited selection, but the requirement of registration to the site with a mobile number allows the company to sense consumer interest.
It's difficult to accurately judge how great the demand has been in the few first hours, but Xiaomi has sold out of its limited stock in a flash. The company has now publicized the Mi brand and is working its way up from low-cost phone accessories. It's been an anticlimactic grand opening, but the real excitement is yet to come. The Mi experience is certain to get better.