clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Xiaomi Actually Likes Google, and Five Other Things We Just Learned

Contrary to popular belief, the company has no interest in forking Android and rather likes the Google set-up.

Ina Fried / Re/code

We didn’t get to see a top-secret new tablet or hear plans to sell phones in the U.S, but that doesn’t mean that Xiaomi’s stop in Silicon Valley was without revelations.

First, the company said it plans to start selling accessories in the U.S., even if it won’t sell big-ticket items here. Also, not only doesn’t it plan an IPO this year, it doesn’t have one on the road map any time soon.

But, there were other interesting tidbits scattered through the long presentation from Hugo Barra and Bin Lin, as well as the ensuing question-and-answer period.

Here some things of note:

1. Don’t call Xiaomi a handset maker.

Xiaomi may be the third-biggest phone maker in the world, but it thinks of itself as an Internet company. In part, that’s because the company makes little to no money from its devices, but one day hopes to cash in on the huge community it has built by selling paid-for services. That effort is in its infancy through things like phone themes and other add-ons.

“We’re not here to just not make any money,” Lin told Re/code. “Running a business long-term we will have to make money.”

2. Xiaomi has a plan for where it wants to go next.

Geographically, Lin said, the company is targeting places with big populations and a growing appetite for e-commerce. Brazil is already in the works and due to launch later this year. Russia is high on Lin’s list, along with the Middle East, other parts of Latin America and other parts of Asia.

Intellectual property concern, Lin conceded, is a factor, but a lesser one than those others, he said. He said that all phone makers have to deal with patent issues and Xiaomi is not alone in that area. There is widespread speculation that the company will avoid launching in the U.S., for example, to avoid litigation from Apple and others. However, Lin said it has more to do with the fact that carriers still subsidize a lot of the devices sold in the U.S. That make customers less likely to appreciate the value that Xiaomi can deliver, Lin said.

From a product standpoint, the connected home is the next big frontier for Xiaomi. The company has a $3 module that device makers can use to turn their existing appliances into smart ones, and Xiaomi is also aggressively looking to invest in a partner with smart-home players. It has already invested in Misfit, among other companies. It also wants all of the smart devices to be controlled from a single Mi Home app.

3. Xiaomi has come to praise Google, not bury it.

“We are a very strong supporter of Google,” Barra said during the event, adding that contrary to popular believe, Xiaomi isn’t looking to fork Google’s Android platform at all. He said that what it has done with its operating system is similar to the customization attempted by other handset makers. He said the main difference is just the success it has had in adding features customers want. At the same time, he hastened to add that Xiaomi has been among the quickest handset makers to upgrade to new versions of Android. The current MiUI 6 is based on Kit Kat, with a Lollipop version in the works.

4. Xiaomi updates its software quickly — like really quickly.

The company updates its software every Friday, based in part on reaction from its customers. It spends Monday through Wednesday coding the incremental updates, tests them internally on Thursday and releases them on Friday. Saturday and Sunday are spent examining the real-world feedback and planning for the following week. The company has done so for the past 224 weeks and counting.

5. Xiaomi has a very, very active community.

The company has 40 million active users on its forums. Yesterday, there were 169,000 posts — and that was a slow day. Some days there are 500,000 new posts to its Chinese forums.

6. Xiaomi does so care about patents. And it is filing for a lot of its own.

The company filed for 2,800 patents last year, including in places like the U.S., Japan and Korea. It plans to double its patent applications this year and next.

“IP litigation is going to be part of any company,” Lin said. “This is something we expect happens. We just don’t know when.”

This article originally appeared on