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Xiaomi's Mi 5 Launch Event a Giant Qualcomm Lovefest

The company did manage to launch a new phone in the midst of singing the praises of its chipmaker buddy.

Ina Fried for Re/code

Xiaomi on Wednesday launched its latest flagship phone, the Mi 5, at an event in Barcelona, marking the first time the Chinese phone maker has introduced a product in Europe.

Speaking to reporters, Xiaomi international chief Hugo Barra praised the speed of the new phone, dishing up lots of kudos to chipmaker Qualcomm. Qualcomm was co-sponsoring Xiaomi’s event, and its latest Snapdragon 820 powers the Mi 5.

When he got done singing the chip’s praises, Barra brought out Qualcomm President Derek Aberle to talk about the partnership between the two companies. (Xiaomi last year inked a deal with Qualcomm to license its technology, a deal that has since been followed by licensing deals with Huawei, Lenovo and other top Chinese brands.)

As for the Mi 5 — yes, Xiaomi did manage to introduce a phone within its Qualcomm lovefest — it follows the company’s tradition of packing high-end features into a more affordable smartphone. The Mi 5 starts at 1,999 Chinese Yuan ($305), including Chinese taxes, for a 32 gigabyte model with a glass casing and goes up to 2,999 Yuan ($459), including taxes, for a 128GB model with a new ceramic case. Without taxes, the new devices sell for about $260 and $350.

The Mi 5 will go on sale March 1 in China and is “coming soon” to the other markets where Xiaomi sells phones, such as India.

The phone shares much of the looks of the company’s Mi Note “phablet,” including that device’s thin, curved-back design, with a smaller 5.15-inch display. A new touch is the fingerprint sensor on the front; the optically-stabilized camera is also flush with the device, unlike rivals Samsung and Apple.

“This was a major, major engineering challenge for us,” Barra said, noting that the company spent two years designing the Mi 5. Despite the thinness, the Mi 5 packs a rather hefty 3,000 mAh battery, on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S7, but more than a lot of five-inch phones.

For Xiaomi, a lot is riding on the new phone.

Although it has gained global fame thanks to several years of fast growth, Xiaomi’s 2015 sales of 70 million phones fell short of its goal.

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