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Xiaomi phones briefly appear, disappear on US Mobile store

Wireless reseller US Mobile intended to sell phones from one of the world's hottest startups, but had to pull back. Why?

The Xiaomi Mi4 is among multiple new Chinese phones offered at US Mobile.

Chinese startup Xiaomi, the largest phone seller in China, has some of the hottest products you've probably never heard about.

That may change thanks to wireless reseller US Mobile. The Stamford, Connecticut, company, which runs on the T-Mobile network, briefly listed a few of Xiaomi's phones on its site. It would mark the first time a carrier offered one of its phones, known overseas for their mix of low price and high-quality components, in the US. PC Mag was the first to report on the appearance of the phones.

The emergence of Xiaomi underscores the increasing willingness for consumers to bargain hunt for the best deal for phones. Consumers aren't just blindly buying an Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S -- they're getting more discerning with their purchases. That's increasingly the case in the US, where the elimination of contracts and phone subsidies have placed a spotlight on how much a handset actually costs.

That's all well and good, but on Tuesday, US Mobile pulled the phones from its site. So what happened?

Xiaomi, for one never blessed the move. "There are no plans to sell smartphones through any authorized distributors in the US," the company said. "US Mobile is not authorized to sell Xiaomi products in the US."

US Mobile, however, isn't working directly with Xiaomi. Instead, the company had hoped to work with third-party distributors to make the phones available on its site, similar to Amazon or eBay.

But the other issue was proper carrier certification. US Mobile pulled the phones so it could let its carrier partner test the phone, CEO Ahmed Khatak said in a blog post. T-Mobile said that it typically certifies the phones that run on its network, even if it's a wholesale partner. It added that it hadn't tested the Xiaomi phones yet.

US Mobile still intends to sell the phones through third-parties if they can get carrier certification to run on the network.

There may be reason for T-Mobile's reluctance. The handsets aren't made for the US and don't work with the local 4G LTE bands. That means that buyers will need to be OK with a slower 3G connection, or plan to use their phone over Wi-Fi.

Here's what was previously listed through US Mobile:

Updated at 12:33 p.m. PT: To include additional background and a blog post from US Mobile.