Xiaomi aims for the US with its phones -- but not quite yet

Lei Jun, head of the Chinese smartphone maker, says the company is still figuring out its strategy in the US.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
2 min read

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun speaks with reporters Tuesday at Qualcomm's tech summit .

Shara Tibken/CNET

Xiaomi's still aiming for the US, but it's not quite ready to make a move.

Lei Jun, CEO of the fast-growing Chinese handset maker, on Tuesday said he's "carefully evaluating the best timeline to come to the US" with its smartphones. By selling some of its other devices in the country, like the Mi Box set-top box, it's able to learn about consumers and figure out the best approach, he said.

"We hope to be an immediate success in the US so we need a lot of time and careful preparation to achieve that," he said via a translator Tuesday during a roundtable with reporters at Qualcomm's tech summit in Hawaii. Earlier Tuesday, Jun said the Xiaomi Mi 7 would be one of the first devices to use Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 845 processor

The comments from Jun about the US are a common refrain for the company. It has said for years that it would eventually launch phones in the US, but that the time wasn't right. 

While Xiaomi, Huawei and others have gained traction in markets like China, it's tougher to compete in the US. That market is still dominated by Apple and Samsung, with the companies holding 30 percent and 25 percent of market share, respectively, according to Strategy Analytics. 

In the third quarter, Xiaomi was the world's fifth biggest smartphone vendor. It more than doubled its shipments from 13.6 million a year ago, according to IDC, as it benefited from growth in the India market. 

Along with saying little about US plans, Jun also declined to comment about a possible IPO, say if his company is making foldable phones, or give details about a possible new laptop.

"The smartphone industry is still uber competitive," Jun said when asked about foldable phones. "Everyone is coming up with all sorts of innovation. Next year Xiaomi will definitely have a few products that steal customers hearts -- and also unique products."

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