Xiaomi unveils China-only Mi 4c just days ahead of Apple's iPhone 6S launch

The Chinese smartphone giant will release the Mi 4c just two days ahead of the iPhone 6S, as it strengthens its grip on its home market by announcing it will launch a virtual carrier service.

Aloysius Low Senior Editor
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
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On Friday Apple will be launching its iPhone 6S around the world, which it hopes will continue its rapid market share growth in China. Xiaomi, possibly in an attempt to stifle the Californian tech giant, on Tuesday announced a new handset that's exclusive to the country.

The Chinese company, which is the fourth largest smartphone maker in the world according to analyst IDC, is bringing an improved version of the Mi 4i, which was designed for India, to China in the form of the Mi 4c.

Further tightening its vice-like grip on the country, Xiaomi said it would become a mobile virtual network operator with the launch of the Mi Mobile service in China. It will partner with existing telcos, piggybacking on existing infrastructure, to provide SIM cards that will work with both China Mobile and China Unicom, the country's two major providers.

The new Mi 4c will boast a Type-C USB connector -- eagerly coveted by tech aficionados for its reversible plug -- and an improved Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, the chip used in LG's flagship G4 smartphone. Other specs include a 5-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel full-HD display and a 3,080Ah battery. There are two memory options: 16GB of storage with 2GB of RAM, or 32GB of storage with 3GB RAM.

The 16GB variant will sell for 1,299 yuan ($205, £130 or AU$285), while the 32GB will fetch 1,499 yuan ($235, £150 or AU$330). Both will be available on September 23, which possibly represents an attempt from Xiaomi to steal some of Apple's thunder a mere two days ahead of the iPhone 6S' launch. For comparison, the 16GB 6S will cost 5,288 yuan ($830, £535 or $AU1,165) in China.

Announced at an event in Beijing on Tuesday, the Mi 4c will also feature Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 technology as well as a 13-megapixel camera with phase detection autofocus -- the same technology used on the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 -- which allows for quicker autofocusing on subjects. It will come in five different colour options: white, grey, blue, yellow and pink.

Also announced at the event was a micro-USB to Type-C converter. Priced at just 5 yuan (roughly 80 cents), this cheap adapter lets users take advantage of the phone's USB Type-C capabilities -- which include quicker recharge speeds and a fuss-free reversible input slot -- without forcing them to buy a new cable.

Meanwhile, China is an area of significant interest for Apple. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus shook up the market last year, making it the company's second biggest market behind the Americas.