Services & Software

Xiaomi gets the Steve Wozniak endorsement

The Apple co-founder says the Chinese smartphone maker's products are good enough for the American market.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. James Martin/CNET

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak gets paid to speak at various industry events, but he said that this endorsement was free of charge.

Yesterday, Wozniak sat on a panel with Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun at the Chinese smartphone maker's Beijing headquarters and gave the company's product line a glowing recommendation, saying its phones are "good enough" for a crossover into the United States, according to Tech In Asia.

"Xiaomi has excellent products. They're good enough to break the American market," said Wozniak, who apparently uses a Xiaomi Mi3 smartphone.

It's unclear how and why Wozniak began speaking for Xiaomi, and if he's just an enthusiastic fan (though Tech In Asia indicated he doesn't have a formal working role for the company). CNET has contacted Xiaomi to find out the relationship, and we'll update this post if we hear back.

As described, the onstage talk seemed off-center at times, with the two men never addressing each other directly. (The language barrier could have had something to do with that). Lei also has been frequently characterized as China's Steve Jobs, a comparison he is said to dislike.

"I've said on many different occasions that if I had been called the 'Steve Jobs of China' at 20 years old, I would have been very honored," Lei said, according to Tech In News's translation. "However, as a 40-year-old, I do not want to be considered second to anyone."

In any case, Xiaomi has been hard at work on expansion, with those efforts led by former Google Android executive Hugo Barra. Lei said recently that the company plans to supply 40 million smartphones this year as it attempts to enter new markets. The company is also said to be working on a $50 smartphone to sell in Japan. In 2013, Xiaomi sold 19 million smartphones.