The manufacturer you may have rarely heard of is making some great devices.
Xiaomi is a smartphone manufacturer that is growing in stature day-by-day, despite having virtually no physical presence outside of Asia. Sales of its phones in territories including India and its native China have propelled the relatively young company into the top five smartphone manufacturers in the world. Impressive, certainly, and it seems Xiaomi is set to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Apple and Samsung in the higher reaches of the smartphone market.
And yet while so many may have heard the name, the phones are still relatively alien to many in the West. Xiaomi has a reputation for building devices that are an extremely good value without cutting corners in the process. If you're interested in picking up a Xiaomi phone or just interested in the brand, these are the phones you'll need to know about.
Article updated October 2016
Xiaomi Mi 5s
Released October 2016: The Mi 5s is Xiaomi's most powerful phone to date. The design is an evolution of the Mi 5, with Xiaomi eschewing the glass back for an all-metal chassis. Making high-end hardware available at an affordable price is what Xiaomi excels at, and the situation is no different with the Mi 5s. For what amounts to $400, you get a phone with a Snapdragon 821, dual rear 13MP cameras, 6GB of RAM and 128GB flash storage.
There's a standard variant of the Mi 5s that offers a single 12MP rear shooter and 3GB of RAM along with 64GB storage, retailing for $300 in China. Other specs include a 5.15-inch Full HD display on the Mi 5s, and a 5.7-inch Full HD panel on the Mi 5s Plus. The smaller Mi 5s has a 3000mAh battery, while the larger Mi 5s Plus offers a 3800mAh unit.
Both phones are now retailing in China, and should be available in other Asian markets before the end of the year. Xiaomi has said that it will start selling its phones in the U.S. in the "near future," but it looks like we'll have to wait until next year to hear more.
Xiaomi Mi 5
Released March 2016: The Mi 5 is a big deal for Xiaomi. Not only has it been two years in the making, it was also Xiaomi's first product launch to take place in Europe. It's a harmony of fantastic design, high-end hardware and low price. The last two of those, at least, becoming hallmarks of Xiaomi phones in recent years.
The flagship product for 2016 and direct successor to the Mi 4, the Mi 5 comes in a regular and a Pro model, with minor differences between the two. Ultimately you're getting a Snapdragon 820 processor with Adreno 530 GPU, 3 or 4GB of RAM, 32, 64 or 128GB of internal storage and a 5.15-inch 1080p display. The Pro even has an option for a ceramic back, still costing just $354 on the direct conversion.
The Mi 5 also boasts a 4-axis OIS system on its 16MP rear camera, but more incredibly doesn't have a camera hump. The Mi 5 is pretty slim, incredibly light and has a camera that sits completely flush to the rear of the phone. It's also Xiaomi's first new phone to run MIUI 7 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and while the West looks on with lustful eyes, the Mi 5 is on sale in China and India (where the model with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage is available).
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Released December 2015:The Redmi Note 3 represents incredible value for money while still offering a great experience. If you want a larger Xiaomi phone but would prefer to spend less than the Mi 5, this is the one to go for.
Hardware-wise there's a 5.5-inch 1080p display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 paired with 16GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM or 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. There's a 13MP camera around the back and a whopping 4000mAh battery squeezed inside it's all-metal chassis. The Redmi Note 3 is also one of Xiaomi's first phones to feature a fingerprint scanner on the rear and it ships with the Android 5.0 Lollipop-based version of MIUI 8.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
Released August 2016: The Redmi Note 3 turned out to be one a best-seller for Xiaomi in India this year, and it looks like the Redmi Note 4 will continue that trend. The phone made its debut in China earlier this year for the equivalent of $135, and is set to arrive in other markets later this year.
The Chinese version of the Redmi Note 4 comes with a Helio X20 SoC, but the Indian model is likely to run the Snapdragon 652. Not a lot has changed from the Redmi Note 3, with its successor retaining the 5.5-inch Full HD display. The base model offers 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage, and the high-end variant comes with 3GB of RAM and 64GB storage. Other hardware specs include a 13MP camera, 5MP shooter up front, and a 4100mAh battery.
Here's our take on the Redmi Note 4:
Xiaomi Redmi 3S
The Redmi 3S is Xiaomi's latest budget wonder. The Chinese manufacturer's claim to fame two years ago was the Redmi 1S, and this year's offering in the entry-level series offers even more value for money. For what amounts to $110, you get a phone with a 5-inch 720p display, the all-new Snapdragon 430 SoC, 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage, 13MP camera, 5MP front shooter, and a massive 4100mAh battery.
Xiaomi is also selling a Prime version of the Redmi 3S for $140 that offers 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage, as well as a fingerprint sensor at the back. And in a bid to target offline buyers, Xiaomi is rolling out a variant of the phone called the Redmi 3S+ that will be sold exclusively offline in India. The phone will be available from over 7,000 retail outlets across the country.
Overall, the Redmi 3S solidifies Xiaomi's position in the budget segment. For more on what the phone offers, read our review:
Xiaomi Mi Max
Released July 2016: Unveiled in China in June, the Mi Max is Xiaomi's largest phone to date, with the handset packing a huge 6.44-inch display backed by Gorilla Glass 3. The phone is available with either 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage and a Snapdragon 650, or a more powerful variant with Snapdragon 652 under the hood and 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage.
There's a 16MP camera with PDAF at the back, a 5MP shooter up front, LTE bands for India and China along with VoLTE, and a massive 4850mAh battery that Xiaomi claims will easily deliver two days of battery life on a full charge. On the software side of things, there's MIUI 7 with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The phone is now available in India for ₹14,999 ($225).