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 5 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 March 2016
1. 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 from March 1.
2. Xiaomi Mi 4c
Released September 2015: Xiaomi's Mi 4c doesn't pack the pure hardware appeal of the Mi Note or Mi 5, it sure has price on its side. For a little over the equivalent of $200 you're getting a 5-inch phone with a 1080p display, a Snapdragon 808 CPU a 13MP camera and a 3080mAh battery.
Not just that, but also 16/32GB of internal storage and 2/3GB of RAM, depending on which model you spring for, and USB-C. Xiaomi is right on the money with leading mobile technologies and the most expensive version of the Mi 4c still costs less than $250.
The worst part is that it's limited to China, at least initially. That'll probably change, and there'll be plenty of interest when it does.
3. Xiaomi Mi Note/Mi Note Pro
Released January 2015: Xiaomi's high-end smartphone for 2015 was also its best ever to that point. The Mi Note is a 5.7-inch phone running MIUI 6 out of the box and comes in two flavors depending on your thirst for the best-of-the-best hardware or saving a few bucks. The Mi Note is no slouch with a Snapdragon 801 CPU, 3GB of RAM and a 13MP rear camera with OIS. There's Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and back (or bamboo, if you fancy) and a 1080p display.
The tricked-out Mi Note Pro ups the hardware to a level that any Android flagship for 2015 would be proud of. The display resolution is upped to 2K (2560 x 1440), the CPU is a Snapdragon 810, there's 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Xiaomi boasted this is the "best smartphone in the world" and while others will have something to say about that, there's no doubting the Mi Note Pro's credentials.
4. Xiaomi Mi 4i
Released April 2015: The Mi 4i is a trimmed down, cheaper version of the Mi 4 and is Xiaomi's first phone to launch first outside of China. Swapping metal for plastic all round, the Mi 4i has a 5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 615 CPU, 16GB of internal storage, a 13MP rear camera with two-tone LED flash and a whopping 3120mAh battery. Oh, and you get all that for around $200. Crazy.
The Mi 4i was also the first new Xiaomi phone to debut running the Android 5.0 Lollipop based version of MIUI 6. And it's yet another example of Xiaomi packing in good hardware without jacking up the price.
5. Xiaomi Redmi 3
Released January 2016: As if Xiaomi's smartphones weren't already affordable enough, the Redmi range takes it one step further. The Redmi 3 is the latest super-low cost phone aimed at markets such as India and can be had, unbelievably, for a smidge over $100.
For that you get a metal body with a striking diamond pattern etched on the rear, a 5-inch 720p display, Snapdragon 616 CPU, 16GB of storage, 2GB of RAM and a 13MP rear camera. Oh, and it has a ridiculously large 4100mAh battery inside. It also runs MIUI 7, Xiaomi's latest, though it doesn't include a fingerprint scanner. But still, you get a lot of phone for not a lot of money.
6. 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 Note, this is the one to go for.
Hardware-wise there's a 5.5-inch 1080p display while inside either a MediaTek Helio X10 CPU or Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 is 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 backand 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 7.