China-based smartphone maker Xiaomi aims to bring its smartphones to the US by 2019, targeting a market where fellow Chinese vendor Huawei has struggled.
Xiaomi chairman Lei Jun told The Wall Street Journal a jump into the US market had always been on the company’s radar, adding it plans to execute the move in late 2018 or early 2019. The push marks a continuation of its westward expansion and comes after Xiaomi launched its devices in Spain in November 2017.
The company isn’t necessarily a stranger to the US market: it already sells a number of gadgets like TV set top boxes, headphones, and a 360-degree camera to US consumers. But the launch will be a first for Xiaomi in the highly competitive and operator-dependent handset segment.
Xiaomi faces plenty of hurdles. Compatriot vendor Huawei has long wanted to boost its position in the US, but has been dogged by mistrust from US government officials. Related political pressure reportedly forced both AT&T and Verizon to back out of planned arrangements to sell Huawei’s flagship Mate 10 device. At CES in January, Huawei rotating CEO Richard Yu called the operator decisions “a big loss for us” as well as for consumers.
Another Chinese handset company, ZTE, enjoyed more luck in the US market thanks to its ability to secure partnerships with US operators. As of October 2017, Forbes reported the company held around a 12 per cent of the North American market. But, like Huawei, ZTE recently faced renewed accusations China is trying to use telecoms companies to gain access to US technology and intellectual property.
ZTE and Huawei have both vehemently denied the allegations.