Xiaomi has wanted to expand to the US for quite a few years now, and various executives have come out to say something along the lines of launching smartphones in the US "next year" or "in 2019." However, Xiaomi is still not committing to a specific date for launching its products in the US. The country is already a very competitive market, and has turned out to be a pretty tough market for any Chinese manufacturer. Huawei has seen that firsthand, with Verizon and AT&T dropping their plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro earlier this year, and then more recently Best Buy dropping its products. Then there's LeEco, who launched in the US and then pulled out of the country all in a blink of an eye. That's obviously something that Xiaomi doesn't want to do when it does finally officially debut in the US.
This week, with the launch of the Mi MIX 2S in Shanghai, Xiaomi opened up a bit more about its US launch intentions, though it wouldn't say anything about its CEO Lei Jun's comments last month about releasing smartphones in the US in 2019. Instead, the company explained that when it launches in a new market, it wants to bring its entire portfolio of products. That's different from when Xiaomi introduced its online store in the US a few years ago where it only offered a few products. Xiaomi is now available in 70 countries officially, and when it launches in these new markets, it does bring its entire portfolio. For instance, it arrived in Spain this past November and brought along a number of its smartphones, as well as its accessories. Xiaomi did not introduce products like the Mi Notebook Air (which is its Windows-based laptop), since that is only available in Mandarin right now. Xiaomi wants to not only launch online, however, but also seeks new offline sales channels in various countries. Which means opening up physical stores. And it has done this in many of the countries it has launched in recently, including Spain and Greece.
When it comes to the US market, however, its portfolio isn't the only thing keeping Xiaomi out of the market for now. Back in 2015, Xiaomi did mention that it was looking to bolster its patent portfolio before it launched in the US. Seeing as the intellectual property laws in the US are much different than they are in China. Xiaomi wanted to make sure that it isn't the victim of numerous patent lawsuits. And in the past three years, you can see that Xiaomi has moved away from looking and acting like Apple. From its smartphones looking much different (and in many opinions, better) than the iPhone, to its CEO ditching the jeans and black turtleneck – that Steve Jobs would wear – for launch events.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle right now for Xiaomi and the US is security. Recently, Huawei has been getting pushed out of the US by the government over national security concerns. Xiaomi mentioned to us that it works with all of the top security firms, to make sure that its phones are maximally protected. That way it doesn't have to worry about being blocked in the US due to national security concerns. However, the situation that Huawei has found itself in is likely going to hurt Xiaomi and other Chinese smartphone makers that want to expand into the US. Many will see Xiaomi as a "Chinese smartphone maker" and may decide against buying a phone like the Mi MIX 2S, due to that reason alone. Even though Xiaomi sees itself as a global smartphone maker now, after launching in around 70 countries around the world.
Xiaomi is looking hard at the US and is still adamant on introducing its products to the country. But Xiaomi is also being smart about it, and taking its time, its officials suggest. We've seen what can happen to a company that launches in the US too quickly, and that's something Xiaomi obviously doesn't want to repeat. For now, many will have to settle for importing its global models (that have support for global LTE bands) into the US. Ultimately, Xiaomi's US launch is only a question of when.