Panmi chief operating officer George Saad said the launch would “revolutionise consumers’ expectations”.
While Chinese vendors, in particular Huawei, have run afoul of national security concerns in their bid to expand telecommunications infrastructure operations, their devices are proving increasingly popular with local consumers.
Mr Saad said he doubted security concerns would be an issue for Xiaomi, but was setting up servers in Australia nonetheless to avoid any privacy failures.
While a top-of-the-range iPhone XS Max will set you back $2369, Xiaomi’s upcoming Mi9 is expected to cost less than $1000.
The price is right
Several Chinese phone manufacturers already have models out in Australia, including Huawei, Oppo, and TCL’s use of the Alcatel smartphone brand. However, Chinese smartphone sales haven’t yet overtaken the juggernauts of Apple or Samsung.
“At a local level, while Chinese smartphone companies still occupy a relatively small share of the Australian market, which is dominated by Apple and Samsung, we’re increasingly seeing price-conscious Australian consumers who are experiencing limited real wage growth turn to the low-to-mid range price points,” IDC market analyst John Riga said.
“This is driving significant growth in shipments for some Chinese companies as well as other non-Chinese companies who are also in this price range, and IDC expects this trend to continue.”
Locally, Xiaomi expects to see retail store positioning by mid-year, though for the moment, has pencilled in online sales through Amazon and Catch.
Australians who had previously bought Xiaomi products through so-called grey-market channels won’t get support or warranties in Australia, but those purchased locally will be covered.
Internationally, Xiaomi’s launches haven’t always played out as planned. In November its UK launch caused outrage when it offered a promotion for customers to buy a phone for £1, but made available only three handsets for the whole country, leaving thousands to vent on social media.
In the US, Xiaomi is sold through Walmart, a store more suggestive of low-end products, than the mid-range-to-flagship phones being pitched to Australian customers.
Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said Xiaomi may have an uphill battle in Australia, saying it would “be entering an already-tough market as a challenger”.
“[The] limited Australian market size makes it difficult to justify a lot of local investment, which is required when launching a new brand,” he said.
“The impact will most affect the other Chinese and smaller brands battling for third place.”
Telecommunications companies were tight-lipped over their plans for Xiaomi phones.
Optus confirmed it was having “ongoing discussions” with its other vendors but was yet to lock anything in. Meanwhile neither Telstra nor Vodafone would comment on the possible stock and release of Xiaomi smartphones.