Opinion: Did Xiaomi just take a leaf out of OnePlus’ marketing book?

Xiaomi Mi 10i
(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

The smartphone industry, especially the segment focusing on the budget and mid-budget segment, has cut-throat competition and that is probably why we have some Chinese vendors operating on a razor-thin margin on hardware sales and generating revenue using other means.

When the competition is so stiff, you’d often see brands either pulling each other down or even aping designs and features. And why not? Since its business and just as in sports, gamesmanship is allowed, though to some it might impinge on ethics and integrity.  

In recent times, we saw Xiaomi pulling a leaf out of OnePlus’s marketing book. It is another matter that the Chinese maker accuses Realme, a brand associated with the OnePlus business, of being a copycat. So, what exactly happened? During the recent launch of Mi 10i, the company announced the phone in three different variants – 6GB/64GB, 6GB/128GB and 8GB/128GB.

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All good thus far. However, when it came to the pricing, Xiaomi only came out with the costs of the base variant with 64GB internal storage. It was pegged at Rs.20,999 but the company was silent about its availability. 

This resulted in some questions from the media as the 64GB variant came out of the box and wasn't mentioned during the official briefing. Which tells us that Xiaomi wants to keep an ace up its sleeve on this front. 

Mystery of a missing variant

Of course, one would be right in arguing that it hardly makes a difference, given that nobody really expects to acquire an Android device with 64GB storage in 2021. And this is precisely why I personally found this entire episode interesting and intriguing. For, if there are no takers for a product, why would a company claim that its decision was based on user feedback? One fact to keep in mind is that most Chinese brands do not provide sales figures of their models. 

What Xiaomi did here isn't anything new. Readers would recall that when OnePlus made a re-entry to the budget segment with the launch of the OnePlus Nord, it also announced three different variants and the lowest one with, yes you guessed it right, 64GB internal storage! 

The launch followed with aggressive marketing around the base model of the Nord series starts at Rs. 24,999, however, users could only buy the higher variants that priced starting at Rs. 27,999.

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Even though the Nord line up didn’t sell in the number that OnePlus expected, the 64GB variant, which evoked lower interest, was introduced way later after there was some noise in the media. The perception then was that the Nord lineup is “cheap” and its price is closer to the original OnePlus One and Two smartphones, while in reality, this wasn’t the case.

And probably this is what Xiaomi has done with the Mi 10i, creating a hype that its cheapest 5G phone starts at Rs. 20,999 while in reality it isn't so. However, unlike OnePlus Nord, the difference of pricing between the variants isn’t that huge as the 128GB variant of Mi 10i is available at Rs. 1,000 more and the top-end variant is just Rs. 3,000 costlier.

We do see companies adding a colour variant or a beefed-up variant to the line up after the initial launch to ensure that the product remains in the news and can rake in some extra numbers, however, announcing a trimmed down version and that too not making it available to purchase is unfathomable.

The Mi 10i was launched almost a month back and since then we haven’t heard from the brand about its availability. We have reached out to Xiaomi for clarification and will update this in case we get a response from the company.

That said, brands should ideally be focusing on being transparent with the end-user rather than looking to gain brownie points to one-up each other. The whole exercise of announcing and promoting a variant that you do not intend to launch is futile and reaps more negative feedback within the community.

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Jitendra Soni

Jitendra has been working in the Internet Industry for the last 7 years now and has written about a wide range of topics including gadgets, smartphones, reviews, games, software, apps, deep tech, AI, and consumer electronics.