It feels more like a rock concert than a press conference as the casually dressedchief executive takes to a darkened stage to unveil his firm's sleek newsmartphone to an adoring crowd. Yet this was not the launch of the new iPhone byApple on September 10th, but of the Mi-3 handset by Xiaomi, a Chinese firm, inBeijing on September 5th. With its emphasis on snazzy design, glitzy launches andthe cult-like fervour it inspires in its users, no wonder Xiaomi is often compared toits giant American rival, both by admirers and by critics who call it a copycat.Xiaomi's boss, Lei Jun, even wears jeans and a black shirt, Steve Jobs-style. IsXiaomi really China's answer to Apple?
Xiaomi sold 7.2m handsets last year, in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, earningrevenues of 12.6 billion yuan ($2.1 billion). Apple sold 125m smartphones globally,earning about $80 billion of its $157 billion sales. But since it was founded in 2010, Xiaomi has grown fast. A recent funding round valued it at $10 billion, more than Microsoft just paid for Nokia’s handset unit. That made Xiaomi one of the 15 most heavily venture-backed mobile start-ups ever, says Rajeev Chand of Rutberg, aninvestment bank. In the second quarter of 2013 Xiaomi’s market share in China was 5%, says Canalys, a research firm—more than Apple’s (4.8%) for the first time.