Blast from the Past

Is an Infrared Blaster a Flagship Must?


Yesterday, Xiaomi introduced its latest flagship device, the Mi 4 (see Instant Insight: Xiaomi Unveils the Mi 4). Pre-orders start 29 July in China. CCS Insight believes the Mi 4 will be a successful follow-up to the Mi 3 thanks to top-of-the-line specs including LTE support and a starting price of 1,999 yuan ($320).

An interesting feature of the device is the inclusion of an infrared (IR) blaster. An IR blaster enables the smartphone to be used as an advanced home entertainment remote control, meaning it can become an integral part of the living room experience. Consumer feedback has shown this to be a much-requested feature, and its inclusion in the Mi 4 indicates that Xiaomi is listening to its audience.

The IR blaster places the Mi 4 in the company of a few top industry devices including the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG’s G3, and HTC’s One. It’s notable that other flagship smartphones from Chinese companies such as the Oppo Find 7, the OnePlus One and the Gionee Elife S5.5 don’t include an IR blaster — Xiaomi has created a feature checklist of specs from global brands such as Samsung and LG.

IR blasters are currently available on only a handful of smartphones and tablets, exclusive to several top brands. There are no clear indications that infrared is a key selling point, but it’s a high-end feature that affords a device a central location in the home, driving the brand and the potential for partnerships with content providers. Such phones offer interesting remote business model possibilities.