Xiaomi’s $65 Entry-Level Smartphone

Redmi Go looks to sway Indian feature phone users

Earlier this week, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi launched its Redmi Go smartphone in India. The company is extending its portfolio of Redmi-branded smartphones in the country with its first Android Go product for this market. Android Go is a version of the operating system designed for lower-profile hardware devices that lets manufacturers develop inexpensive smartphones. Available for 4,500 rupees (about $65), the Redmi Go is Xiaomi’s most affordable device in its already attractively priced smartphone line-up.

When it entered the Indian market in 2014, Xiaomi made a modest start. But it has since firmly established its brand in the country, taking the pole position from Samsung. In particular, Xiaomi is a force to be reckoned with in the budget and mid-tier segments of the Indian smartphone space. Now, with the Redmi Go, Xiaomi is looking to bring its dominance to the more affordable smartphone segment.

The Android Go platform was envisioned to deliver a basic but enjoyable mobile computing experience to the millions of users of the low-end segment around the globe. However, support has been mixed and only a few smartphones running the system have offered quality and punchy prices.

Xiaomi’s latest handset already retails in its home market of China as well as several African countries. The phone comes with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, an eight-megapixel rear camera and a five-megapixel front camera. These features may be lightweight in terms of current smartphones, but they’re a big upgrade for the hundreds of millions of people still using feature phones.

More than half a billion feature phones are still in use in India and Xiaomi is going after these users with the Redmi Go, which could be a “bridge” to better devices a few years down the road. The phone offers an Android experience to a large audience and should help to bring benefits of the digital revolution to millions of low-income families in India.

We note that the low-end segment in India is definitely not without competition. Brands like Micromax and Itel make Android smartphones that are less expensive than the Redmi Go, but these tend to falter on performance.

In addition to other smartphone brands, Xiaomi’s device will have to compete with one of the most disruptive forces in the Indian mobile industry: Reliance Jio. The Jio Phone 2, priced at 3,000 rupees (about $40), is really a feature phone, but sprinkles in some smartphone traits by virtue of its support for the KaiOS operating system. It has also been an important device upgrade for many users looking for features beyond simple voice calls and text messages.

The Redmi Go comes at a time when the Xiaomi brand is on top and has become desirable, but the phone will have to prove itself with users. Xiaomi will need to explain the advantages of having a smartphone operating system designed to provide a true Internet and app experience.

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