Meetings take place in the tropical-themed public areas of a Xiaomi office in Beijing..
Sim Chi Yin for TIME


Smarter smartphones and beyond

The world’s fourth largest smartphone maker doesn’t have a lot of name recognition in the West—yet. But the Beijing-based company has won scores of devoted fans in China and across Asia, prompting some to dub it the “Apple of the East.” There are some obvious similarities: Xiaomi phones are sleek and the company sells them in its own retail stores (called “Mi” shops). And founder and CEO Lei Jun even favors black shirts with stonewashed jeans. But Xiaomi’s cult appeal is also tied to its low-price business strategy. It charges less than a 5% markup over cost for key hardware, such as the Mi Mix 2S phone, which retails at around half the cost of Apple’s iPhone X. Xiaomi then profits from apps and online services such as gaming and streaming TV and other high-margin extras. It also designs and sells a much wider variety of products—everything from surveillance cameras and wearable tech to rice cookers and other appliances with a distinctive mate-white casing. With Xiaomi already the the leading smartphone brand in India and picking up steam in Latin America, Lei told TIME in May that he was focused on “how to conquer Europe,” where his smartphones currently place fourth. “But we have a lot of confidence that we will eventually succeed in the American market,” he said. —TIME Staff

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