A little-known MVNO is bringing two Chinese phone manufacturers to the U.S. market. And one of them is a powerhouse.
According to PCMag, the Xiaomi Redmi 2 is one of the phones available through US Mobile.
US Mobile has begun selling smartphones from Xiaomi and Meizu, PC Mag reported. The Connecticut-based service provider carries three Xiaomi handsets -- the Redmi 2, Mi 3 and Mi 4 -- ranging from $119 to $219 and the Meizu Note 2, which sells for $149.
The soaring Chinese smartphone market fueled Xiaomi's meteoric rise in 2013, leading to a funding round that valued the company at $45 billion. The company, which had previously signaled its intentions to enter the U.S. market, sold 70 million phones last year and became the world's third-largest smartphone maker by market share in the third quarter.
Xiaomi's U.S. debut doesn't pose much of a threat to the nation's other smartphone vendors, however. While the phones' specs are attractive given the pricing, the handsets from both Xiaomi and Meizu don't support American LTE networks and aren't optimized for American consumers. US Mobile promises to service and support the phones, however.
US Mobile runs on T-Mobile's network and primarily targets college students and seniors with bargain-basement service and an a la carte pricing model. Customers can buy 500 minutes of voice per month for $9, for instance, adding 1,000 texts for $5 and 1 GB of data for $14, plus a $2 service fee.
A Xiaomi spokesperson said US Mobile isn't authorized to sell its products in the U.S. The company added that it has no plans to sell smartphones through any authorized distributors in the U.S.
Meizu is a smaller player that started as a manufacturer of digital music players before moving into smartphones in 2008. It reportedly sold 9 million units in the first half of 2015.
Xiaomi is looking to tap foreign markets as smartphone growth in its native land slows, but a lack of patents has limited those efforts. The company appears to be addressing those concerns, though, and recently acquired 19 U.S. patent assets from Broadcom, according to reports.
The company will likely have to continue to bulk up its patent portfolio before stepping up distribution in the U.S., however. Apple, Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung are just a few of the major companies that might pursue patent litigation against Xiaomi, which has been relatively protected from such litigation in China. So Xiaomi may just be dipping its toes in the U.S. waters before deciding whether to dive in.
- see this PC Mag report
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Article updated 2/2/2016 to add comments from Xiaomi.