According to global market research firm TrendForce, smartphone manufacturing costs are decreasing – in 2014, low-end devices that cost less than US$150 are expected to represent 14% of total smartphone shipments worldwide, up from 11% forecasted for this year. Mid-end smartphones, which cost between US$150 and US$450, are projected to account for more than 50% of shipments in 2014. Clearly, smartphone makers looking to expand their market share cannot overlook the low to mid-end sector. Fully aware of this, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has released a Hongmi, or Red Rice, a device with decent specifications and a low price tag of RMB799.
Taking a look at Red Rice’s hardware, its MediaTek MT6589 chipset accounts for 20% of total manufacturing cost. The 4.7-inch, 312 ppi IPS display by AUO represents 22% of cost and is a significant upgrade from the 220 ppi display commonly used in similarly priced devices. Based on component cost, total manufacturing cost for the Red Rice device is estimated at US$85(4Q”13). With a retail price of RMB799, roughly equivalent to US$130, Xiaomi is profiting at a rate difficult for other smartphone makers to keep up with.
Xiaomi is not relying on traditional sales channels for its new device but turning to Internet retailers instead – the company hopes to garner revenue from software, advertising, etc., creating a new smartphone profit model. TrendForce believes Xiaomi is able to offer Red Rice at such a low price because the maker has a solid grasp on three important points of cost control. First, Xiaomi usually unveils new products very early, at least a quarter before the actual release date, which gives component cost time to decrease. Second, Xiaomi controls inventory better than its competitors. Using an Internet pre-order sales model, Xiaomi is able to get a more exact estimation for initial production, thereby avoiding risk if sales are not as strong as expected. Third, by marketing via social networks, Xiaomi cuts down on advertising costs, enabling the manufacturer to continue causing a stir on the market with each new device release.
Red Rice’s groundbreaking price will inevitably have an influence on other smartphone manufacturers’ pricing strategies, especially for low to mid-end products. Currently, Xiaomi’s main market is China. The company is eagerly expanding on foreign markets as well, but results have been limited. Whether Xiaomi’s low prices will have an effect on smartphone makers in other markets will depend on the Chinese manufacturer’s foreign sales.
TrendForce believes Xiaomi’s long-term strategy includes continued expansion on the domestic market as well as breaking into foreign markets with high price-performance ratio devices. As social networking platform services and software are the company’s main sources of profit, Xiaomi will need to develop new strategies to attract consumers in foreign markets. As the company’s recently closed funding round has skyrocketed its valuation, Xiaomi is financially set to expand in foreign markets, potentially by acquiring local businesses. Or, the funds could be used to improve manufacturing and ensure timely product delivery, a notable weakness of the growing company.