The Xiaomi Mi Mix was released today, and my god is it amazing. Completely full screen, very little phone – just a screen. The promo for it looks incredible. Apple should be, and probably are, crapping themselves. And rightly so.
For years, China has been playing catch up with the rest of the world; seen as a constant joke to the rest of the world for making crap copies of things. But quietly, Beijing’s Silicon Valley has been building some of the best new apps, and they are quite frankly world beaters. China has been doing this so so slowly and quietly that you probably haven’t even noticed. Huawei is Chinese; many of your TVs will be made by Chinese no name brands. They’ve been quietly invading your home, and they’ve done it very cleverly.
However today it has finally made the step to beat everyone else, and they deserve it. Many companies in China have been consistently leaving the West tech leaders to chop away at their heels.
The biggest app in China, WeChat, is a messaging service app, but it’s not just that. You can do just about everything on it: you can call, video call, message, book the doctor, book a taxi, order food, send money to friends, order stuff of their amazon – so many things that I am almost definitely missing a lot out. Oh, and Instagram on it, they have that. A while ago, Facebook had their massive conference, where they announced that Messenger was a huge success and they were expanding. What they decided to do was ‘revolutionary’, but actually it was emulating WeChat, because they haven’t moved to the West yet.
They included payment, sending stickers, gifs, apps included in the messenger app; it’s nothing new to China or to Asia generally. WeChat didn’t have a keynote, WeChat just did it quietly and had arguably the best marketing plan to getting people to use services. They just did. Xiaomi just tried again and again, then they just did it. They made the best looking phone in a long time. WeChat even had a similar strategy to Xiaomi – they made Tencent mobile first then changed that into WeChat after years of market research looking into what people wanted. Then they would keep on updating until it was right, then release it. If there are enough mistakes, people generally start to take note and improve.
It’s not just WeChat that is leaving the West in the game. DidiDache is the Uber in China. Uber tried to take them over, proceeding to spend about 2 Billion Dollars, then had to merge. They had to add new features, offer a ton of free rides to the point where many Chinese people I knew just never paid for Uber. DidiDache had them every step of the way: better features, ride sharing, long distance cars for cheap. Uber did not stand a chance, but they still tried and failed rather catastrophically. You could say it’s due to a knowledge of the market, but having used both apps a lot, I’d say Didi had just made a better app.
The other app blowing up the China market is MoBike. It’s the Boris bikes you can leave and find anywhere in a city. Your app will tell you where the nearest one is, direct you then you pay the deposit and the fee for the bike (which is tiny), then ride it wherever, then leave it. It takes all the faff out of having a bike. You simply scan a QR code and it unlocks. To be honest I never used bikes a lot before, but after using that, it’s so simple that you kind of have to.
So why is this so important? Why am I bashing the West’s ideas so much? It’s because the West hasn’t prepared for China’s arrival. It has been a long time coming, and no one in the West has adapted, because we believe China’s success is purely due to the large domestic market. Xiaomi just announced to the world that they have made a world-beater – they will definitely bring it to the UK and Europe and people will definitely buy it, because I mean, look at it, it’s stunning. WeChat hasn’t moved to Europe yet, but it will, once they make it sexier and just a bit more adaptable to the UK market. Imagine having Deliveroo, Uber, Just Eat, restaurant booking systems, be able to book the doctors, all on one app. It’s quite frankly a very exciting opportunity, and I don’t see Facebook including this any time soon. MoBike will move here too, they’re just updating and waiting, because that’s what they do – they build, build, build and build again, until they hit the jackpot, then show off to the West and we take notice. They won’t tell us when this is coming because they want to show the world the best work they can possibly create.
The scariest part? It happens pretty quickly due to a massive workforce. Xiaomi’s is massive: around 5000+ and it’s really not that old. They can churn updates out quickly and eventually get to a point where updates are so quick they aren’t behind the West; they’re miles ahead. When you’ve finally caught up, you have to innovate, and a lot of Chinese companies have started to reach that point. Watch out Zuckerberg, Jack Ma could be the big name soon.
words by Frazer Worboys