Truth be told, Xiaomi has never really been a regular at MWC. Its first major presence, as far as smartphones go was last year when it unveiled the Xiaomi Mi 5 at MWC 2016. It seems that it will also be its only presence so far. Xiaomi is believed to skip the world’s biggest mobile tech event this year and the unofficial reason is that it doesn’t have any new phone to show anyway. It does, however, also spark questions about the company’s foray into Western, especially the US, smartphone markets, especially in light of recent events.
Officially, of course Xiaomi will say and has always said that it’s committed to bring its wallet-friendly smartphones to the US. But that has been its message for years. To date, however, it has yet to make an official launch in a Western market. And it’s not like its allergic to the West or anything. At CES 2017 earlier this month, it even showed off new smart devices. But, particularly in the US, its product list has so far excluded smartphones, even tablets.
Xiaomi’s absence from MWC 2017 couldn’t have come at a worse time. For the first time, Samsung won’t be making a big splash at the event, delaying its Galaxy S8 reveal to make sure it won’t suffer the same fate as the Galaxy Note 7. This is a rare opportunity for its rivals to steal the stage, which is what LG plans to do.
Then there’s Hugo Barra’s departure from the company to head Facebook’s VR efforts. Losing its VP for International isn’t going to inspire much confidence on that front, no matter what it says. Whoever Xiaomi will put in his place will have very large shoes to fill, and will have to do a lot of convincing that Xiaomi is still committed to a Western smartphone expansion.