However, looking at the full extent of Xiaomi’s business model reveals just how different – and how disruptive — it is. For starters, unlike Apple, Xiaomi is not targeting premium customers; it’s mostly teens buying those high-quality phones, and hardly at a premium, since Xiaomi’s prices are at least 60% lower. A neat trick. How does Xiaomi pull that off?
To sell high-quality cell phones at so low a price, Xiaomi keeps each model on the market far longer than Apple does. On average, a new version of a phone is launched every 265 days in the industry – down from 345 days in 2009. But Xiaomi doesn’t renew its product for two years. Then, rather than charge high prices to cover the high cost of state-of-the-art components, Xiaomi prices the phone just a little higher than the total cost of all its components. As component costs drop over the two-year period by more than 90%, Xiaomi maintains its original price, and pockets the difference. Apple, on the other hand, collects its highest profits with the introduction of each model and needs to come up with new model after new model to keep those margins up.
When you consider how much easier it might be to profit from plummeting component prices than from continual new feature development (which sooner or later will likely overshoot the needs of most cell phone customers in any event), the disruptive potential of the model becomes clear.