How hard is it to buy a Xiaomi Mi Note Pro?
Xiaomi is currently the most popular phone brand in China with people buying more Xiaomi now than phones from Huawei, Apple, or Samsung. Most people haven't heard of Xiaomi in the US, but their brand is well known in different parts of Asia. It's now very easy to find Xiaomi phones in the telecom and mobile phone stores that I visited in Singapore and India and Xiaomi was actively promoted in these stores.
So how can such a famous brand be so difficult to buy in China, Xiaomi's home country? Xiaomi is often compared as the Apple of China, but the purchasing experience is completely different from Apple's. Most Xiaomi phones in China are actually purchased online and they rely on their price, brand and word of mouth to convince consumers to buy. Good luck trying to find a retail store in China selling Xiaomi products.
Xiaomi did set up it's Xiaomi China retail stores but again the experience is very different. Unlike Apple that sets up it stores in several high end retail locations easily accessible to consumers, Xiaomi puts 1 Xiaomi experience store per Chinese city. These Chinese cities are not small, with many cities having 5 to 30 million people. That's a lot of people for 1 store.
Also Xiaomi put their stores in hard to find commercial offices buildings away from retail area and these . These stores are hard to find and close by 6pm, not exactly retail friendly store hours.
I finally found a Xiaomi store in Shenzhen after some effort. Once you get there, I was surprised that they actually only sold one of the phone models at the store. Also you had to buy with cash or Union Pay (the equivalent of Visa/Mastercard in China). I went to another Xiami Hong Kong Mong Kok store and they actually didn't carry any Xiaomi phones to sell.
With the stores being so retailer unfriendly, I was expecting the stores to be empty. They were anything but. Somehow all these people were interested enough to take the extra effort and find the store. They were also attentive to product demonstrations showing how Xiaomi's phones worked with other Xiaomi ecosystem products.
Front of Xiaomi Hong Kong Store
Trying to get into crowded Xiaomi Hong Kong Store
Crowds looking at live Xiaomi product demonstration
After giving up trying to purchase in a store, I purchased the Xiaomi Note Pro through Xiaomi's online store while in Beijing. I then received my new Xiaomi phone by some delivery person on a motorbike at my hotel in 4 hours after clicking purchase with free shipping. Pretty cool.
Ok, I think I get the entire Xiaomi thing now. Who needs expensive bricks and motor stores when you get a high end phone at a low price delivered to your doorstep for free in a few hours.
Package containing Xiaomi Mi Note Pro
Inside the brown shipping box, the Mi Note Pro black case had a high end feel. As the box opening pictures below show, the Mi Note Pro comes with the standard USB charger and cable but doesn't include any headphones.
Xiaomi Mi Note Pro Box contents
Below are the startup screens for the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro:
One thing that you can immediately notice is that the battery charging icon in the upper right doesn't change when you plug the phone into the USB charger. After you do a Xiaomi software update, this problem is fixed as per the screenshots below.
This also highlights an important difference between Xiaomi and Apple's product release policy. Xiaomi releases hardware early and do frequent field updates while Apple tests everything thoroughly first in-house prior to product release.
The Xiaomi Mi Note Pro is Xiaomi's flagship phone and like other phones in its class, it uses eight CPU cores (four cores run at 2 Ghz while the other 4 cores run at 1.5 Ghz). The Xiaomi Mi Note Pro uses the Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 while Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge uses Samsung's own octa-core Exynos 7420 which has 4 cores running at 2.1 Ghz and 4 cores running at 1.5 Ghz. Huawei's P8 uses (Huawei owned) HiSilicon Kirin 930 also running 4 cores running at 2 Ghz and 4 cores running at 1.5 Ghz.
If you remember, there was a lot of hubbub in early 2015 about how Samsung complained the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 was so too hot to use so Samsung decided to use their own Exynos 7420 processor instead? Qualcomm's stock dropped like a rock after that news.
When playing a CPU intensive driving game "Need for Speed Most Wanted" I noticed that the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro got unbearably hot- so hot that it was almost painful to hold and play the game. Maybe there was what Samsung executives were complaining about.
However, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is actually quite hot itself even when using Samsung's own Exynos 7420. I had to purchase the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Clear View Cover to make it easier to hold the Galaxy S6 Edge when it got hot.
To compare the temperatures of both phones, I played Need for Speed Most Wanted on both phones and then used Cpu Temperature app to measure the temperature on both phones. After running the game for 10 minutes on both phones, the temperature measured by the app was similar and both phones were hot with CPU temperature going from 35-36 degrees in rest mode to about 42 degrees after 10 minutes of play. Both phones seemed to get equally hot which is not surprising since both phones are using octa-core processors runnings at similar speeds.
The Xiaomi Mi Note Pro is a great phone but one potential drawback is that the phones purchased in China don't have Google Play installed and it's not straightforward for the average user to root their phone and install Google Play. See list of App Stores which are easier to install to get around this.