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Xiaomi set to rekindle smartphone battle

All Headlines 09:19 March 03, 2016

SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- China-based tech giant Xiaomi Inc., which has been sluggish in tapping overseas markets due to copyright-related issues, is set to speed up its expansion with a new flagship, industry sources said Thursday, engaging in new battles with top brands like Samsung and Apple in South Korea.

The outlook came as Xiaomi showcased its new premium smartphone, the Mi5, at the Mobile World Congress in February. It marked the first time in almost two years that the Chinese firm has introduced a new flagship. The company has remained sluggish in tapping other markets, mostly due to copyright and patent problems.

Xiaomi said the new smartphone will reach other countries outside China this month. Industry watchers expect the high-end Xiaomi smartphone will still come with a reasonable price tag, a feature that will help the Chinese firm to take on existing market leaders.

Xiaomi has never made an official debut in South Korea through local mobile carriers, but its smartphones have been a hit for tech enthusiasts or bargain hunters through online direct-purchase dealers.

Earlier this year, a local dollar shop chain also began offline sales of Xiaomi smartphones through vending machines. Should the Mi5 reach Seoul, the smartphone is expected to weigh down on local players, industry watchers added.

Samsung Electronics Co., a South Korean tech giant, also plans to release its new flagship, the Galaxy S7, and its sister Galaxy S7 Edge around the globe on March 11. Although Samsung's new smartphones come with top-notch features including water resistance, industry watchers expect its price to be at least 50 percent higher than the Mi5.

Preorders for the Galaxy S7 series will begin on Friday in South Korea, with the official sales slated for March 11 in 60 countries around the globe.

LG Electronics Inc., Samsung's smaller rival, will start sales of the G5 smartphone this month, which revolutionized LG's flagship models by allowing users to "add" new features on the bottom. The slid-in detachable battery also appealed to users.

With Asian tech giants beginning their full-fledged 2016 battle, U.S. giant Apple Inc. is also widely expected to introduce a budget edition of its iconic iPhone.

Although sales of the new Apple product is likely to take place months after, the global mobile market, including South Korea, is anticipating a fierce battle, especially as Samsung has been struggling to revitalize its smartphone sales amid lackluster performances.

colin@yna.co.kr
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