China’s Xiaomi has unveiled the ceramic-cased Mi5 Android smartphone, highlighting the top-end version of the handset is a fraction of the price of its rivals’ flagships.
The company held press conferences for the launch in Beijing and at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress.
The European press conference has fuelled speculation Xiaomi is preparing to expand sales beyond Asia and Brazil.
However, the company made no mention of any such plan during the presentations.
In fact, its representatives told MWC attendees the event was a “preview” rather than a launch.
“It suggests that Xiaomi has still not resolved issues over intellectual property and patent rights that it needs to do to put the handsets on sale in Europe and North America,” said Ben Wood, from tech consultancy CCS Insight.
“Doing that will come with a price tag.
“But coming to MWC gives Xiaomi access to hundreds of the top analysts, journalists and other industry commentators to help raise awareness of the Mi brand before any such launch.”
Another analyst agreed the company needed to expand further.
“Xiaomi missed its 2015 smartphone shipment target by seven million, because it was too exposed to the Chinese market, where fast growing iPhone sales hurt it,” said Ian Fogg, from IHS Technology.
“We see increasing numbers of Xiaomi smartphones appearing in use around the world, in many countries where Xiaomi smartphones are not officially on sale.
“[So] other smartphone makers must continue to look over their shoulder, even if Mi5’s official availability remains limited to a handful of countries.”
Xiaomi describes itself as the world’s fifth bestselling smartphone company.
Its handset shipments rose 23% last year, giving it about 5% of the global smartphone market, according to market research company IDC.
Xiaomi executive Hugo Barra told the MWC audience its ceramic body added to the Mi5’s manufacturing costs but made it more durable.
Nokia used to make phones using the material, but most rivals currently use glass, metal or plastic cases.
Mr Barra said the 5.1in (13in)-screened Mi5, at 6.95mm (0.27in) and 129g (0.28lb), was thinner and lighter than Apple’s iPhone 6S and Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
But its Chinese rival Huawei’s P8 phone is about 0.5mm thinner.