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Xiaomi Phone 2S and 2A announced, bringing MIUI v5 and Krait 300 together

After selling 7.19 million phones in China last year, Xiaomi is now one step closer to world domination with a new device that'll take it to new territories: the Xiaomi Phone 2S (or MI-2S). As the name and look (pictured left) suggest, this is pretty much the same device as the 4.3-inch Xiaomi Phone 2, except it comes with Qualcomm's newer Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip clocked at 1.7GHz, plus a beefed up camera of 13-megapixel resolution (with F2.2 aperture) on the 32GB model. The 16GB 2S, on the other hand, gets the same old 8-megapixel F2.0 imager. The rest of the hardware is the same old: 2GB RAM, 2,000mAH removable battery, 720p IPS display, dual-mic noise cancellation, 2-megapixel front-facing camera and WCDMA 850/1900/2100MHz radio (there's also a CDMA version for China Telecom).

Unlike the previous launch, the 16GB flavor of this phone is already in stock on the day of announcement and is ready for purchase in China today for ¥1,999 or about $320 unsubsidized. Actually, strike that -- apparently the first lot of 200,000 units promptly sold out (likely thanks to scalpers). Luckily, Xiaomi is finally tapping into the Hong Kong market via its xiaomi.hk website starting April 23rd, so chances are genuine buyers in Hong Kong won't have to compete against the machines from mainland China; and Taiwan customers will also be able to buy a 2S from either local carrier Far Eastone towards the end of this month, or from xiaomi.tw starting next month. No word on the availability of the 32GB model just yet, but it's already priced at ¥2,299 or about $370 unsubsidized.

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Xiaomi Phone 2A

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Xiaomi Phone 2S

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Xiaomi Fans Carnival 2013

The familiar-looking phone on the right is the Xiaomi Phone 2A. Much like how the original Xiaomi Phone got a "Youth Edition" fork, the 2A serves as a budget variant of the Xiaomi Phone 2, which is why the CPU's been "downgraded" from the quad-core APQ8064 to the dual-core MSM8260A (with just 1GB RAM). On the other hand, this particular version of MSM8260A does utilize Qualcomm's newer Krait 300 architecture instead of Krait 200, and it's clocked at 1.7GHz instead of 1.5GHz. The same old 16GB storage space, 2,000mAh removable battery, 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front-facing camera and the powerful Adreno 320 graphics chip are here to stay.

That said, the rest of the 2A is rather peculiar considering this model is meant to be a cheaper offering: the 720p IPS screen has been bumped up from 4.3 inches to 4.5 inches, and the phone also comes with NFC, 5GHz WiFi plus a new audio engine co-developed with Sweden-based Dirac (instead of using Dolby's). It's no wonder that this phone is a "2A" instead of yet another "Youth Edition," but it is also baffling that Xiaomi has avoided throwing in NFC for the 2S as well. Anyway, the 2A will be available in China three weeks from now. The price? ¥1,499 or about $240 unsubsidized.

Xiaomi Phone 2S and 2A announced with MIUI v5, the former entering Hong Kong and Taiwan

Of course, let's not forget the software. Both phones are graced with the presence of the new MIUI v5, which benefits from not only a leaner look (with a new system font, general visual tweaks and also less distracting stock wallpapers) but also from live icons. Here are a handful of new software features added to the already rather intuitive Android fork from Xiaomi:

  • Pre-identification of unknown incoming caller ID (based on Chinese crowd-sourced phone number database, so China only), so you'd know if it's a spam call or just the delivery man calling
  • Phone book is able to look up the most common service hotline numbers in China, including banking services and restaurants
  • Toggle automatic call-recording for specific incoming callers (CEO Lei Jun said this was his idea)
  • Voice recorder supports 168 hours of continuous recording, saved on the fly, wouldn't be interrupted by incoming calls or notifications (which are muted automatically); and the recorded MP3 files won't show up in the native music player
  • System lets you monitor and control data traffic from each app
  • Unified background sync of apps for longer standby time -- up to twice as long compared to vanilla Android 4.1
  • MiChat (which is also available outside MIUI) now supports walkie-talkie-style video messages instead of just audio

Lei also used his stage time at today's packed "Xiaomi Fans Carnival" to bolster Xiaomi's position in the mobile content world. According to the CEO, his company's app store MiStore today offers 20,000 apps and has seen a total of 500 million downloads so far, while its Doukan store now has 3,000 legit e-books, and Xiaomi's game center comes with 10,000 games -- including PopCap's official China debut of its classic title Bejeweled today -- with a total of 60 million downloads. As for video content, the Xiaomi Box has yet to take off properly after its botched launch due to demands from a provincial regulator, but 50,000 of them have already been sold in the three launch cities so far. We've been told to expect a full China roll-out in May, so stay tuned.

The question now is whether Xiaomi can extend this aspect of the company to around the world. Sure, Hong Kong and Taiwan make a good first step towards the international market, but it's also a relatively easy step given the similar cultural backgrounds. Xiaomi's real success will only be proven when it does eventually enter, say, Europe as we had once heard; and it wouldn't hurt to see some improved hardware design instead of just software. We shall take another pulse check in about a year's time.