Ok, so let’s put aside for a moment that it looks like, feels like, and acts like a Fitbit device. What Xiaomi has just done by introducing its Mi Band activity tracker to the U.S. is important. Why? Well, I’ve spent a lot of time on the conference circuit, on panels, in meetings, showing colleagues my giant bag of churned through activity trackers. And while one might say that I have an unreasonably high bar, my sense of the overall market is that most of these devices end up in bags like mine, or in desk drawers, never to see the light of day again. The use cases, over time, are just not compelling, and aside from Nike’s Fuelband, a device that regardless of its performance, has fashionistas and hipsters wearing it just to be like Mike, or LeBron, or whomever is wearing it in the Nike promo videos, most are DOA.
So what’s the innovation here that Xiaomi is bringing to the U.S. market you ask? Its the $15 price point, dummy! The psychological impact of knowing that this device, if tossed, is the equivalent of buying a package of 12 rolls of toilet paper at Costco is completely liberating. Dog eats it? Who cares. Breaks? So what. Don’t use it? BFD. It is $15!
Clearly, wearables is an important and increasingly so important global category, especially in China where Xiaomi and Huawei are both keenly interested in the market. But lets not mistake Xiaomi for a Johnny Come Lately here. It already owns 17.1% of the global market, without even starting in the U.S. So while the company lacks distribution (it has only sold directly to consumers in their core markets) in the U.S., the promise here is great to disrupt both the consumer market, and the enterprise (company hr) market, especially areas where FitBit has been strongest in the category.