23
Oct
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It's not all that uncommon for software companies to roll out updates on a monthly, even weekly basis, but manufacturers are typically content to improve their products much more slowly. This isn't the case with Xiaomi, the successful Chinese smartphone maker Hugo Barra, former Vice President of Product Management for Android, left Google to join a few months ago. The company ships a new batch of phones every week, partially relying on user feedback to determine what changes they should make for each group - new shipments come out every Tuesday at noon Beijing time, containing new software builds and possible minor hardware tweaks.

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Barra revealed at Tuesday's GMIC mobile Internet conference in San Francisco that Xiaomi's product managers can spend half their time browsing through the company's user forums. Once they pick up a suggestion, it can appear on an engineer's desk within a few hours. Features can then turn from mere concept to shipping products in the span of a week. Xiaomi calls this process "design as you build."

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Though Xiaomi is regularly called the Apple of China, founder Lei Jun says that the company's goals are very different. Unlike Apple, which takes a secretive top-down approach to designing its products and pulls in revenue through high mark-ups, Xiaomi seeks to sell a product as close to the manufacturing price as possible. The company has no plans to develop its own operating system, with Lei calling the company 100% compatible with Android. Barra finds the company's focus on the user to be reminiscent of Google's motto, "Don't be evil." What do you think?

Via: Forbes

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. He now lives in the City of Bridges, adjusting to the presence of actual snow. His phone of choice is the HTC One.

  • bl_nk

    How do I give them my money?

    • Scott

      I can give you a paypal address :p

  • Seth Merritt

    *basis

    • Rafael

      XIAOMI updates their Software every week, not hardware i believe.

      They are the company behind MIUI by the way. ;-)

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    So essentially the same phone i bought a week ago could be 100% better the next week? i don't see how this is fair, it's called beta testing, not shipping a final product.

    • Christopher Lee

      What do you mean, "fair?" You buy a product from them, done. It's not like there's any company that lets you "subscribe" to get the refreshed products that roll off the line at no additional cost.

  • PhoenixPath

    Your brand new phone is obsolete every Tuesday?

    ...or am I understanding this incorrectly?

    • Michael Pahl

      Hardware updates should read firmware updates, I believe.

    • Guest

      AP have no clue what they're talking about. Xiaomi gets updates weekly, it's the software that's update, not new phones.

      • Michael J Carroll

        The article states that every Tuesday there is a software update and, most of the time, a hardware update, too.

      • ari_free

        No it means they are constantly releasing slightly updated phones instead of putting out one new phone a year. Your phone won't get a hardware update but the phone sold next week would.

        • Bloodflame87

          They do release new models on an annual basis, though. Mi1, Mi2, Mi3, etc. Each model will get minor revisions each week, but each year, the next model will be available with a newer design, faster processor, more RAM, nicer screen and camera, etc.

    • Alex

      They actually send you small microchips on a weekly basis. The phones come with starter soldering kits for this reason.

      • Cherokee4Life

        This is an amazing idea, somehow though I doubt this kind of product would ever come to America is mass quantities :(

      • Ryan Stuckmaier

        Phonebloks, yo.

      • meijin3

        ...That's sarcasm right? Am I just this slow?

  • Brad

    I assume they don't work in America?

    • bprichard

      Should work fine on T-Mobile and AT&T. No LTE, of course.

      • Brad

        not worth it, as beautiful as those phones are... maybe Hugo will convince them to build other versions for us.

  • Abraham

    I dont see it as "beta testing".
    If they ship a phone that works properly 100% of the time, then go for it. You are not testing anything, you are enjoying a phone that is retail ready and doing what its supposed to do.

    If next week, they find a way to improve something, that is not necessarily broken, why not?

  • TY

    By new hardware every week, you mean software build.

  • Dillon Lawrence

    This article is wrong. It's software updates. Not Hardware revisions. AP usually has excellent articles, so someone is obviously having a bad day.

    • Guest

      They actually send you small microchips on a weekly basis. The phones comes with starter soldering kits for this reason.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I don't think Bertel meant that they update the hardware every week, but the original source does mention that they make improvements to each weekly batch (meaning they ship out with updated features and new software, not the same tired builds).

      Though, I see this apply to minor hardware revisions as well. Notice the camera is getting too scratched? Tweak it slightly (remember the Nexus 4's nipples that showed up later?). Or if there's an issue with a sim card popping out, tweak that and make the housing stronger. Etc.

      • Dillon Lawrence

        Thanks. I thought they only made minor tweaks as deviating too far would mean they'd introduce a new product.

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      Looking at the source material, it appears that a new batch of phones is produced each week containing both software updates *and* potential hardware tweaks as needed. Naturally the devices aren't going to be radically different, as Xiaomi isn't likely to move the buttons around in a week just because a bunch of users complained (software also doesn't typically change that quickly, for that matter), but if users are pointing out build quality issues or the like, this more fluid process may see those things tended to more quickly.

      I will gladly concede the point that someone is having a bad day, as this post certainly was not as clear as I thought it was. Hopefully tweaks have made it better.

      • Dillon Lawrence

        Great. Thanks for being a good sport and updating the article. Hope your day goes well.

  • invinciblegod

    So for people clamoring for a Lumia running android, search no more!

  • Carl_Barlson

    Firmware/Software updates right? I can't see it actually being hardware updates.

    • Dillon Lawrence

      Yes. It's software.

  • cramleir

    I dunno guys...look at the source article at Forbes. Seems pretty clear he's talking about hardware. Probably small usability and ergonomics updates to the phone as the manufacturing occurs??

    • Dillon Lawrence

      Like the Nexus 4's nipples? Certainly possible but to deviate too much away from the first product would mean a whole new product is being introduced.

  • Dalibor Kollár

    If only they would adopt new versions of android faster... :-( MIUI Rom for Mi2 is still 4.1.1

    • Sohip

      What about MIUI v5, isn't based on Android 4.3???

      • Dalibor Kollár

        Unfortunatley that's the version I'm talking about. No, V5 is on 4.1.1:

        http://en.miui.com/download.html

        There is ROM made by Xiaomi developers based on 4.3, but it's not fully functional yet. And also, there is CM 10.2 port available on XDA.

        http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2444659

        But I'm far behind stage in my life when tinkering with my phone is all fun, fun, fun...

        By the way, if you'll check the xda thread of CM10.2 port, there are some critical remarks regarding coding practices of Xiaomi developers working on MIUI. This is the topic I would like to hear Hugo's comments about.

        • Sohip

          Thank you for the info and the links :)

  • awaaas

    This would be a support nightmare, like, "This software update is applicable for batch 1, 2, 4 only. Batch 3 users, stay tune for software update"

  • ugly bob

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2484740
    "If Xiaomi makes major changes to their policy of rampant intellectual property theft, maybe things will change.

    But in general, for a developer, our most limited resource is time. As a
    result, it's far better to work with a company that cooperates with the
    community and treats them with respect (Oppo, Sony, Google's Nexus
    devices) than one who constantly treats them like ****.

    There's also the principle of the thing. I absolutely 100% refuse to
    work with the devices of any company that commits frequent GPL
    violations. Even if Xiaomi finally stops violating the GPL, they'll
    have to work hard for their long-standing track record of extremely poor
    behavior."

    Not sure I want to support this company.

    • Grahaman27

      Of course they violate GPL, they don't have the play store or any Google services... Its not a bad thing as if they are a bad company.

      • didibus

        It's a bad thing. Someone wrote code for linux using their own time and resources, said you can use such code for free only if you release back all modification of such code. Else, you can not use such code for free. Xiaomi is using such code without releasing back it's modifications, therefore stealing the code, because they are breaching the agreement.

        I even think this would be illegal in america, though I am not sure what legality are involved here exactly.

      • Mike Reid

        Yes it is a bad thing, and they are a bad company.

        Don't confuse software license violations with forking Android and not getting Google Play app licenses.

        GPL software license violations are not that different than outright piracy. Granted, outright piracy may or may not be illegal in China, but it's illegal in most of the world and GPL has been a force for good IMO.

        • Bloodflame87

          The simple fact that Android is based on Linux, and uses a Linux kernel, is proof enough that they are breaking the GPL. Sure, Android itself may be using an Apache licence, but the kernel is still derived from Linux, which is under the GPL. By this standard, there are actually numerous Android OEMs breaking the GPL. Some may release the kernel source (and good for them) but plenty of them do not. Even if they aren't making any changes to the kernel (which is doubtful - I'm sure they all do in one way or another), they still need to provide the source anyway. If anyone actually reads the GPL, they would know that. Anyone can find the GPL with a very quick Google search, and right in the preamble, it states:

          "For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must pass on to the recipients the same freedoms that you received. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights"

          Maybe these manufacturers need a memo...

    • ari_free

      And Barra actually thinks this can sell outside of China?

    • KingRando

      At the end of the day, who cares.

  • My name is….

    Sounds good, but they really need to work on the availability part.
    Thei products are available on very few sites, and on most of them they have inflated prices

  • robogo

    If they sold phones in the EU, I reckon I'd get one. They look well built and overall seem designed by someone who knows what he/she is doing.

  • someone755

    Make 'em smaller and bring them to Europe, with perfect English translation, and I'm yours.

  • Tomáš Petrík

    Load them with stock Android (Google Edition) and I'm getting one in no time.

    • Bluewall

      AFAIK Xiaomi's phones have a dual boot with MIUI and Android Vanilla AKA stock

      • Tomáš Petrík

        Really? Never heard of that.

  • jcopernicus

    So Hugo is talking about how awesome it is to crowd surf user forums for ideas without having to pay for them.

    Awesome. No wonder he got kicked out of Google and joined a chinese company.

    dat litigation avoidance

    • h4rr4r

      If you don't want someone to use your idea, shut your mouth.

      Ideas are worthless by themselves. I have all kinds of ideas, but I do nothing so I get nothing.

    • Bluewall

      Company listening closely to customers about what they want to have or improve
      > Better get but hurt because they steal our ideas

  • eilegz

    i dont know why its the hate or criticism, its not that samsung and any other OEM its doing better for all android....

    hopefully miui and xiaomi expand to america soon as a user of mi1 their first phone im kinda happy and i really looking foward for new mi3

    • didibus

      They are stealing the code base of the linux kernel. They are using linux kernel code in a way that the license agreement of it denies. I'm not sure if that is not a reason why they do not release the phones in america, as I feel that might be illegal here and they could get sued for it if they did.

      • eilegz

        how its different from what others its doing.... they promised to release the kernel and hopefully they do it soon...

        from a customer perspective xiaomi its still supporting the first phone that they released updating every week.

        • didibus

          From a customer perspective, buying a stolen ps3 for 5$ is great. This is the same thing. Other companies do not violate GPL, they are not stealing other peoples work. Xiaomi is stealing the linux kernel code, the people who made the code does not allow Xiaomi to use it. Simple as that.

          • eilegz

            in wonder how credible its those claims, its not that samsung or HTC release the source of their own skins, or provide to AOSP, something that we should proud of sony at least...

            i dont know maybe im ignorant about how this works if they are really violating the laws and stolen from google, there could be some degree on how google block service to those devices.

            Again its who its claiming ownership of the code, the only thing that we could all argue its how miui interface resemble as iOS but other than that i dont see any wrong and if they really did why there its no news about it or why there its no boycott by google or any party involved

          • blumpkinator

            it's not about stealing from google. The android middleware is apache license, NOT GPL. OEM's do NOT have to open source their modifications to android.

            Android phones use the Linux kernel. Linux kernel is GPL, and thus ALL modifications you make to the code must be released as open source. HTC, Sony, samsung etc DO release their kernel sources. Unfortunately chip vendors usually do not open source their driver binaries so in order to make a working kernel from the released source code you have to rip blobs from a shipped release.

            By not releasing their kernel source, Xiamomi is stealing from all the hard working developers who have been so kind as to donate their code for all to use (assuming those who use it pay it forward...).

          • eilegz

            http://miuiandroid.com/2013/10/25/xiaomi-mi2-mi2a-kernel-goes-public/

            i guess this its the start, can you stop hating now?

          • didibus

            I think you misunderstand. Android uses the Linux Kernel. The Linux Kernel is a piece of code that has been developed over many years, by many people, but it's started with Linus Torvald the creator of Linux.

            When he created the linux kernel, he shared it with other people, but he did on one condition, that in turn, if those people change the code, they would have to give it back to him and everyone else.

            Every company respects this agreement, but not Xiaomi. Xiaomi decided to change the linux kernel,but did not give back those changes to Torvald or anyone else. This is a breach of the agreement, when Torvald and other programmers who worked on the linux kernel gave it to Xiaomi, they said they did on the condition he would give it back, and Xiaomi does not give it back.

          • thedosbox

            "i dont know maybe im ignorant about how this works"

            Yes, you are. The others are talking about the linux kernel being worked on by hundreds of developers volunteering their own time, not the OEM skins developed by employees of a manufacturer.

      • steve O

        If i use MIUI V5 on my Nexus 4 but use a different compiled kernel ( such as franco kernel ) does this break the GPL?. Is it only the kernel that is causing this upset?. Clearly Xiaomi can create great software, i actually prefer it to stock android.

        • didibus

          I am not sure, wikipedia says the rom is closed source with some components being open. I know the Linux Kernel is for sure in breach of the GPL, I can not say for the rest of it.

  • didibus

    Anyone know if the reason they don't release in EU and North America is because of their breach of the linux kernel GPL license? Is it illegal to breach a GPL license? Can they be sued for it in the EU and Americas, but not in China and elsewhere, which is maybe why they don't release here?

    Anyone knows?
    Thank You

  • Kostas

    I think Barra is a saint!

  • maziar esfandiarpoor

    I have MIUI rom on my htc sensation and it works like a charm and there are really useful features.

  • Bloodflame87

    "The company ships a new batch of phones every week"

    Wow, talk about going obsolete quickly these days. Even if I could buy one, by the time it shipped, it would already be outdated! :P

  • jurrabi

    It's, at the same time, a techy best dream and worse nightmare.
    Products evolving to respond to user feedback and weekly updates!! Imagine needing a new phone every week ;)

  • Pramod

    So statutory approvals are not needed to release new or updated devices ??!!!!!! or they are getting the necessary approvals at lightning speed ??!!

  • http://www.EyeForElegance.com/ lauriel

    Given the sheer magnitude of effort and process needed to coordinate and manage 1) incoming user feedback, 2) product development, and 3) product release content... a weekly release is ridiculously admirable. That's pretty much as agile as you can get - especially in mobile. I'm impressed!

  • http://www.deveyra.com/ Ronaldo Roberto De Veyra

    Why not just come out with new hardware every six months, and firmware updates every week? That's the perfect mix for me.