On the evening of May 13, Xiaomi co-founder and CEO Lei Jun released an internal letter announcing the establishment of an independent camera department to strengthen R&D for smartphone cameras. Lei emphasized that camera functions have become a decisive factor for smartphone purchases among many consumers. With increasing demands on smartphone camera configurations, the new camera department will be given priority on all available resources to make Xiaomi cameras the best on the market.
Xiaomi’s main competitive advantage used to be its processor speeds, offering superior user experience while camera functions were substandard. Their rear cameras were second-class even in flagships like the Mi Mix 2. It was not until the Mi Note 3 did Xiaomi’s cameras reach another level, winning recognitions from professional assessment agencies and users alike. That is to say, Xiaomi’s cameras only entered the first tier in the recent year.
In 2018, many Xiaomi smartphones including the Mi Mix 2S, Red Mi Note 5A, Xiaomi 6X, and Red Rice S2 all started to focus on the photography and selfie features and enhance camera functions.
R&D in smartphone screens has hit a ceiling, and the processor is subject to upstream in the industry’s value chain, thus the camera quality has become a new driving force in the market, just as Lei said. This move by Xiaomi is targeting their product short-comings.
OPPO, Vivo and Huawei have all improved their smartphone photography functions in recent years. The former two brought numerous innovations in selfie features to attract young users, and Huawei further advanced R&D in camera modules. In March, the press conferences of Huawei P20 Pro and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s collided, but the former swiftly seized media attention and user recognition with its triple rear camera design.
Xiaomi’s determination to enhance its smartphone camera features is evident from Lei’s letter. It is reported that the Xiaomi 7 and 8 smartphones will be officially unveiled at the end of May. In addition to the flagship Snapdragon 845 processor, we could also expect enhancements in camera features.
At the same time, Lei Jun appointed Zhu Dan, the former head of product at the smartphone department, as the new general manager of the new camera department and vice president of the mobile phone department. Zhu’s former position will be taken over by Wang Teng, the former director of product.