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Chinese £200 iPhone killer unwraps for Xmas

We've been waiting for Steve to die, says biz boss

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Next month will see the launch of a handset which outperforms the iPhone, at £200, from a man who admits he's been waiting for Steve Jobs to die.

That man is Lei Jun, and the phone is the much-anticipated Xiaomi handset. The release date is 18 December. Xiaomi is an Android-based handset with a dual-core processor, and sold 300,000 pre-orders in 34 hours thanks to an (unsubsidised) price of only £200, and a man who openly aped the head of Apple and even predicted his own success would come out of Steve Jobs' demise.

"[Steve] Jobs will die someday, so there are still opportunities for us. The meaning of our existence is just waiting for him to kick the bucket," he told Entrepreneur magazine a scant two months before Steve did indeed kick the aforementioned bucket.

But it's the style of Lei Jun which most apes the Apple man, leaping onto the stage with absolute conviction about the superiority of his own products. The Xiaomi handset has a highly-regarded skin atop of Android, branded MIUI, with some localisation tweaks. Engadget has a video showing one of the prototypes in action (and crashing).

Those prototypes are showing some production concerns, including flaking paint and cracking cases, according to local reports, though these are dismissed by Lei Jun in typical Jobsian style.

The pre-orders were supposed to be fulfilled during October, so the 18 December date is already late and to Western eyes looks awfully close to Christmas. That's less of an issue in China, obviously, and in plenty of time for Chinese New Year which falls on 23 January in 2012.

A dual-core, 1.2GHz, Android handset for £200 clearly has potential way beyond China's borders, though fulfilling local orders will keep the company busy for a while if the pre-order rate is anything to go by. If the Xiaomi turns out to be reliable, and keeps its low price, then it will certainly sell enough units to attract the attention of Apple's lawyers no matter how many polo-neck sweaters Lei Jun wears. ®

Bootnote

* Thanks to Penn Olson for the translation, Google translated "kick the bucket" as "hang", which gives a slightly different impression.

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