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Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says Mix Alpha phone nixed, in-house chip development faces ‘difficulties’

Xiaomi marched into the chip development field in 2014 but has yet to deliver solid results.

Image credit to Quartz

Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi (HKSE:1810) will not mass produce the Mix Alpha model, which wowed tech-savvy fans with the nascent concept of “surround screen” when it was unveiled in September 2019. The announcement came as the company also faces difficulties with its homegrown chip project, according to founder and CEO Lei Jun via a Weibo post Sunday.

The Mix Alpha features a display that wraps entirely around the device, leaving only a thin strip for cameras and some buttons. The handset, built with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855+ processor and 5G connectivity, was priced at a staggering RMB 19,000 (USD 2,869) at release. Xiaomi introduced it as a “concept phone” and promised to make it available in December last year. However, these plans were postponed indefinitely in the first sign that the project might never take off.

“The mass production of the Mix Alpha proved to be too difficult, and we decided to drop it to focus on the next-generation model in the Mix lineup,” Lei wrote in the post in response to Xiaomi fans’ questions, without further details.

In addition, when asked whether the Mix 4 will debut at this Tuesday’s Xiaomi 10th anniversary speech, Lei answered that it will need more time. Xiaomi’s flagship Mix series, which debuted in 2016 and has a price range in price from RMB 3,499 (USD 502) to RMB 3,999 (USD 574), is considered by many to be the company’s effort to shake its “bargain” reputation.

Lei’s letter also addressed the company progress on in-house chipset development.

Since announcing its intention to rely on its own chips in 2016, Xiaomi joined a small group of smartphone companies including Samsung and Huawei who have such a capability. However, Xiaomi’s Surge S1 processor and S1-powered 5C phone, received lukewarm responses after their release in 2017.

Since then, Xiaomi’s chipset development project hasn’t delivered new products, but the company has made several investments in semiconductor and chip companies.

Amid Sino-US tensions, more Chinese smartphone vendors have sought to reduce the reliance on external electronics companies like Qualcomm. Oppo, for example, has put more effort into making its own chipsets, KrASIA wrote.

Last week, Huawei’s consumer head Richard Yu said contractors will no longer produce Kirin chips, designed by Huawei’s HiSilicon division, from September 15 onward, due to US sanctions.