Red hot demand for Redmi smartphone

SINGAPORE - A new smartphone hailing from China has created a buzz among gadget-obsessed Singaporeans, selling out in minutes in launches over the past fortnight.

Produced by technology company Xiaomi, which until recently was relatively unknown outside China, the Redmi phone boasts features similar to those of high-end phones, but retails for only $169, without a contract.

When Xiaomi launched sales on Feb 21 and 27 through its local website, the phone was sold out in eight and six minutes respectively. Launches by the three local telcos - SingTel, StarHub and M1 - on Feb 27 also saw the phone snapped up in minutes.

The buzz reached such a fever pitch that a black market, where the phone can be had for twice its original price, sprang up.

A check by MyPaper found at least nine brand-new Redmis selling on eBay Singapore for between $210 and $300. Another three are selling for $228 to $259 on Website Shopabout is selling an undisclosed number of phones for $185 each.

The Redmi rush has resulted in hiccups in deliveries. Several customers who ordered directly from Xiaomi have left complaints on the company's Singapore Facebook page about its buggy online purchase system and delayed deliveries.

One reason for the buzz has been put down to the fact that, like many other popular phones, the Redmi has been released in carefully timed and controlled batches.

While Xiaomi and the local telcos did not reveal sales figures, statistics given for Redmi's launches in other countries show the Chinese company's penchant for small-batch releases.

For its initial mainland launch last year, it released just 10,000 units in Hong Kong and 50,000 for the rest of China.

Another reason for the rush is the phone's apparent value for money. The few who have bought the phone have left positive reviews online about its 8MP camera, 4.7-inch screen and capacity to hold two SIM cards at once - all for a fraction of the price of bigger-brand phones.

Digital creative Brandon Lee, 33, bought the phone from the Xiaomi online store within the first minute of its launch on the first day. "In its price range, it has no competition in terms of quality and features," he said.

Get MyPaper for more stories.