There’s a lot of attention right now on Xiaomi, which at some point this year surpassed tech-giants Apple and Samsung to hold the title of biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Relatively unknown until the later part of the last decade, Xiaomi’s rise to glory was a gradual, steady feat, accomplished by serving up affordable, high-performance smartphones and other value-oriented mobile devices to the global market. Today, or at least in the first quarter of 2021, Xiaomi was the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, with total sales of its handsets exceeding that of either Samsung or Apple.
If you’re familiar with the brand, the name Xiaomi brings to mind numbered models like the ever-popular Mi 10 and Mi 11 Lite, or the latest hyper-flagship, the Mi 11 Ultra. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that a couple of other smartphone brands fall under the Xiaomi umbrella.
These two brands are Redmi and Poco, which are both excellent smartphone manufacturers in their own right, with their own products, design teams, and release schedules. The Xiaomi smartphone brand also joins these two as the “main” sub-brand – and we use the term “main” loosely, since sub-brands Redmi and Poco also generate significant revenue, with the Xiaomi smartphone line being their high-end offering – belonging to the larger Xiaomi Corporation, which deals in all kinds of consumer tech products, not just smartphones.
These products include everything from air purifiers to television sets to vacuum cleaners and electric clippers, so it’s an important distinction to be made that Xiaomi, Redmi, and Poco are all smartphone manufacturers under the Xiaomi Corporation.
Difference Between Xiaomi and Redmi
If that’s all very confusing or unclear, don’t worry – this guide has you covered. With all of the hype and popularity of both Xiaomi and Redmi smartphones in 2021, you might be considering upgrading to a model from either of these brands. When making any purchase decision, particularly a big one like the smartphone that’s (assumingly) going to be your daily driver for the next few years, it’s always good to get to know brands and what they’re known for, and the kind of market they’re aiming their products and features at. It’s a great practice as a consumer, and if you’re looking to figure out the difference between Xiaomi and Redmi, you’ve come to the right place.
The Xiaomi Corporation is a consumer technology manufacturer based in China, and deals in all kinds of consumer tech like home appliances, mobile devices, office equipment, and plenty of great stuff made affordably in the far east. This, of course, includes smartphones through one of its sub-brands, also called Xiaomi. Xiaomi smartphones were first introduced back in 2011 with the launch of the Xiaomi Mi 1, which was hardly a commercial hit. Since then, the Mi line of smartphones has acted as the brand’s flagship offerings, designed to go toe-to-toe with the high-end flagship Android phones of the day, particularly Samsung.
Redmi was just a line of budget Xiaomi smartphones that launched back in 2013 with a specific purpose: to bring high-value performance handsets to the budget market. Its first product – the Redmi 1 was a smash hit in 2013, putting the brand on the global radar. In fact, my very first smartphone was the Redmi 1S which came out a year later in 2014, and in the two years I had that handset, I can honestly say it did its job: great performance at budget prices. In 2019, however, Redmi became a full-fledged sub-brand of Xiaomi, focusing on creating impactful, budget smartphones so that Xiaomi could focus on the larger, potentially more lucrative market for high-end flagships. Today, ten generations of budget-friendly smartphones later, Redmi enjoys an overall positive global response, and is currently one of the best-selling smartphone brands in the massive Indian market.
Now that we’ve gotten to know our brands a little better, the difference between them becomes clear. While they’re both smartphone manufacturers under the same corporation, Xiaomi and Redmi are intended to cater to entirely different markets. Xiaomi dedicates its efforts to their high-end offerings and flagship smartphones to take on Samsung’s Galaxy S series and Apple’s iPhones head on, while Redmi continues to bring up the rear, offering budget-friendly devices that serve a need for performance handsets in the budget category.
Image from Xiaomi Global
If you compare a Samsung flagship like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, for example, with the brand’s budget offerings like the Samsung Galaxy A50, you’ll notice quite a few things right off the bat: first, a stark difference in price (that much is expected), and second, a stark difference in overall speed and performance. It makes sense, of course, for Samsung to encourage flagship sales by making it pretty obvious which is the superior phone.
However, that’s definitely not what Xiaomi does. Despite being owned by the same parent company, Xiaomi and Redmi go all-out on their devices. Redmi does its absolute best to deliver the best performance and the best experiences despite its low-price targets, and year after year, the brand surprises us with unprecedented power we’d expect from a much more expensive device.
Xiaomi, on the other hand, nearly always goes all-out in terms of speed and performance. Unlike brands like Samsung and Apple which devote billions-worth of various resources towards marketing and design shifts, Xiaomi has consistently put everything it has into its flagship smartphones.
The end result: ridiculously high-specced smartphones available at more affordable prices, or at least with a better price-to-performance ratio than anything else on the market. If you’re aiming for the smartphone that gives you the best bang for your buck, you’ll likely find it on the Xiaomi line.
That said, it’s not rare for Xiaomi and Redmi phones to share a handful of the same or similar high-powered components, which means Redmi doesn’t fall too far behind in terms of performance, even with its much lower price tag.
Image from Xiaomi Global
But if Xiaomi and Redmi phones both offer great performance, then why doesn’t everyone just buy a Redmi instead since it’s cheaper?
That’s a great question, and here’s your answer: with Redmi’s mission to deliver performance handsets at budget prices, it’s apparent that this sub-brand focuses more on spec-by-spec improvement. Don’t get us wrong, Redmi phones are pretty well-built, but they’re also a far-cry from what you’d call ‘premium’. In order to keep prices within the budget range, Redmi phones make use of cheaper materials like plastic instead of higher-end materials like glass and ceramic which you’d have no trouble finding on a 2021 flagship smartphone.
It cuts corners elsewhere, too, to achieve a desirable price tag, like shying away from metal frames or anything else that could unnecessarily bump up the cost of production. In short and on the whole, while Redmi phones offer competitive performance and speed, they’ll still feel like a budget smartphone in-hand, with some aesthetic decisions to make them at least look more premium.
Xiaomi smartphones, on the other hand, like the latest Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra, aren’t as price-restricted, and often come with top-of-the-line materials and build quality on top of their impressive internals. For example, the Mi 11 Ultra comes with high-durability ceramic which is becoming a mainstay in flagship smartphone design, as well as unique aesthetics that make it easily distinguishable as a cutting-edge smartphone.
Unlike Redmi, Xiaomi has a lot more freedom in what it can do with its devices, which means Mi phones are going to be more polished and premium, as expected of a flagship line.
Image from Xiaomi Global
In terms of battery life, Xiaomi and Redmi phones are more or less on-par, with the company reserving some of its best battery and charging features for its high-end line of smartphones. On a whole, both the Xiaomi and Redmi aim to give their customers reliable all-day batteries (although on some of the latest Xiaomi models, you can even get around two days of use on a single charge). Battery size differs across models on both of these sub-brands, but if we’re talking about the latest and greatest, then both the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the Redmi Note 10 Pro come with the biggest smartphone batteries from Xiaomi, clocking in at 5,000 mAh.
Charging speed is the same story. Since Redmi and Xiaomi cater to entirely different markets, they don’t really ‘compete’ with each other, which means they’re free to soup-up their smartphones as much as they possibly can. In terms of charging speed – especially when you’re looking at the latest models – both the Redmi and Xiaomi offer some stellar fast-charging performance. Case in point: the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the Redmi Note 11 Pro both come with fast charging – 120W for the Xiaomi, and 67W for the Redmi. On the Mi 11 Ultra, that nets you 0-100% in just a little over half an hour, while on the Redmi, you get 0-100% in just under 45 minutes.
Image from Xiaomi Global
Now, while Xiaomi and Redmi both try their best to give their users as much value as possible out of their handsets – so far in this guide, that’s meant excellent performance and battery life for the price across both brands – one aspect where the difference may be more noticeable is in camera performance.
Flagships like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and the Apple iPhone 13, compete heavily with each other for image quality, video quality, and the overall camera experience, and getting ahead in this aspect isn’t just a matter of slapping on the best camera sensors money can buy – it takes a lot of work, both in terms of hardware and software – to create a true flagship camera experience.
In this regard, both Xiaomi and Redmi offer great cameras when you compare them to other products in their price range. However, when you compare them to each other, the Redmi falls behind significantly, because it’s a budget smartphone line. That said, Redmi camera capabilities are no slouch. On the Redmi Note 11 Pro, you’re actually getting one of the best smartphone cameras in the budget category – a triple camera system with a 108MP main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide, and a 2MP telephoto.
Despite that, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra blows it out of the water with an even more powerful triple camera system with top-of-the-line sensors and some high-end features like 8K video recording and powerful AI image processing.
Image from MIUI Global
While Redmi and Xiaomi smartphones offer distinct handsets in their own right – both in terms of aesthetics and performance – but one aspect where they’re more or less identical is in the operating system. All Xiaomi and Redmi phones run on Android – the version may differ depending on the make and year of your specific handset – with their in-house MIUI skin built on top of it.
MIUI has seen some mixed reception over the years, with the user-base divided between thinking it’s the best thing to happen to Android and thinking it’s almost a deal-breaker for Xiaomi and Redmi phones. Xiaomi recognizes this and even decided to ship some of its smartphones with Android One instead of MIUI, to offer a near-stock Android experience with a focus on the Google ecosystem and services.
Now that we’ve discussed Xiaomi and Redmi in detail, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: if Redmi phones are so good, why is it significantly cheaper than the flagship Xiaomi smartphones? It’s not really a trade secret, but the answer is simply because Redmi does a great job of offering their customers as much value out of their smartphone as possible while keeping their products well within the budget range.
Of course, that involves a lot of cost-cutting – cheaper materials and implementing only the essentials – but it also helps that Xiaomi is one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world, allowing them to keep production costs per unit low thanks to economies of scale.
Table of Contents