Hopefully Apple’s keeping an eye on relatively new Xiaomi (est. 2010 in Beijing, from what Wikipedia tells me). They apparently have a $10B valuation based on venture capital funding, an very-iPod-mini/nano-looking exterior aesthetic (Xiaomi Mi-3, for instance), a Bezos-esque founder, and the as-is-common-not-at-all-sorta-like-iOS Android-based user interface, right on down to the not-Siri personal assistant. You might have heard about Hugo Barra moving to Xiaomi from his old post as VP of Android Product Management at Google. Smartphone sales were apparently 7M through the first half of 2013, but with the VC backing it’s reported to have, the volume push will most certainly show up in the next year or two.
If there was an example of an Amazon of phones, this is it, though in the sense of high-end hardware at least on paper (Tegra 4, Sharp/LG-sourced 1080p 5″ screen, etc.) at little-to-no-margin. Not sure about LTE support though. Apparently Xiaomi leverages web services to make up for the lack of margin in device sales.
One thing I like about Xiaomi – their aggressiveness, which Apple should take note of even as it too turns up the heat. The fact that the Xiaomi Mi-3 64GB version is nowhere near $200US higher than the base version is one indication that Apple needs to step up and get with the times in terms of iPhone storage capacity. Even the less app-savvy iPhone user base continues to add media at a GB-consuming clip (at the least, with Mail with attachments they never delete, higher-res photos and high-def video taken via the Camera app), and it’s long overdue for the flagship iPhone, even the iPhone 5C, to start with a more generous storage loadout – 32GB/64GB/128GB ideally, 24GB/48GB/96GB would be fine as a half-step for a year or two.