Xiaomi debuts 14 Ultra smartphone with emphasis on photography to compete against Apple and Huawei in premium market

Xiaomi has unveiled its latest flagship photography-focused smartphone, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, as it seeks to take on Apple’s iPhone and Huawei Technologies in the competitive high-end segment. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra, launched on Thursday, is the latest member of the Xiaomi 14 series with prices starting from 6,499 yuan (US$903). This compares with a starting retail price of 5,999 yuan for an iPhone 15, and 7,999 yuan for an iPhone 15 Pro. Pre-orders are under way and the handset will officially go on sale on February 27, during this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), an annual flagship industry event that will take place in Barcelona, Spain.

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra hits the shelves amid cutthroat competition in the high-end smartphone segment following Huawei’s return to the scene with its 5G-capable Mate 60 Pro handset, launched in late 2023. Xiaomi has been promoting its camera and photography features as selling points following a partnership with Leica in 2022, after the German camera maker ended its seven-year deal with Huawei. Xiaomi president Lu Weibing described the Xiaomi 14 Ultra as “a new flagship in mobile imaging” with upgraded photography kits, including a main camera with a large one-inch sensor and a variable aperture.

The new handset is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset and is equipped with Xiaomi’s proprietary HyperOS operating system. Other new products launched this week include a new tablet, the 6s Pro 12.4, the laptop Redmi Book Pro 2024 and Remi Monitor G Pro 27. Lei Jun, the co-founder and CEO of Xiaomi, said in late 2021 that the company aimed to become the world’s biggest smartphone maker in three years by exceeding Apple.

However, Xiaomi has kept its third place globally for smartphone sales for 14 quarters in a row, behind Apple and Samsung. According to IDC data, China’s mobile shipments in 2023 dropped 5 per cent from a year ago to 271 million units, the lowest in over a decade, although a recovery is expected in the coming year. Lei wrote in a social media post this week that Xiaomi’s smart factory in Beijing has completed construction and is capable of producing over 10 million phones per year.

Xiaomi’s stock price closed 1.34 per cent lower at HK$13.22 in Hong Kong on Friday.