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The Cheapest 5G Phone in the World May Come to America—Data Sheet

September 25, 2019, 1:25 PM UTC

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Of the 16 new entrants to this year’s Fortune Global 500 list, for my money the most remarkable is Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, which debuted at No. 468 with sales of $26.4 billion.

Xiaomi launched just nine years ago with 13 people. Today it employs more than 20,000 and is the youngest company on the Global 500. To celebrate that achievement, founder Lei Jun announced last month that he would reward each of Xiaomi’s employees with 1,000 company shares—a bonus that works out to more than $1,100 per person, for a total of $24.3 million.

Xiaomi made headlines in the tech press again this week by unveiling two incredibly cool new smartphone models. One of them, the Mi 9 Pro, is a premium phone boasting 5G capability, a super-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor, 6.4-inch AMOLED display, and triple cameras. But the really crazy thing about the Mi 9 Pro is its price: Xiaomi will offer the entry model for only 3,699 renminbi—about $520.

It’s unclear whether Xiaomi will offer the Mi 9 Pro for sale in the United States. Xiaomi said an “international” version would be announced at a later, unspecified date. Many of Xiaomi’s earlier phones, such as the Mi 8, are sold unlocked on Amazon and are compatible with U.S. wireless networks.

But in Xiaomi’s home market, where the Mi 9 Pro is slated for release on Oct. 31, the company hopes the new model will steal market share from pricier 5G-capable models already announced by domestic rival Huawei Technologies and South Korea’s Samsung, not to mention Apple’s iPhone 11 series, which costs more and lacks 5G.

Xiaomi’s second new smartphone is called the Mi Mix Alpha, and its most notable feature is a screen that curves around the sides and wraps all the way around the back of the device. Xiaomi claims the Alpha has a screen-to-body ratio of 180.6% (whatever that means). ArsTechnica calls the Alpha’s design “trademark insane.” Xiaomi is calling the Mi Mix Alpha a “concept” phone and remains cryptic about some of its specs. But the company insists the Alpha will go on sale in December, albeit at a lofty price of 19,999 renminbi, or about US $2,810.

Meanwhile the company, whose name means “little rice,” is clearly gearing up for bigger things. Fortune China editor Maiwen Zhang and I visited the company’s sprawling new headquarters on the outskirts of Beijing a few weeks ago. We were amazed by the size of the campus (eight buildings covering nearly a square mile), the breadth of Xiaomi’s product offerings, and the scale of the company’s ambitions. (Check out these images of the facility’s July launch party.)

How well Xiaomi’s latest smartphones will perform in the market is anybody’s guess. But what’s increasingly clear is that, when it comes to connectively, the Internet of things, big data, and mobile devices, Chinese companies are establishing new frontiers and innovating in ways that Western counterparts haven’t even imagined. We’ve said it before but it’s still true: Western companies, investors, and policymakers ignore those innovations at their peril.

Fortune will explore the latest tech trends in China and beyond at the second Fortune Global Technology Forum, to be held in Guangzhou, China on November 7-8. Register here!

Clay Chandler

On Twitter: @claychandler



The chickens came home to roost, what went around came around, and you can't fool Mother Nature, or something like that. We Company CEO Adam Neumann stepped down on Wednesday and saw his super-voting shares in the company diluted, as well. Fortune's own Rey Mashayekhi has a lengthy dive into what went wrong, while Anne Sraders takes a look at what might happen next. Also on the outs: eBay CEO Devin Wenig. He stepped down on Wednesday after four years at the helm. CFO Scott Schenkel takes over on an interim basis.

Mismeasure of man. One of the leading companies that tracks online audience data is in hot water over misleading data it gave to investors. Comscore paid a $5 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle fraud charges that it overstated its revenue. Former CEO Serge Matta also had to pay almost $3 million and is barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years.

The doctor will see you now. Easing its way a little deeper into healthcare, Amazon opened an app-based primary care network for its employees that can provide some medical diagnoses at home, at work, or online. Dubbed Amazon Care, the program is separate from the joint venture Amazon created with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to improve healthcare.

Tempered. A group of Google contractors in Pittsburgh voted to unionize and join the United Steelworkers. The 80 IT workers legally work for an outfit called HCL Technologies. Meanwhile, across the pond in France, Google says it will not pay news organizations to show thumbnail photos and summary text as required under a new EU rule going into effect next month. Only headlines, which are still free to cite, will be shown, Google said.

Mama mia. Early sales of Nintendo's new Switch Lite are trailing expectations. The company sold less than 161,000 units in its first few days on sale, about half what analysts were expecting, sending Nintendo's stock price down 4% on Tuesday. But Nintendo's famed Mario Kart series finally arrived on iOS and Android on Wednesday, after an almost two year wait, which should ease the pain. The game is free to download but $5 per month for extra features via a "Gold Pass" subscription.

Paparazzi. Ahead of Amazon's new product parade later today, Canon released an update to the low-end of its mirrorless camera line. The $550 EOS M200 gets improved auto-focusing and 4K video recording capability (of a sort–only at 24 frames per second). And Adobe has a slick new app for iPads. Called Fresco, the app lets users simulate oil painting, water colors, and other techniques.

Advice from the top. As Adam mentioned on Monday, our Most Powerful Women in Business list this year features a number of top tech CEOs. Some also did video interviews to share personal stories from their careers and talk about how they made it to the top, including Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, Revathi Advaithi, CEO of Flex, and Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy.


We write about startups here all the time, but almost always with an outsider's perspective. Sometimes, the inside story is even more fascinating. Anna Wiener was just another twenty-something New Yorker working in publishing in 2012 when she decided to join an e-book startup. Later, Wiener ended up in San Francisco working for a big data analytics company, then jumping to another. Life wasn't always grand, as she relates in a deeply personal and detailed story for The New Yorker magazine:

I was making seventy-five thousand dollars a year. It felt like getting away with something. Even so, when I ran out of work to do on nights and weekends, I felt free, invisible, and lonely. The city’s green spaces overflowed with couples jogging next to each other and cycling on bikes with matching panniers. I spent hours in bed, drinking coffee and thumbing my phone. On a dating app, I made plans with two men, both of whom seemed boring and benign, before deciding that I couldn’t go through with it. I deleted the app. A few days later, one of them messaged me on a social network everyone hated. I tried to reverse engineer how he’d identified me, but couldn’t.


If Google Has Truly Reached ‘Quantum Supremacy,’ What’s Next for Its Competitors? By Robert Hackett

3 Things to Expect From Amazon’s Alexa Hardware Event on Wednesday By JP Mangalindan

Peloton Claims It’s a Media Company, Not a Bike Business. Is It Taking Investors for a Ride? By David Z. Morris

Latin America Is a Growing Tech Hub. But It Needs to Invest in Its Talent By Mariana Costa Checa

This Unicorn Thrives on Salad. Investors Supply the Other Greens By Alex Nicoll

Exclusive: SoFi Launches Crypto Trading With Three Digital Currencies By Jeff John Roberts

The $63 Billion ‘Phoenix’: Beijing Officially Opens the World’s Largest Airport By Grady McGregor


Microscopes reveal details of the world too small to see with the naked eye. Sometimes, what they reveal is quite beautiful, as well. Via the Dense Discovery newsletter, check out the Sand Grains Gallery, a gorgeous collection of pictures of almost-invisible beauty taken by scientist Gary Greenberg.

Also, an important follow up: the second interstellar object visiting our solar system to be detected has a name. It's 2I/Borisov. That's for amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, who first spotted the object last month. The name is not exactly catchy, but definitely easier to spell that Oumuamua.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.