Apple rival Xiaomi could enter US smartphone market later in 2018

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Xiaomi is aiming to enter the U.S. smartphone market by the end of 2018, or early 2019 at the latest, the Chinese company's chairman said on Monday, speaking on the sidelines of China's yearly legislative session in Beijing.

"We've always been considering entering the U.S. market," Lei Jun told the Wall Street Journal. "We plan to start entering the market by end 2018, or by early 2019."

It will still need a local carrier to sell its phones and establish traction, which could be a serious obstacle. While another Chinese firm, ZTE, ranked as the fourth-biggest smartphone vendor in the U.S. in 2017, both it and Huawei have received pushback from the U.S. government due to national security concerns. Huawei in fact lost a deal with AT&T to sell its latest Android flagship, the Mate 10 Pro.

Xiaomi isn't as big in the phone world as some of its Chinese competitors, but still outsells Apple's iPhone in China, and already has a presence in the U.S. with other products like cameras and speakers. It's unlikely to overtake Apple in the U.S. homeland, but could divert some shoppers wanting affordable alternatives.

The Chinese smartphone market is largely controlled by local firms — Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi being the top four. Apple is in fifth in the market, and even Samsung is a relatively minor player, sitting in eighth.