The same pricing policy, sprawling ranges with multiple entries, a real commercial success. Wouldn’t Realme finally be making Xiaomi? This is what we are trying to answer here.
In the heart of spring 2018, a Chinese brand now well known in the telephone landscape arrived in France, Xiaomi, whose dazzling success we know. A year later, in May 2019, another Chinese smartphone brand, Realme, launched in France with the Realme 3 Pro. Two years later, it too seems on track to settle in the Top 5 of the most prominent manufacturers.
In view of this cross-success, it may be tempting to write that Realme “copies” Xiaomi, or that the young brand is about to meet the same fate. But unless we play Cassandre, it is of course impossible for us to answer this question with certainty. On the other hand, we will use here to offer you some answers. What brings Realme closer to Xiaomi, but also what distinguishes it from its model?
A dazzling success
The first element that is obvious is obviously the dazzling success of Realme which seems, at first glance, to be modeled on the figures of Xiaomi in its infancy. From the first months of 2022, the young brand was invited to fifth place in sales according to the Canalys firm. What is especially striking is its maddening growth rate of 443%, allowing it to reach 5% market share, just one point behind Oppo in fourth place.
In Europe, it’s even better: 1365% increase for 4% of shares and a fifth place there too according to Canalys. That said, we can argue that 4% is good, but not top as the poet would say, since Xiaomi in its time, accumulated 7 to 8% market share in Europe after only one year of existence on the market. French.
A close name, but not that much
Another, more anecdotal element that can bring the two together is simply their name. Xiaomi, Realme, two syllables and a disturbing assonance. The proximity is even more obvious when we quote Redmi, Xiaomi’s sub-brand. I have lost count of the times a Frandroid member thought he heard Realme Note 11 rather than Redmi Note 11.
Beyond the close musicality, it should be pointed out that the two names do not really mean the same thing. If Realme digs into English to say “the real me”, Xiaomi offers a much more esoteric meaning (detailed by Numerama) which more or less means “little rice” or “little grain”.
A tendency to multiply products
Speaking of names, it’s time to mention an element that the two brands undeniably share: a tendency to name their products in a particular, even erratic way.
Let’s take the recent Realme 9 range for example. So we had a Realme 9 5G, a Realme 9 4G, a Realme 9i, a Realme 9 Pro, a Realme 9 Pro Plus… Now on the Xiaomi side, let’s take the most recent of the ranges of Redmi. We were treated to a Redmi Note 11, a Redmi Note 11 Pro, a Redmi Note 11 Pro 4G, a Note 11 5G, a Note 11 Pro Plus 5G… In short, you get the idea.
To be fair, Xiaomi is raising the bar a bit higher with additional iterations like a Redmi Note 11S, but the land-taking strategy is clearly the same.
We will no doubt be told: they are not the only ones to multiply the ranges. Samsung also offers an S-series, an A-series and an M-series, but once the A52 and A52s are released, there is no A52s Pro Plus 5G. We are really on a specificity of these two brands. Realme has undoubtedly taken inspiration from Xiaomi here.
A similar philosophy
Let’s now look at the products offered by the two brands. Here too, the two share a culture of the most equipped phone possible at the lowest possible price, even if it means giving the impression of cutting back on its margins. If it is now impossible for their competitors to release an entry-level without an Oled screen, or without a minimum of fast charging, it is partly thanks to this very aggressive policy. Here too, the pupil seems to copy the master.
However, we note that in this little game, Realme has now come to double its model. The brand is the first to offer 150W charging on the Realme GT Neo 3, where Xiaomi is nevertheless carving out a reputation as an ultra-fast charging champion, but is limiting itself to 120W for the time being.
There remains the question of the quantity of smartphones released. If you ask a member of the editorial staff, he or she will immediately tell you that Xiaomi and Realme are really champions in the race for the brand that releases the most models. But in reality, if we take the year 2021, Realme has released 38 smartphones worldwide, as many as Samsung and a little less than Xiaomi with 42 models.
It is therefore more the variation of the same name within a range that gives this impression more than the number of actual models. Especially since absolutely no brand releases all its models in France. You may find half of them on your stalls.
Still, Realme and Xiaomi do share this feeling of saturation that other brands do not cultivate. Where Samsung, for example, organizes its year around a few bundled releases, Realme, like Xiaomi, gives the feeling of releasing phones almost every month. A marketing strategy that allows you to multiply the articles and therefore their brand image.
What does Realme think about all this?
As you can imagine, when we meet Frédéric Chevrier, General Manager France of the brand since May 2021, we expected that he would not necessarily share our opinions on the commonalities between the two brands. We thought it was fair game. And yet, for him, the comparison is quite fair.
That’s right, because we both address a very broad portfolio of products in addition to smartphones, laptops, audio, watches, TVs, light bulbs, etc. And then we have a very wide range of prices from 100 to 850 euros.
Avoid the “penguin on ice floe” effect
The framework details a little more Realme’s strategy, which is supposed to allow the group to stand out against its many competitors: “Our strategy is based on three points. The first is to offer high-performance phones in the middle of the range where others would be at the top of the range. The second is to be very divisive on the design. We want to be able to stand out and bring a little freshness. »
Frédéric Chevrier even has a metaphor for that: “We want to avoid the penguin effect on the pack ice. That is to say, when you go to a store, you only have black screens, and it’s very difficult to stand out. Design is also a personal appreciation, a social framework, an unspoken voice that basically says: ‘I chose this product design’. »
The third point is to offer products “at the best prices”to be “super competitive” in particular by going through a lot of online sales. “We prefer to have the right price to address a young population, because 70% of our customers are under thirty. »
High-performance smartphones, not too expensive, it still looks a lot like Xiaomi, therefore. Asked about the somewhat slower growth of the Chinese giant in recent quarters, Frédéric Chevrier laughs: “We are impatiently waiting for growth to slow down, that will mean that we have reached the same level. » As you will have understood, Realme is hungry and does not hide it, just like Xiaomi in its infancy.
The group changes without changing anything
There are of course a few small differences here and there between the two groups. If Xiaomi is going it alone and seems to be gradually aggregating its sub-brands to the overall strategy (Redmi and Poco), Oplus, which owns Realme, Oppo and OnePlus, gives the feeling of wanting to completely separate each entity.
“We are part of a group, of course, but we are completely competitors. There really is no synergy, everyone is in their own racing lane and there is no interaction., swears hand on heart Frédéric Chevrier. He also adds that outside the French market, “at the global level, there are many interactions, at the research and development level, synergies that are made…”but he assures that “we come with our own DNA”.
The weight of the years
It is said that people will always prefer the original to the copy, but it would also be unfair to limit Realme to a simple copy of its elder. On the design in particular, it is quite true that the brand knows how to offer something out of the ordinary, for the better (the GT range with its unique look, the Dragon Ball editions) as well as for the worse (the huge “Dare to Leap” on the back of the Realme 8).
Let’s put our five cents on the fate of Realme. Will he closely follow that of his model? Difficult to affirm it since the two do not ultimately share a very important element: the duration of existence. If Realme gives the feeling of wanting to be the new Xiaomi, it is also because Xiaomi launched in 2011, in a market still in full revolution. Realme, for its part, appeared in 2018, in a market that can be described as mature. This impression of a cousin of Xiaomi is therefore partly justified by this fact alone. But this will never prevent Realme from claiming the same success. We’ll talk about it again in five years, if everyone is still there.
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