The fact that Xiaomi is working on developing smartphone processors isn't new to us. Around the same time last year, news arrived that the Chinese phone maker was developing a mobile processor to reduce its dependence on foreign suppliers, notably Qualcomm, and in turn cut costs and reduce prices further.
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Code-named Rifle, Xiaomi's first mobile processor was expected to feature an APU, or Application Processing Unit which contains a CPU, a GPU for graphics, DSP and on-board RAM. The APU, unlike a CPU, consumes much lesser space inside smartphones and thanks to its all-round performance, is expensive for phone makers to procure. It was also reported that Rifle was being developed with designs licensed from ARM Holdings which have also been used in Qualcomm's, Samsung's and MediaTek's processors.
While the slated launch of Rifle didn't happen, the Wall Street Journal now claims that Xiaomi may soon unveil a powerful mobile processor which will power the company's upcoming premium smartphones. Code-named 'Pinecone', the processor will help Xiaomi integrate its own hardware and software to deliver the best possible performance to consumers and grow its user base outside China.
Whether Rifle and Pinecone are code-names for the same processor is unclear, what is clear is that Xiaomi is intent on using home-grown hardware and software solutions in its future phones. Hugo Barra, the company's former VP of International, stated last year that Xiaomi was going through a transition to reach out to customers who are demanding better smartphones from the company.
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"When you look at...the prices of our products, they have been going up. Our customers are demanding premium products from us, so we are delivering higher quality with more premium components," he said at Xiaomi's Mi Home centre in Hong Kong. Barra has since left the company and is now head of VR at Oculus.
Last year, fellow Chinese phone maker Oppo relegated Xiaomi to the fifth place in global smartphone sales rankings compiled by IC Insights. Xiaomi is now being offered stiff competition by new entrants like Meizu, TCL and Micromax but the worrying part is that while Huawei and Oppo were expected to increase their smartphone sales by 29 per cent and 54 per cent respectively in 2016 compared to 2015, Xiaomi was expected to increase its sales by a meagre 6 per cent. Huawei later announced sales of 33.59 million smartphones in the third quarter of 2016.