Xolo today unveiled its HIVE UI that it believes would help differentiate its smartphones from its competitor’s smartphones. Inspired by Xiaomi’s success in China, Xolo is hoping that having its own unique UI and creating a community of users by involving them in the process of generating ideas for new features. The company also claims that unlike Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense UI, which are there to “differentiate their products than help users,” HIVE UI will make it easier for users to use their smartphones. While the idea is in the right direction, there are a few points that make we wonder if Xolo can pull it off or even if it is necessary for the company to do it.
Firstly, let’s look at what made Xiaomi such a success in China, where it is now the biggest smartphone brand having toppled Samsung. It is not the software alone. The business model of selling the device almost at cost makes Xiaomi’s smartphones very attractive in the first place, the UI is just the sweetener and adds to its revenues by offering services and apps to users in China. While Xolo’s 8X-1000, the first smartphone to feature HIVE UI, is priced competitively at Rs 13,999, it is not exactly earth shattering.
Secondly, unlike Xiaomi that started with the business model of selling smartphones at cost with its MIUI, Xolo has a lot of brand fatigue. Yes, it was the first smartphone brand globally to launch with an Intel chipset, it hasn’t exactly set the market on fire. Far from it, the brand doesn’t even feature in the top three Indian smartphone brands in terms of shipments. The target audience for HIVE UI will be the geeky youngster crowd, which is something Xolo doesn’t have at the moment. Making them excited about a product whose sole USP is a new UI is going to be a hardsell, given the brand perception and the presence of Xiaomi in India.
Thirdly, in order to have a community that is excited by the prospect of a customizable with regular software updates, it will need multiple models at exciting price points. At the moment, there is just one smartphone. Xiaomi, on the other hand, sold close to 20 million smartphones last year alone and has over 50 million users that use MIUI since it is available for non-Xiaomi devices as well and hence the community.
Fourthly, after having tried HIVE UI today, it didn’t feel compelling enough. I tried out a few themes and every theme seemed to have a different method to unlock the phone, which is far from being intuitive. I also experienced some lag in the UI that led many to say “it doesn’t have a good touchscreen.” The UI needs to be optimized for a better user experience.
Fifthly, with a deeply integrated UI, it will take even longer to provide Android updates, something that users really value in India, especially the geeky lot. Unless, of course, if they see great value for money in the hardware itself to ignore the Android version, like it has happened with the Xiaomi Mi 3. Xolo anyway isn’t the first brand that comes to the mind when someone talks about Android updates.
This is not to say that Xolo’s initiative is not commendable. It is heartening to see an Indian brand focus on software. But as things stand right now – with just one device and no solid plan to bring it to its existing users – it is hard to see it being anything but just another talking point in its marketing campaigns.