Promoted: Xiaomi’s Mi 5 begs the question: are we paying too much for smartphones?

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SA consumers could be paying R5,000 for lavish launch events and expensive marketing campaigns.

The recent launch of three leading flagship smartphones makes you wonder if we are not paying too much for certain smartphone brands in South Africa.

Whereas the recently launched entry level models of the country’s market leaders retail for prices in the R12 000 to R14 000 bracket, Xiaomi’s equally loaded Mi 5 flagship sells for only R7,999 – up to R5,000 less for similar specifications and performance. Equally, you can get a Mi 5 on contract starting from R399 per month, but would pay at least R150 more for the others.

Mi 5A quick comparison on the GSMArena website reveals that the three phones are more or less identical. All are powered by top-of-the range processors, start with 3GB of memory and 32GB of storage, run Android Marshmallow, sport fingerprint sensors, have gorgeous 5”+ screens and come with 3000mAh batteries.

Given the price difference, one would expect the Mi 5 to be the least capable, but not so. It is the lightest of the trio (weighing only 129 g), charges the fastest (to 83% in 30 min via Quick Charge 3.0) and has the highest battery endurance rating of the lot.

Especially it’s 16 MP rear camera stands out: it was the first smartphone in the market to come with 4-axis optical image stabilisation and Xiaomi released a video showing that the Mi 5 outperforms even more premium phones in terms of reducing motion blur when shooting moving objects and in low-light conditions.

So, what gives? It is widely known that vendors and cellphone operators are some of the country’s biggest advertisers and spend lavishly on celebrity-studded launch events. One could argue that consumers are better off getting the best phone at the lowest price possible, and let the A-listers pay for their own parties. Xiaomi seems to be taking that approach, avoiding wasteful marketing expenditure, and giving South Africans maximum value for money.

The Mi 5 is available from http://mia.africa.com/za/, and from Makro, DionWired, Incredible Connection and Takealot. Or get it on a Vodacom contract from R399 per month (uChoose Flexi 150).

Other devices in the Xiaomi range include the Mi 4 (R3 799), Redmi 2 Pro (R1,999) and Redmi Note 2 (R2,999). All are available from www.miafrica.com/za and selected retail outlets.

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