“Redmi Smart Fire TV 32 is not an experiment,” Sudeep Sahu, deputy head of product at Xiaomi India tells FE, adding “it’s [start of] a long-term strategic partnership between two powerhouses— Xiaomi and Amazon.” The hardware, itself, isn’t the big-ticket feature here. It’s the operating system or OS that makes the TV nothing like anything that Xiaomi has launched before. The Redmi Smart Fire TV 32 runs Fire OS, software that you’ll associate more commonly with Amazon’s Alexa-powered streaming dongles like the Fire TV Stick.
Even though Fire OS-based smart TVs – both first- and third-party— have been around for some time, you don’t see them a lot in India, for some reason. Anish Unnikrishnan, general manager – Fire TV & Kindle, Amazon India says it’s because as an organisation, Amazon’s focus— initially—was on the streaming stick business, but because a lot of customers want to jump straight away to a smart TV now, they’ve had to basically evolve with those expectations.
“We would have liked to do things faster earlier [ideally], but at a point where you find the right fit like we have now, things just move very fast,” he says, adding that “the [key] driver was that the time was right.”
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Sahu echoes similar sentiments. Even though Xiaomi has been dreaming about it for a very long time and wanted to it earlier apparently, “we could both do it [only] today,” he says, adding that the catalyst behind the decision was customer demand to have more options. Once this was clear, everything from an engineering to product point of view, turned around “very quickly.”
An interesting thing to note about the Redmi Smart Fire TV 32 is that it seems to be made specifically for the Indian market. There is no such product available globally. The reasoning behind having a 32-inch model, to begin with, is because it’s turned out to be a big “volumes driver” for Xiaomi. The bundled remote, too, is a bit different from other Xiaomi remotes.
The Redmi Smart Fire TV 32 is an entry-level smart TV being billed for its premium metal bezel-less design and HD-ready (1366 x 768p) display that can –also— pull HDR playback in supported content. At its heart lies Xiaomi’s Vivid Picture Engine processing powered by a 4-core processor mated to 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage.
Connectivity options include two HDMI 2.0 (1x ARC), two USB 2.0, ethernet, AV, and a headphone jack, in addition to Bluetooth 5.0 and dual band Wi-Fi. The TV supports voice-free Alexa along with Miracast and Apple’s AirPlay. Rounding off the package is a dual speaker setup with Dolby Audio, DTS-HD and Virtual X.
“Unlike smartphones [where Redmi is mostly catering to entry-level], in TVs our strategy is to have selections. We have 32-inch in both Redmi and Xiaomi. We have a 65-inch in Redmi, not in Xiaomi,” Sahu says, adding that “it’s not like a Redmi will cater to this and Xiaomi will cater to that. We want more options for customers.”
Amazon believes the partnership will make its Alexa experience as widely available as possible because it’s “no secret that they are the biggest guy [in the space].”
“Xiaomi has been a category leader for TVs in India since 2018,” Unnikrishnan says, adding that “the experience of Fire TV and Alexa, that we’ve invested so much in building and improving, it just takes it to so many more rooms, and I think that scale is something that we’re very excited about.”
There’s no denying that Xiaomi’s foray into what appears to be a whole-new kind of smart TV category, is surprising to say the least. But then, Xiaomi’s always had a knack for these things. This is the same company that launched a 55-inch smart 4K HDR TV for Rs 39,999, something that was hard to imagine back in the day and then, quickly moved on to capture the lion’s share of the market making smart TVs more affordable and commonplace in an increasingly price-sensitive market. The Redmi Smart Fire TV 32, too, is fairly aggressively priced. The sticker price is a cool Rs 13,999 but it will be available for an effective Rs 11,999 for a limited period.
“People couldn’t predict this,” Sahu quips, adding “wait for some time, by next year you’ll understand where we’re coming from, and where we’re going [with all this].”