China's Answer to the iPhone

TAIPEI (TheStreet) -- Smartphones by Chinese developer Xiaomi are forecast to triple shipments this year to as many as 60 million units and could see 100 million in 2015. It's a sign of support for the upstart firm's cheap-yet-solid devices and a threat to more established rivals.

Xiaomi means "small rice" -- and big business.

The projections by Xiaomi's CEO Lei Jun and industry analysts would rank the brand as China's No. 1 smartphone maker by market share next year. Growth forecasts also come as the Beijing-based developer expands offshore with followings in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan on its way toward more markets in Southeast Asia.

But Xiaomi's pushback against big names such as Apple (AAPL), Samsung (SSNLF) and major Chinese peers eventually will run up against its biggest flaw: software that makes it hard or impossible to switch languages from the default Chinese.

The Chinese-language-only phones have no problems in Chinese-literate markets, mainly China itself, where the phones are sold now. On those grounds, Xiaomi can confidently forecast revenues of 70 million yuan ($11.27 million) this year and 100 million yuan next year, per forecasts in the local media. It sold 18.5 million phones last year.

"As for overseas markets, Xiaomi has expanded its reach into Taiwan and Singapore, and received much consumer acceptance in both markets, thanks to the high quality and specifications that Xiaomi's products offer at only half the price of similar products," says Sophia Chen, analyst with the Taiwan-based tech research group Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute.

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