Not too many pointed out the phone that was at number five: it was a Xiaomi Redmi 5A, which sold 5.4 million units. Just below it at number six was the device that most would have expected to have been the iPhone’s biggest challenger – the Galaxy S9+ at 5.3 million units. Of course, there are some factors to be kept in mind here – the S9+ actually hit the market in the middle of the quarter (it was announced prior to MWC 2018, remember) whereas the Redmi 5A had been made available in India in early December 2017. That said, sales are inevitably much higher in the early days of a product, thanks to the hype built around it – the S9+ had this benefit, while the Redmi 5A’s figures actually missed out its first month of sales, and the device then had to contend with the likes of the Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro in terms of attention which were released subsequently. And well, Samsung had infinitely much more hype around the S9+ as compared to the Redmi 5A, which Xiaomi pushed in India as “desh ka smartphone” (“the nation’s smartphone” – India is one of the countries it is manufactured in). Finally, the Redmi 5A was often sold using the much-maligned slash sales model, which actually restricted the number of customers due to limited stocks. This is what makes its achievement of being the most popular Android smartphone in the world in Q1 2018 all the more staggering. Traditionally, the highest selling smartphones in the world tend to be high-profile premium ones (check that list again if that sounds difficult to believe). And yet here is a device that is nowhere near premium making itself the highest selling Android phone in the world. It is priced under USD 100 in India, a tenth of the price of the iPhone X, and comes with no cutting edge tech or even an 18:9 display or fingerprint scanner! Strategy Analytics say that the Redmi 5A performed very strongly in India and China, and was sold mainly through online markets. The significance of this once again cannot be ignored – it shows that the online market and the flash sales model can indeed generate massive numbers, notwithstanding all the flak they take.

We are not too sure whether this is a one-off or will be repeated, but for now, we can ask Xiaomi to take a bow. It might not be the most mightily specced or immaculately designed smartphone in the world, but be it ever so humble, the Redmi 5A is the numero uno Android smartphone in the world. Or as we would say in India, the “desh ka smartphone” just became “Vishwa ka smartphone” (the world’s smartphone). Popular just gave premium something to think about.