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Xiaomi is remotely blocking its phones in “unsupported regions”

Xiaomi has been in the news and on everyone’s lips in recent years, weeks and months and it’s mostly because of how it continues to grow and corner the smartphone and indeed the entire gadget market. They are now the second-largest phone and biggest smartwatch maker. However, their latest stance is bound to generate some ill will among customers and potential customers

It turns out Xiaomi is remotely blocking phones and essentially turning them into bricks if you try to use them in “unsupported regions”. That is my book is crossing a line in the sand and naturally, it has a lot of Xiaomi phone and device owners spooked and concerned.

Zimbabwe is a supported country

Before you start fretting rest assured that Zimbabwe is an officially supported country. This means that it’s unlikely that this measure will be taken against your Xiaomi phone or device. It’s however still worrying that your device maker can have that kind of power and there is little you can do about it. It kind of reminds me of those Sci-Fi movies where the soldiers/henchmen have a bomb or kill switch implanted in them just in case …

What is worrying is that there doesn’t appear to be really logic in how this ban is being implemented. For example, Xiaomi phones are unsupported in the United States yet scores of people still import them unofficially phone China by buying them from sites like Gearbest, Aliexpress and Banggood. Yet, despite being unsupported, no US user seems to have had their phone bricked by Xiaomi. Instead, the bricking seems to be affecting users in Iran, Syria, Crimea and North Korea. This is probably because Xiaomi doesn’t want to poke the U.S officials by doing something that can get them on the naughty list which has effectively hamstrung Huawei.

No redress

Given the international nature of the issue, it is also very hard for customers to get redress when their phone is bricked this way. It’s not even clear whether Xiaomi will unbrick the phone if you move or sell it to someone in a supported region.

Xiaomi policy does not permit sale or provision of the product to the territory in which you have attempted to activate it. Please contact the retailers directly for additional information.

The error message popping up on bricked phones

Instead, customers are being told to contact the retailer from which they bought the phone. This essentially puts you at the mercy of the retailer who can decline to refund you or might ask you to ship the phone back before they process a refund. It’s not helpful that the countries mentioned here also don’t have access to a payment service like PayPal which would have given them a little bit of power.

Xiaomi phones also come with a locked bootloader. This means that it will not be easy to install a custom ROM on the locked phones either unless you had the good sense to unlock it before the block. Unlocking Xiaomi phone’s bootloaders involves contacting Xiaomi. They probably will not help you once they detect that the phone whose bootloader you are trying to unlock had been remotely locked.

Again there is little you can do. This fact shatters the illusion that when you buy a phone it’s now yours and you can do whatever it is you want with it. In fact, even in supported countries, some Xiaomi phone models show ads that are hard to block. A tacit reminder that they own you perhaps? Now, this new block has me second-guessing the whole arrangement.


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4 thoughts on “Xiaomi is remotely blocking its phones in “unsupported regions”

  1. Having a phone showing ads that seem to be embedded into the UI is the worst thing ever. Some phone makers are really taking us for granted

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