Why the 'Apple of China' insists the accusations that it copies Apple smartphones are unfair


hugo barra


Hugo Barra

Xiaomi, the Chinese startup that makes high-quality Android phones that are cheaper than the iPhone and Samsung's phones, has long been accused of copying Apple.


Jony Ive, Apple's design chief, once even referred to companies that mimic Apple's designs as "theft" when asked about Xiaomi at a conference. But Hugo Barra, who left Google in 2013 to to join Xiaomi, doesn't see it as copying at all.

He says the accusations boil down to one feature on the Mi-4 that makes it look slightly like the iPhone 5. Here's how he explained the similarities in an interview with Bloomberg TV's Emily Chang:

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So this whole copycat melodrama all boils down to one chamfered edge on one particular phone model, which was Mi-4, which people said looked like the iPhone 5. And I've been the first one to admit it. Yes, it does look like the iPhone 5. And that chamfered edge, by the way, is present in so many other devices.

Chang argued that some of the criticism surrounding Xiaomi had to do with the general look and feel of Xiaomi's products and how they compare to Apple's. Barra didn't agree.


So I don't think that's fair-- if you're sort of pointing that criticism to us, right? Without a doubt-- every smartphone these days kinda looks like every other smartphone, right? You have to have curved-- corners. You have to have, you know, like, at least a home button in some way, right? That's how interaction design works. So I just don't think that we can allow a company to take ownership-- of things that just are how they are, right?

Xiaomi has been called the "Apple of China" for a few reasons that extend beyond the resemblance between their products. Lei Jun, the CEO and co-founder of Xiaomi, has a stage presence that some have likened to Steve Jobs. And the company has a knack for marketing that allows it to capture its audience in a way that some have also compared to Apple.

Barra insists that in the next few months we'll see the opposite trend - more companies drawing inspiration from Xiaomi.

And I think that if you look at what we've designed in the last, you know, 12 months-- you will understand how much originality there is in what we do. And, to be honest, I think-- you're gonna see a lot more happening in the opposite direction, right? People taking inspiration on what we do in building new products.

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