Apple Gets Beat By their own Designs

apple_gets_beatXiaomi, a Chinese mobile device manufacturer, recently overtook Apple as the second largest provider of mobile devices to China. As a newer manufacturer, this is an unprecedented rise to acclaim, but they did it by riding the coat tails of Apple designs. Funnily enough, the company does not particularly enjoy comparisons to Apple, even though many of their products are blatant rip offs that go so far as to use the same parts suppliers iphone repair

China has loose intellectual property laws, which allows the company to steal design concepts at little risk. It does not hurt that a large majority of their sales are in China, who is not likely to fine a Chinese company for copying an American company that so greatly benefits from Chinese manufacturing. However, if this company wants to become more global, they will have to leave behind their mimetic roots.

It is truly astounding just how much copying Xiaomi has done to take down Apple, in terms of design. They went so far as to name their iPad sized tablet, which sports the same color options as the iPhone 5c, the Mi Pad. You can’t make this stuff up. Their smaller tablet is called the RedMi Note, borrowing the name of the Samsung device in the same category. As a young company it is not a bad idea to borrow from proven designs, but this behavior will have to stop if they want to match last year’s 271% growth.

A Laundry List of Unoriginality

apple_SketchpadThe list of products with designs borrowed from Apple goes on. Their Mi Router Mini looks conspicuously like the Apple Sketchpad. Even though the devices do not have the same function, the similarities are obvious. Honestly the Mi Router Mini is one of the more attractive routers I have seen, so kudos to them for turning an otherwise boring device into something sleek. Of course there is the Mi Box, which is a rounded version of Apple TV, and the Mi Power Bank (a portable battery for charging devices,) which looks like the old iPod Mini

The stolen ideas do not stop there. The Xiaomi website had a host of photos that were taken from popular sources without the consent of the content owners. Some of the photos even had the watermarks removed, which are used to protect the images from easy theft. It is strange to think that Xiaomi thought that no one would notice if they used a National Geographic photo, or one of the most iconic Flickr photos of all time, but the company quickly took the photos down when multiple people pointed out the abuse.

Visiting Xiaomi’s website should feel familiar to going to Apple’s site as well. The structure of their product overviews is exactly like that of Apple. For every design element that they choose to highlight, there is a new partition filled with large pictures and words that attempt to live up to the size of the photos. At the bottom of the page, each of the highlights is represented by an icon, which is something Apple has been doing for years.

Great Artists Steal, they Say

All of this theft makes sense, since the company is attempting to be a cheaper alternative to Apple. They are thrifty with their marketing and attempt to sell their products at costs close to manufacturing costs. That is honorable, as they are trying to appeal to a population that is significantly less wealthy than US markets, but is it worth their integrity to sell their devices? They seem to think so, the proof is in their sales. I guess I would rather have a company focus on their devices and lower costs than one who uses U2 in their product launches.

Borrowing ideas is pretty common place in the tech world, just as it is in the world of journalism and blogging. We all remember Apple and Microsoft butting heads over design concepts, and Samsung and Apple have been pointing fingers over theft of Intellectual Property for more than half a decade now. The risk can pay off, especially if a company is based in a country that seems to turn a blind eye against IP infractions.

One of the most disheartening concept thefts has occurred within this year. Pressy, a project started on Kickstarter, managed to raise nearly $700K for a device that turns the headphone jack of a device into a versatile button. The small company planned to sell the device for $27, but Xiaomi beat them to the punch and is selling a clone of the device for $1-2. Hopefully Pressy will find a way to find compensation for their work, because it is not likely that a wise consumer will spend $27 when there is an option that could be sold at Dollar General.

Sick and Tired

Paradoxically, the company does not like to be compared to the company whose branding they are leeching off of. Hugo Barra, VP for Xiaomi and former Google VP, stated in an interview that he is “Sick and tired of people making sweeping sensationalist statements” about his company. Unfortunately Mr. Barra, none of us are going to stop making the comparisons until you stop capitalizing on the hard work of Apple engineers and designers, so get used to people not taking your unoriginal designs seriously.

With all of that being said, Xiaomi does make some really competent devices at costs that Apple could never sell its devices at. They are powerful, attractive and are competing with some of the best devices in the world. This year they are expected to sell 100 million devices, so it would be nice to see the company take a new direction with their future devices. They certainly have the revenue to do so.

As a closing note, in their most recent product release, Xiaomi CEO Jin went on stage wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans, looking like the late, great Steve Jobs. He even used the tag line: “One more thing,” which Apple has become so known for. As always I will keep you updated on Xiaomi and their products, and the seemingly inevitable lawsuits they will go through to expand into the US markets.