Xiaomi dismisses Jony Ive’s ‘design theft’ accusations

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Going, going, gone! Photo: Xiaomi
Photo: Xiaomi

Interviewed at the recent Vanity Fair Summit, Jony Ive had strong words for companies like Xiaomi producing iPhone copycats.

“I don’t see it as flattery, I see it as theft, and it’s lazy,” he said, when asked about the Chinese smartphone maker whose devices bear something of a striking resemblance to the iPhone.

Responding in an interview with the Economic Times, Xiaomi’s VP for International markets Hugo Barra suggested that it’s unfair to place the blame on Xiaomi — because Apple copies other people too.

“If you look at the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 has been using the design language that has been around for a while,” Barra says. “The iPhone 6 is using design language that HTC has had for 5 years. You cannot claim full ownership of any kind of design languages in our industry.”

Barra also sidesteps the issue by basically blaming Ive’s outburst on his artistic temperament.

“Designers have to be passionate, they have to be emotional, that’s where their creativity comes from,” Barra said. “I would expect Jony to be even more aggressive than he was in answering this question. Jony is one of the classiest people in the industry. I would bet you anything that he did not say the word Xiaomi in his answer. He is speaking generally about how he feels which is what I would expect from any world-class designer.”

During his talk, Ive noted that he spent eight years working on the iPhone, only for it to copied by rivals.

“I have to be honest, the last thing I think is, ‘Ooh, that is flattering’” he noted. “All those weekends I could have had at home with my lovely family but didn’t… I don’t think it’s ok at all.”

This isn’t the first time Xiaomi has been accused of being an Apple copycat.

Although the Mi 4 and particularly its MIUI 6 software have been called the company’s most blatant Apple ripoff to date, Xiaomi has certainly proven heavily inspired by Apple’s product design in the past — while founder Lei Jun dresses up like Steve Jobs at events, uses the “One More Thing” presentation gimmick, and has even drafted in Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to add an additional Cupertino sheen.

Do you think Xiaomi is being an Apple copycat, or is Hugo Barra right that Jony is getting worked up over nothing?

Via: BGR

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  • AlanAudio

    Jony Ive also referred to design having a sort of heritage. Each product that he designs builds on ideas from previous work and before that from those who originally inspired him.

    A copycat manufacturer designs products which instantaneously look like the market leader which they choose to copy. There is no heritage to their designs and if you look at their previous efforts, those efforts are also copies of whatever the market leader was at the time. Before copying Apple, Samsung blatantly copied Blackberry or Motorola phones, even using similar names. Samsung’s household division also makes a vacuum cleaner that looks like a Dyson. Previous Dyson models all look unmistakably like Dysons because Dyson is an original designer and there is a heritage to his designs, while previous Samsung cleaners merely look like other manufacturer’s vacuum cleaners.

    At school, teachers ask pupils to show their working, not just the end result. Jony Ive can show the work that led up to every one of his designs, it’s in every preceding product. James Dyson can do the same. Others have no credible visible trail leading to the present product, but instead make excuses about how they didn’t copy – even though nobody could possibly believe them. They would have us believe that their products magically appeared fully formed and just co-incidentally looked exactly like the iPhone.

    • christopheral

      This is a great comment! I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Hayden

      This. Best comment in the thread right here.

    • pjs_boston

      Agreed. Well written.

    • Joe Story

      Barra is from Google and Android, hence his confusion on theft.

    • Stephen Agnew

      Beautifully said!!! And as a designer and artist myself I greatly appreciate this comment!

    • Mark Langston

      30+ up votes can’t be wrong. Amazingly eloquent and brilliant synopsis of how other companies don’t have a leg to stand on in regards to copying Apple.

      It’s the same reason I loathed Amazon’s decision to name their mobile application store “appstore”. Amazon contended that the term “App Store” was generic and that anyone should have a right to use it. Because as we all know generic names are the best way to differentiate your product/service from the competition.

      Why go with “Fire phone”? Why not the “A Phone” (short for Amazon Phone) or just “smartphone”? It’s generic and that’s the point, right?!

      Obviously Amazon saw the power in the name “App Store” but since they can’t really compete the next best strategy is to force Apple to defend the name in public court and gain a sliver of notoriety while also ridding the coattails of Apple whenever the phrase, “…download from the App Store” showed up in radio ads, TV spots or marketing ads.

      It’s only a theory but I believe it to be true. Why else would Amazon go to such lengths to protect a “generic” term? If Microsoft can own words like “Office”, “Windows” and “Word” then Apple should be able to retain “App Store”.

    • Steve Chavez

      To me there’s a certain level of disrespect that some of these companies do. They give their fans tomatoes to throw at the very people that they blatantly steal from. There’s a strong difference between inspiration and theft. It’s very obvious and sad in certain ways. It pisses me off actually when I see hard work marginalized and discredited. It pisses me off to a point where I want to get in a fist fight with someone over it. It just does.

  • lowtolerance

    Man, Hugo Barra is a bald-faced liar. The iPhone 6 design language is nothing like HTC’s of five years ago. Just look at the EVO 4G and Hero.

  • aardman

    I see that Hugo Barra is not only the VP for International Markets at Xiaomi, he is also the Designate Liar.

  • gprovida

    I don’t think Ives is talking only about Xaomi only, although their “theft” is pretty eggregious, the industry at large including SAMSUNG. The referenced “design” of HTC is clearly a copy of the iPhone 2.5 and 3G only scaled a bit in size.

    However even conceding “inspired,” slavish copying to confuse design between Apple and Xiaomi is not inspired it is theft and fraud.

    As Ives points out aside from moral failure, it’s lazy and risk
    Avoiding neither of which Jobs tolerates what aspirations the current CEO claims to admiration or liking Apple Jobs.

  • BZ

    Let’s see… Xiaomi copied Apple with the following products (Feel free to google them now) Mi 4 (iPhone), Mi Pad (iPad mini), Mi Box (Apple TV), Xiaomi Stores (Apple Stores), MIUI (iOS 7) … Among others like Apple’s Track Pad and even Steve Job’s famous “One More Thing” presentation slide.

    • thavith

      Xiaomi has a lowercase ‘o’, so very different… Oh, the backgrounds are different too, and maybe the font, thought not sure…

      I can’t believe he even dresses like Steve, very funny…

      • BZ

        Yeah that was just pathetic not even samsung does that.

  • Zsolt Tégel

    Its a shame what xiaomi doing. I would never buy their products.