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?