XIAOMI, world’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer made a name for themselves 8 years ago by offering an iPhone (quality) product for an affordable price. They have been able to provide high-end designs for less than half the cost and soon, the Chinese consumers learned that instead of spending huge amount for a mid-range phone from high-end brands, they could instead get a Xiaomi phone with specifications and performance that were better than the mid-range phone.
However, Xiaomi has been accused of copying Apple since long and the company is, in fact, often referred to as “CHINESE APPLE” but in the recent years its designs seemed more independent than before. But all that had changed with the launch of Mi8.
The above picture clearly shows the undoubted similarity of Mi8 with that of iPhone X including the naming of the product wherein Apple had named the product as iPhone X (10) to mark its 10th year anniversary; Xiaomi had named it Mi8 to mark its 8th year anniversary.
Another remarkable similarity is the dual reverse cameras which are near-identically placed, along with a glass panel back and aluminum side frames.
Xiaomi has not left the software beyond, even the placement of the telecom signal, power bar and WiFi signal indicator is identical to the iPhone X. The high-end model of Mi 8 also includes iOS-like Animojis and a facial unlock feature both of which were introduced by Apple with the iPhone X.
This isn’t the first time Xiaomi has been influenced by Apple. Earlier Xiaomi had released Mi4 back in 2014 which bears resemblance to iPhone. Its stainless steel chassis, and beautifully chamfered edges all the way around, along with its antenna built seamlessly into its frame, and its speaker grille made up of tiny little holes carefully drilled into the metal- No wonder it looks a lot like an iPhone.
There have been many allegations about Xiaomi copying Apple which made sensational statements but Hugo Barra, Former Xiaomi Vice President, had argued that Xiaomi and Apple have similarly skilled designers who had reached the same conclusion.
Despite of allegations, Xiaomi had been successful since its inception and had become a smartphone leader in Chinese market. With so much success in China, Xiaomi had begun to expand in 2014 into Singapore, Russia, India and other countries. The company officially entered India in 2014 by signing a deal with Indian e-commerce supplier, Flipkart. It launched the Mi3 in India in July 2014 with the first round of handsets selling out in seconds. Hugo Barra, Former Vice President (hired by Xiaomi in 2013 from Google and Android) passed on the baton to Xiaomi India managing director Manu Kumar Jain in 2017 who has led the company since then to further success by adapting to local conditions by releasing handsets tailored to Indian users. Xiaomi has expanded and found success in the European market also.
The company is now working harder to launch in U.S., and if Xiaomi is able to achieve in the U.S. market, it could open up big success for the company.
Xiaomi, in spite of copying Apple design year after year, is able to get away with it while other brands like Samsung suffers billions of dollars into loss. Well, if you look into it closely,
- Firstly, Xiaomi and Apple are for-profit companies and they do not have competing interests against each other however both have their different set of customers where the high-end Xiaomi smartphone costs $450 while the iPhone costs $1000 i.e. on a scale from low price to high price, Xiaomi stands at the low and mid-range, while iPhone is at the high range.
Looking at the customers, Xiaomi audience live mostly in China and India and Apple audience live mostly in America and Europe, this clearly shows that the geographic of the audience is totally different for both the companies. Hence, Xiaomi has different set of competitors’ like- VIVO, OPPO and Samsung while Apple nowhere appears in the budget smartphones list.
For example: a 2 years old iPhone7 costs $550 while brand new Xiaomi MI8 costs $450, that’s the reason for Apple not having competitive relation with Xiaomi.
Looking into the lawsuits list of Apple, we can clearly identify that Apple’s real competitors are Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels.
- Second and the most important is that the Apple’s capability is much more than just its design. Looking into the smartphone industry, one gets distracted with the smartphone design and its packs; but smartphones are not sold just by these specifications, in fact, it’s the combination of things- Manufacturing, Distribution, Marketing and Retail.
One thing to be noticed is that Apple disables the comments for its YouTube videos in order to have full control over its marketing and advertisement. Apple controls over its retail store, in fact Apple controls the entire value chain which none of its competitors could ever dream of doing it.
While, Samsung has very strong hardware department but does not have control over its software operating systems, chipset or coding language and on the other hand, Google, has control over the software and coding language and only a little influence over manufacturing hardware. Google has no manufacturing and distribution capability to deliver Google Pixels. Even, Xiaomi has chosen Qualcomm for building the chipset.
This shows that Xiaomi and any other smartphone manufacturer, may be, able to copy the looks of iPhone but it can hardly copy the core technology, infrastructure, business and customer relationship which Apple has built over the years.
- Third and the last, is the Pragmatic Legal problems– Xiaomi is one of the leading Chinese companies and its’ obviously not pragmatic to sue Xiaomi in China, especially for an ambiguous design patents. Even the Chinese Government protects its local industries.
Everyone must have thought Apple could sue Xiaomi in the United States, of course Apple would win the lawsuit, and the enforcement of the fines would be a big problem as Xiaomi does not sell directly to the United States.
At the end, Apple is not ignorant, if it wanted to win a legal battle against Xiaomi, it could have done it but Apple prefers not to sue Xiaomi because there is nothing for Apple to gain. If Apple had filed a lawsuit against Xiaomi, (which means Apple, high-end range smartphones competing with low to mid-range smartphones) then Samsung would become a stronger competitor to Apple while Samsung already filled the gap of mid-range smartphones. Hence, Apple prefers to leave Xiaomi alone and compete with Samsung in the low to mid-range market, while Apple continues to dominate in the high-end market.
Xiaomi had been yearning for global expansion since its inception and, the company, has also developed a strong patent portfolio in the recent past. Its patent portfolio shows that the company is planning to enter USA and other global markets.
Xiaomi has more than 22,000 patents globally with more than 60% of them being Chinese patents. Xiaomi filed its first 3 patents in 2010 in China and other than these 3 Chinese patents, Xiaomi also has 8 US patents filed in 2010. As mentioned earlier, Xiaomi has majority of their patents in China, nearly 12621 patents, and after China, the USA is the top second country where Xiaomi has 2039 patents in its portfolio. The increase in number of US patents shows Xiaomi’s interest to enter the US market.
Apart from China and USA, Europe is the top third country where Xiaomi holds maximum number of patents up to 1399, followed by Japan in the fourth place with 1000 Japanese patents. Then comes, South Korea in the fifth place where Xiaomi had launched its smartphone in Korea on 04 January 2015 and after a few days it took pulled back its smartphones on 06 January 2015 due to some legal matters. Less than 6 months later, Xiaomi made a re-entry in South Korea by opening its first offline store in Seoul and the company has 954 patents in Korea.
Xiaomi’s 880 Indian patents stands in the sixth position followed by Russia at seventh with 785 Russian patents. In 2017, Xiaomi overtook Samsung and became the top smartphone company in India. In 2nd quarter of 2018 alone, they sold more than 10 Million devices which was never achieved by any smartphone company before. Apart from these countries, Xiaomi has patents in other countries also which include Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Taiwan too.
With such growing business, fan base and market share, some experts across the world are in the opinion that acquisition of Xiaomi will help Apple to penetrate into the market captured by Xiaomi and also, Apple will have another sector of low-range smartphones. Looking at the global smartphone sales data, it reveals that Apple has a market share of 12.3% and Samsung with 19.8% market share. With the acquisition of Xiaomi, Apple wouldn’t just capture Xiaomi’s market but also give a tough competition to Samsung with an add-on by Xiaomi’s 4% market share. Would such an acquisition be witnessed? Would Apple have any such thoughts? … Hmmm…