Hugo Barra: The XiaoMi Mi4 is no Apple copycat
XiaoMi has recently unveiled the Mi Band at an event at Beijing this week which was the cherry on top of the XiaoMi Mi4 launch. With the nice stream of launches from the company, it was about time XiaoMi’s Global Vice President, Hugo Barra sat down for an interview. And that’s exactly what he did with The Verge right after the Mi4 launch.
The man clad in denim jeans and a simple black shirt wanted to clear up a list of misconceptions about the company. First and foremost, the company should be referred to simply as Mi. This according to Barra, is a concious effort in Mi’s communications outside of China to filter out the Chinese influence and make it more relate-able at a global standpoint. It is suppose to be more palatable and pronounceable by the wider market. Trust me when I say that this my friends, is an excellent move. Not many people can correctly pronounce the “Xiao” in XiaoMi. Simplifying matters gives the brand a good consistent and permanent long term image.
Barra only joined the company a year ago but he says that he’s sick and tired of accusations that Mi is a copy cat company of Apple. He defends Mi and says that he works for an excellent and innovative company that comes up with constant improvements and refined designs. In other words, Mi sets trends, not follows them. Barra goes on to explain that these copy cat allegations are “sweeping sensationalist statements because they have nothing better to talk about.”
However, we can’t ignore the obvious similarities between Apple and the Mi gadgets. The edges of the XiaoMi Mi4 resonates Apple iPhone’s design and the Mi Pad screen size and resolution matches that of the Retina iPad Mini. Some of the Mi gadgets use the same plastic as the iPhone 5C. Coincidence? Maybe not. But to call Mi a copy cat is in our opinion, a bit too exaggerated.
Barra has also addressed the uncanny similarities. According to him, “if you have two similarly skilled designers, it makes sense that they would reach the same conclusion. It doesn’t matter if somebody else has reached the same conclusion.” He argues that Mi is not looking to Apple for inspiration and its main focus is producing the best top of the line devices it can. Barra explains that Apple doesn’t own every single idea (even though it tries to by patents) and just because Apple might have done something already, that is no excuse for other companies including Mi to shy away from a good solid idea. Bold statement and honestly, it makes sense, don’t you think?
Well, that explains most of it but what about the presentation style? At the recent Beijing event, Barra used the same exact tag line as Apple to unveil the Mi Band. To this, Barra confessed his long time admiration for the former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs who has since passed away. Barra explained that “we are not the only ones who have adopted the Steve Jobs presentation style. The whole world has done that.” Once again, we can’t blame him. Jobs had a confident and impeccable style in the way he presented and it’s not a surprising that many are trying to follow in his footsteps. Barra says this is far from a copy cat move. Nonetheless, Mi could have at least come up with its own suspense driven tag line to convey the same idea but not in the same exact words.
The copycat statements being thrown at Mi are supposed to cease with the launch of the Mi4 which claims to be “the fastest and most gorgeous Mi Phone ever.” The Mi3 has not been forgotten however as sales continues to rise and expand to Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines as well as India where the device has just been released a few days ago. Indonesia is the next stop for the Mi3 and Barra is working hard to get his home country, Brazil on the Mi3 map.
Although Mi is doing extremely well in Asia, the company is not looking to penetrate Apple’s home base, America any time soon. “The US is an incredibly competitive battleground,” says Barra, “and we have to pick our battles. One step at a time. One country at a time.” Well, that battle between Apple and XiaoMi in the United States is just a war for another day. Now, that will be an epic tech competition.
As for now, the company is focusing solely on building repertoire in countries such as India with enhanced customer support and services. Barra continues to stand by the notion that the Mi is not the Asian Apple. It’s simply just… Mi.
Source: The Verge