As we reported earlier, Xiaomi has already entered the league of top five smartphone vendors in the world with a market share of 5.10 percent, bigger than that of big name brands such as Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE), HTC Corp (TPE:2498) and even LG Electronics Inc. (KRX:066570). Lenovo (HKG:0992) and Huawei (SHE:002502) are in close proximity to Xiaomi which is now the world’s fastest growing smartphone vendor. Xiaomi has already sold as many devices in 1H 2014 as it did in the whole 2013. This is because of the great value for money that Xiaomi brings in with all of its devices.
Xiaomi’s Expansion Strategy Is Interesting
Xiaomi’s plans to enter Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico and a bunch of other Latin American nations is entirely correct because there is still room for smartphone penetration in those countries, unlike markets like the EU and North America where all the big-name brands like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (KRX:005930), LG, HTC, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Sony have a strong presence. Besides, Intellectual Property (IP) issue could also be a major roadblock for Xiaomi as its already facing severe attack from established players in developed markets.
As Xiaomi grows bigger, competition will get stiffer for Xiaomi and a lot of other issues would take a toll on the brand, some of which are sourced components for the devices, manufacturing, hardware and software patents, marketing strategies, and consumer perception of the brand. One such problem that Xiaomi is facing is the consumer’s perception of Xiaomi as a reliable brand. Right from the start, Xiaomi was being referred to as Apple of China. At first, there would have been a positive vibe to it as they were being referred to Apple and the founder of Xiaomi, Lin Bin, was being compared to Steve Jobs But now, the whole situation is being reported in quite a negative way.
Xiaomi vs Or Apple: Real Copy-Cat ?
Xiaomi unveiled MIUI v6.0 recently, the latest version of the software for their smartphones and tablet devices. MIUI is a forked version of Android and Xiaomi has always been criticised for making the MIUI’s design too similar to the iOS. After unveiling the features and interface of MIUI 6, everyone on the web started it comparing its design to that of the iOS 7 due to its emphasis on flat and colourful UI elements as well as extensive use of whites in the UI. But, does Apple hold the patent for flat design or for using colorful square icons with rounder corners? No one does. Didn’t Apple use a lot of features in the iOS 7 which originally appeared in Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) owned Android and WebOS?
Let’s have a look at some of the groundbreaking features that we’ve seen in current smartphone operating systems/platforms and how everyone else copied it or got inspired by it.
|Notifications Centre||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised|
|Quick Setting Toggles||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised|
|Flat UI||Inspired From Windows Phone||Inspired From Windows Phone||Appeared First||Not Utilised|
|Card Based Multitasking UI||Inspired From WebOS||Inspired From WebOS||Inspired From WebOS||Appeared First|
|Widgets||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Unique Way||Not Utilised|
|Lockscreen Widgets||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|Actionable Notifications||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|Pop Up Notifications||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Unique Way||Not Utilised|
|Pinch To Zoom||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Inspired From iOS||Inspired From iOS|
|Customisable Keyboard||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|Multitouch Keyboard||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Inspired From iOS||Inspired From iOS|
|Auto UI Rotation||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Inspired From iOS||Inspired From iOS|
|App Folders||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised|
|Battery Usage Chart||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised|
|Data Usage Chart||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised|
|Notifications Control||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|Pull To Refresh||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|Hamburger UI||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|Parallax Effect In Wallpaper/Background||Not Utilised||Appeared First||Inspired From iOS||Not Utilised|
|“Open With..” Option||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|Deep Social Network Integration||Inspired From Windows Phone||Inspired From Windows Phone||Appeared First||Not Utilised|
|Multiplayer Gaming||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Not Utilised||Not Utilised|
|App Stores||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Inspired From iOS||Inspired From iOS|
|Integrated Search||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android|
|On-Screen Navigation Buttons||Appeared First||Not Utilised||Inspired From Android||Not Utilised|
|Home Screen Background||Appeared First||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android||Inspired From Android|
|Inertial/Natural Scrolling||Inspired From iOS||Appeared First||Inspired From iOS||Inspired From iOS|
I have tried to note down some of the UI elements which are being used in smartphone platforms these days. As we can see, no platform has a clean slate and every platform copied, or say drew some inspiration or the other from other platforms. Even Apple has drawn inspiration from Android and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone when it comes to certain UI elements and features. In my view, Xiaomi did this because people love Apple’s UI design and Xiaomi wanted to provide its users what they like. In fact, Xiaomi has a program wherein people get to request for the features they want and Xiaomi decides to include it in the next software update based on the requested features popularity. MIUI also has a great theme engine that allows developers and designers make themes which can turn the whole UI mimicking iOS, Xperia UI or TouchWiz, as per the user’s liking.
It’s time for Xiaomi to focus on things like availability and after-sales service
In the markets where Xiaomi is focussing in the next couple of years, consumers don’t care whether Xiaomi has copied Apple’s UI design or not. These budget-conscious users priorities specifications, features, performance and the value that their device is offering. We have already posted an in-depth performance review of the Mi3 and it turned out to be the best value for money device that we have ever seen, surpassing the likes of Asus Zenfone and Motorola’s Moto G.
In India, the company is set to open the registrations to buy the entry-level priced Redmi 1S today through its exclusive launch partner, Flipkart. The Redmi 1S, which is priced at US$100 (INR 5,999), will compete with existing segment leaders; Moto G, Asus Zenfone 4 and Micromax’s Unite 2. Xiaomi is also set to launch the Redmi Note in India which comes with a 5.5-inch HD IPS LCD screen, octa-core MediaTek MT6592 processor, Mali-450 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. Even though the Redmi Note will be priced at US$165, the device will compete with the likes of Micromax Canvas Knight, Micromax Canvas Note and Gionee Elife S5.5 which are priced around US$335.
Rather, consumers do care about the availability of the device, operating system updates and the after-sales service. If Xiaomi can hold themselves trustworthy in these specific areas, consumers will have no reason to not to buy a Xiaomi device. That said, the fact that Xiaomi’s MIUI 6 looks a lot more like Apple’s iOS 7 instead of looking like an interface rooted in Android’s principles is true to a certain extent. They should definitely try to reduce this resemblance if they want to be looked over as an innovator rather than being termed as a copycat.