Should Xiaomi imitate mobile phones?

Xiaomi, as an emerging Chinese electronic equipment company, is also widely known as a company that takes heavy inspiration from other companies’ idea and design, especially from Apple. For example, Mi 4  obviously takes inspiration from iPhone 4s and iPhone 5. However, the sales of Xiaomi is actually booming due to its low price tag and relatively reliable quality.  In this article, we use the ethical cycle to argue with one moral problem: Whether product imitation an acceptable option?


Against imitation

The behaviour of imitation is also harmful to corporate image of the ‘idea thief’. The public usually has a common sense that the companies producing similar products after others do not have their own creativity and are more likely to produce products with low quality. The unhealthy corporate image and bad word of mouth may limit its market share and have negative effect on long-term development.

Assuming the engineers act with unquestioning obedience which produces similar but cheaper products, there is no way to guarantee the material and processing they used can stay the same quality requirement of the original product, which increases safety risks. Thousands of industrial accidents and product safety claims keep happening around the world every year due to usage of dangerous or counterfeit goods . Those products such as  cheap phone chargers  have even killed people.

Regarding law, if engineers obey the decisions of superior for self-interest considerations, the rights and interest of the company whose idea is stolen will be infringed. Furthermore, legal disputes often growths from intellectual property issues. Contravention of laws usually cost much more to compensate.

The engineer should refuse imitating even if the employer asks him/her directly to do so. Doing so may damage the engineer’s personal reputation. It is not guaranteed that the engineer will/can stay working in the same company for the whole career. If the engineer decided to hop for another job, it might be unfavourable for potential employers to hire an engineer with inglorious history of ‘stealing’ others’ design.

From the view of consumers that own the original products, the behaviour of imitation hurts their interests and rights since they paid more for the product. If the market is full of similar products from imitation, those consumers may feel offended because it might be difficult to figure out whether they own the genuine ones.

In the original author point of view, the imitation behaviour may significantly dampen motivation and enthusiasm of them to carry on R&D of new products. The company of originality may have spent years of time and a large number of their fund on the development of a new technology or product while it may only take a few months and little money for imitators to apply them to their products, which is obviously unfair. The imitated designers may reconsider if it is worth working hard to generate profits for competitors.

In addition, the unhealthy ways and customs will trigger vicious competitions of the market that brings in negative influence to development of the whole industry and disturb modern market economic order. There might not be enough product differentiation to fit potential difference of customer demand.

In a word, imitation should be banned and severely punished.

For imitation

Compared with the original products with similar function, the price of the products from imitation are much lower. As a matter of fact, some customers cannot afford the high price of those original products, while the product from imitation is an excellent chance for them to taste and use the advanced techniques. So farthe vast population of China is still destitute, not everyone can afford to buy western products. Therefore, the imitations became effective advocacy genuine. In the long term, these goods might more likely to be entry-level commodities. It is to stimulate consumer demand from China’s emerging middle class to Western natural.

As there is enormous market demand for these products from imitation, at the same time, it is precise because of the tremendous demand, there is considerable profit space of these products for the company. The products from imitation can generate profits quickly for the enterprise. As an engineer working for business, we have the responsibility to have consideration for the benefit of the company. Furthermore, only when the company is in a good state, can engineer’s’ personal benefit be guaranteed.

What’s more, imitation can promote technology innovations. For the imitating company, they can learn a lot of advanced technical expertise from the simulation process, based on which some more advanced technique may arise. Therefore, copied is not the enemy of innovative, it is an important part of creation. Although imitation has its downside, also has a productive side. Almost all the innovations are based on previous work, but also to imitate and improve the existing design creatively; this is the power that driven the various fields of fashion, finance, software and others to go forward. Also, similar products can strengthen market competition, broaden the market and build brands. On the other hand, the products from imitation is also an impetus for the original product company. They will have much more effort to develop new technology to maintain their leading position in the industry. The competition of technology between the original product company and imitations company can promote significant development of this field.

For Chinese enterprises and individuals, imitation has irresistible benefits, the advantages of that is not only weaken Western competitors. Many Chinese businesses and individuals gain valuable experience of design and manufacturing capabilities through imitation of others original products. As the result is the emergence of a vast number of imitation affordable goods and services that will enable hundreds of millions of Chinese people to enjoy the benefits of the consumer society. Mimicry also helps the growth of China’s emerging middle class enterprises to create wealth and sales of original goods from Western companies. These people are representative of a vast population of potential new customers.

4: Neng Qian, Dian Guan, Haoyu Wang, Xianglu Kong


26 thoughts on “Should Xiaomi imitate mobile phones?

  1. I can’t find any special from technical side. maybe its success came from its business model, which means it could not last long.


  2. Not only the fake phone. The word of “made in China” already has been used for describing bad quality products. Copy is not means bad quality. Japan have some many copy things such as electonics equipements, cars and even their weapon. However, they made better improvement and better quality, also they have really serious matirel cost control. That’s how they defeat the western brand. That’s really good example for Chinese production makers.


  3. It’s true that Many Chinese businesses and individuals gain valuable experience of design and manufacturing capabilities through imitation of others original products. But most of them are die out for have no innovation, such like k-touch(tian yu) and Bo dao. So the Chinese enterprises like Xiaomi should find a way out rather than make money by hungry marketing.

    FYI. Xiaomi is real nanyong:)


  4. Creativity is one of the most important thing which enterprises should depend on for survival. Imitation only look regard the present, not the future. Companies like Xiaomi should realise this point ASAP to update their operation management method, product design and development.


  5. Imitation is a strategy for new companies to lower the cost and capture the market at first. While the following strategies are the decisive factors of whether the brand could be sustainable and healthy. Companies, especially technological companies, is not likely to survive only relying on imitation.


  6. Imitation might be a strategy for new companies to lower the cost and price to enter the market at first. After capturing the market, the following strategies are the decisive factors of whether the brand could be sustainable or not. Companies, especially technological companies, are not likely to survive only relying on imitation.


  7. after reading this, i feel It would best be for Apple not to challenge a mainland Chinese trophy company! The government can make it impossible to operate here.

    Look at Google, gave the world Android, which allowed China’s computer and mobile companies compete, in the new smartphone paradigm. For over 20 years the Chinese government had been developing an OS to not be vulnerable with a Windows dependancy. Nevertheless, the Great Firewall ever more stifles Google’s services on the mainland.

    The CCP has been actively after Apple for over a year. Any closing of those channels would only make Apple products more sought after and carry a greater premium to the Chinese consumer. Examples: China’s 4g LTE is only China’s homegrown TD-LTE, the telecoms not yet provide the global FDD-LTE standard (in other words, buy an IPhone in HK or the mainland and at least the 4g won’t work elsewhere; and forget about using the EU or USA-purchased 4g-LTE enabled smartphone here– 3g is slow! I use a 2.5g Nokia for calls); and Tim Cook hired 3 or 4 luxury brands chiefs to redirect the brand.


  8. Xiaomi is trying to create a company based on Apple design aesthetics for the Android market. Because the Android market is so big, with such major players as Samsung and LG playing dominant roles, Xiaomi has tried to carve a niche for itself with its fervent user base, which it stays in close contact with using WeChat / Weixin as the platform for social engagement. Xiaomi regularly announces new products and flash sales on this platform. The aim is to get these high enthusiasts as something like a missionary force, who will spread the word about the superiority of Xiaomi products.

    This is because, unlike Apple, which has the very powerful Apple Retail store chain, Xiaomi has no retail stores, nor does it sell through retail distribution chains in China. It is a complete e-commerce distribution company.

    Xiaomi’s management has promised that the company would eventually make money through software services. This provides the business justification for selling what Xiaomi claims are Apple build quality phones at prices which are between 1/2 and 2/3 of what Apple charges for its phones.

    While Jony Ive, Apple’s chief designer, had indirectly criticized Xiaomi for copying Apple’s designs. Xiaomi had done well until 2015, at which point it ran into some headwinds. While Xiaomi’s phone sales in 2014 grew by 226%, in 2015, they only went up by 16%.

    At the beginning of 2016, Xiaomi has said that it would stop announcing phone sales numbers. Making this announcement in the face of increased and aggressive competition from Huawei and other big players, could be interpreted as a lack of confidence in Xiaomi’s strategy going forward. Obviously company management is buying time before it makes a new move.

    Xiaomi is not alone in facing slowing smartphone sales[4]; even Apple has reported a slowdown in the rate of China growth as the Chinese domestic market shows early signs of softness. While Apple’s CEO Tim Cook continues to talk about the importance of China to Apple’s future in every public appearance, he has started to hedge his bets by aggressively expanding Apple’s presence in India.

    Xiaomi had been counting on expanding its presence in India and SE Asia in 2015, and lower sales numbers than originally projected would suggest that those projections did not pan out in 2015. Now, Xiaomi will have to face a stronger Apple presence in those markets.

    Xiaomi faces considerable sales headwinds in expansion as:

    Its main China competitors such as Huawei adopt the same online flash sales strategy as Xiaomi;
    As Apple lowers prices and continues to sell its iPhone 5s in markets like India, it will become harder for Xiaomi to carve an entry niche for its products;
    Softer consumer spending around the world will affect all smartphone makers.
    When comparing Apple hardware and software to Xiaomi hardware and software, Apple is more widely diversified, with computers, tablet devices and now watches as part of their product line. There are more than 1B iOS devices in use around the world. Apple also captures most of the profit in this brutally competitive business.

    In comparison, Xiaomi has a much smaller hardware and software product line and user base. Since it is a private company, it has not had to disclose its earnings, but it would be safe to assume that they are very low. In simple terms, it has much less of a cushion to work with than Apple.

    Xiaomi’s online flash sales strategy worked well until 2015; now its competitors are doing the same. It is also much harder for Xiaomi to differentiate on overall retail strategy, since that is something its China competitors can also do. Retail distribution is notoriously expensive, which is why Xiaomi chose for an online-only strategy. We saw early cracks in its strategy in the first half of 2015, and these cracks have become bigger in 2016.

    In 2016, we will see what Xiaomi’s management can do to counter this slowing down. The overall valuation of Xiaomi will depend on it.


  9. First we need to make sure that we are doing the right comparison. Right now the cell phone market is divided between Apple and Android. Apple’s business model relies on controlling the entire package so that you have integrated software/hardware/services and then you have this all into a single brand.

    Android’s business model involves splitting up the functions into different companies. So you have about a dozen cell phone makers that all use the Android platform. Because the platform is open, you can with relatively little cost start producing Android phones.

    Now you take the Chinese cell phone market. In Shenzhen, there are two or three companies that produce standard hardware platforms. This means that with relatively little capital, you can take the reference design, the reference hardware and start producing cell phones. The trouble then is that you’ll find that much of the cost of producing a cell phone involves testing and system integration. So you end up with a lot of ultra-cheap Chinese cell phones that have no branding, but the quality is not very good. They use standard Android software, but you’ll find that there is always something annoying that is wrong.

    What Xiaomi is trying to do is to use the hardware and software environment that is created by these phones, add branding and then do quality control and add after market service. The closest analogue to Xiaomi is a brand like Samsung.

    Also Xiaomi is going after a different market than Apple or Samsung. Apple and Samsung is targeting the high end of the market. The clone manufacturers are targeting the low end, with ultra-cheap phones that are low-quality. What Xiaomi is trying to do is to carve out a middle-tier in the market place between Apple and Samsung and the clones. Personally, I don’t think that market exists in the US. In the US, cell phones are usually provided as a subsidy by the carrier, and the carrier usually wants to give the customer a relatively high end phone. The cost of the phone tends to be smaller than keeping the customer in the plan. In Mainland China, most people buy their own phones without carrier subsidy. The existence of ultra-cheap phones means that you don’t need carrier subsidy in Mainland China. I do think that the target markets for Xiaomi are going to be Mainland China and also Africa, Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

    As far as copying Apple and Samsung. You need to understand how fashion works. Typically fashion trends start with high end products that are in the luxury market and then flow down hill. Apple sets the trends, and everyone else has to respond or get shut down. One thing about Xiaomi is that the look and feel is Apple and Samsung, but it contains some features that are standard in this part of the world like dual sim and replaceable batteries.


  10. not only the mi4, the Mi Box, which bears a striking resemblance to the Apple TV. And in the case of the MiPad tablet, the company clearly looked at the iPad mini and iPhone 5c for their design choices — even in the MiPad’s marketing photos. The Xiaomi Mi Router Mini looks just like the Apple Magic Trackpad. The Mi Power Bank is a blatant iPod mini rip-off.


  11. From the aspect of enterprise manager, as a consideration of upgrading the competitiveness of company, it is a quickly and effective way to imitate the successed product from other famous corporation.


  12. I am a Xiaomi phone user, I really like the product of Xiaomi published, it is an economical smartphone which can meet most requirements of me. Anyway, I think it is cool for me


  13. As a iPhone user, I really really don’t like the copy of iPhone product. We paid much more money to enjoy the unique experience from the iPhone. However, when I saw the news about imitation published online, I really confused even though it could constitute a pretty bad influence to the whole industry, there still has so many people to support this behaviour. Why ? Why??


  14. As a Chinese, I always resist all friends and relatives of mine to use the Xiaomi product. Because in the long run, the behaviour of imitation will eventually damage the reputation of China. Even the worse, the foreigners will treat us as a “stealer” in the future. I think the Xiaomi company should stop the imitation ASAP!!


  15. I bought a Xiaomi3 last year, it is totally useless for me. Time-consuming running system and delayed response, Huawei is better than that. Xiaomi is a totally rubbish.


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