The Verge: ‘How China Rips Off the iPhone and Reinvents Android’

I just loved this deep dive into Chinese phone makers’ custom Android-based OSes by Sam Byford:

Many experienced Android users in the West who try out Chinese phones, including reviewers here at The Verge, often find themselves unable to get over an immediate stumbling block: the software. For the unfamiliar, Chinese phone software can be garish, heavy-handed, and quite unlike anything installed on phones that are popular outside of Asia. If there’s anything that’s going to turn you off the brand-new Huawei Mate 20 Pro, for example — unsubstantiated Cold War-esque paranoia aside — it’s likely to be the software.

But for the last year-plus, I’ve used almost every major Chinese phone extensively, traveled to the country several times, and met with dozens of people at its biggest phone manufacturers. This experience hasn’t altogether stopped me from feeling that most Chinese phone companies have a long way to go in many areas of software development. No one has a great answer for why everyone copies the iPhone camera app so embarrassingly. But I have learned a lot about the design principles behind many of these phones, and — as you ought to expect — there does tend to be a method behind what some may assume to be madness.

Byford makes a compelling case that these Android derivatives — Xiaomi’s MIUI, Vivo’s Funtouch OS (real name, I swear), Oppo’s ColorOS, and Huawei’s EMUI, just to name some of them — are best thought of as Android-based OSes, not mere “skins” atop Google’s canonical Android. There really is no canonical Android anymore, because the OS Google ships on its Pixels isn’t available to other handset makers.

And these Chinese companies all rip off iOS with absolutely no shame:

As for the camera apps, it’s really incredible how similar the vast majority are — both to each other and to Apple. Judging by the accuracy and specificity of the rip-offs, the camera app from iOS 7 has a serious claim to being one of the most influential software designs of the past decade. Just look at the picture above. Xiaomi wins an extremely low number of points for putting the modes in a lowercase blue font. But otherwise, only Huawei has succeeded in creating a genuinely new camera app design, which happens to be very good. I consider it penance for the company’s egregious and barely functional rip-off of the iOS share sheet.

Monday, 22 October 2018