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But critics say the firm has simply copied the look of Apple's iPhones, thriving because of weak intellectual property protection in China/XINHUA-File

Kenya

China smartphone maker Xiaomi wants a bite of Apple

– Apple pie –

In China, Xiaomi ranks second with a 13.5 percent share of the domestic smartphone market, according to consultancy Analysys International. Samsung is first with 15.4 percent and Apple lags at 6.9 percent as of the second quarter last year, the latest available figures.

Xiaomi initially left alone the “high-end mobile phone market dominated by Apple and Samsung” said Zhang Yi, chief executive officer of China-based iiMedia Research, and took on “the vast middle- and low-end markets not satisfied by other domestic phone makers”.

It created a user-friendly interface based on Google’s Android operating system, he said, “seized the growing trend for mobile Internet in China and topped its peers with high-performance but low-priced products”.

Xiaomi’s devoted users are indifferent about accusations of imitation.

“I don’t mind whether it is really copying Apple. Xiaomi’s user experience is pretty good and I won’t buy an Apple because of high prices,” user He Ling said.

Xiaomi’s high-end Mi 4 lists for $410 with 64 GB of memory, less than half the $998 Chinese retail price of a comparable Apple iPhone 6. Its newly-launched Redmi 2 budget model is only $115.

For its part Apple’s products are popular in China, but it has faced problems in the massive market, only linking up with the country’s biggest mobile phone service provider in late 2013.

Last year’s iPhone 6 launch in China was nearly a month later than other major markets as Beijing delayed regulatory approval and called for improvements in security of personal data.

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