Hugo Barra was once the public face of Google's Android division, but today he sounds more impressed by Apple. Speaking at WSJD Live today, Barra — who is now vice president for international for Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi — was effusive in his praise for Apple's latest devices. The iPhone 6, he said, is "the most beautiful smartphone ever built." Barra's comments came in response to a question about the persistent criticism that 4-year-old Xiaomi's rise has been fueled by blatant copying of designs from Apple and others, an issue that Jony Ive raised again at an event earlier this month. "Our designers, our engineers are inspired by great products — and frankly, in today's world, who isn't? Point me to a product in our industry that has completely unique design language. You're not going to be able to find one."
Even as he praised Apple, Barra noted that the Cupertino company itself borrows liberally from others. iPhone 6, Barra says, "carries design that's very HTC-like. Of course, with an astonishing twist ... but it is somewhat familiar design language." Barra also pointed to the quick settings feature on iOS that lets you toggle the flashlight, Wi-Fi, and other frequently used items. "Quick settings on iOS is much better on Android, but it was on Android (long before)," Barra said.
Using careful language, Barra suggested that Xiaomi phones and software sometimes resemble existing products because the company is young and its designers lack confidence."It's a fight, but I think we're learning and we're progressing," he said. "when you look at the stuff that's coming next from us, you're going to see some unique new twists."