Apple’s iPhone X gives Android copycats a big, big gift

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Look ma, no Home button!


James Martin/CNET

Every year we see dozens of me-too Android phones that ape the iPhone, except for one big, round giveaway: they lack Apple’s instantly recognizable home button. Now that the iPhone X trades in its most defining visual feature, it’s going to be easier than ever to make Android phones that look like an expensive iPhone, at a fraction of the price.


With Apple’s iconic round button gone, it’s going to be much harder to tell Apple’s copycats from the original at first glance, especially once those other phonemakers figure out how to get the bezel-less look down pat. And especially once you slap on a case. (Xiaomi already figured out bezel-less design with its aspirational Mi Mix; now followed by the Mi Mix 2.)

We mostly see iPhone lookalikes coming from Chinese phone makers, such as Huawei, OnePlus, Xiaomi and Oppo, but there are plenty of other brands that attract buyers by making simpler smartphones that resemble other premium phones. Slim bezels, rounded edges and similar color palettes are easier to ape than expensive hardware within.

No more home button on the iPhone X also means these manufacturers no longer have to worry about including their own oblong fingerprint sensors on the front (they can go to the back).

While some of these companies take a more subtle approach to echoing the iPhone, others, like Oppo, aren’t afraid to take “inspiration” from Apple, from the icon layout down to physical looks.

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The Oppo R11 very closely mimics the iPhone’s design, though its home button is a giveaway.


Aloysius Low/CNET

In relatively rich countries like the the US and UK, the iPhone X will sell widely. But in a global landscape, the iPhone X will top every other iPhone as a status symbol that far fewer can afford. It’s no coincidence that lookalike phones often hail from China, a market of billions that Apple’s been trying to crack for years. Homegrown vendors like Huawei and Oppo do well there, their midrange devices selling like hotcakes even with a slight premium over even cheaper rivals. Clearly, looks matter.

If there’s one area that Android vendors may have a tricky time mastering, it’s slashing the bezels. Just doing all the work to achieve a bezel-less phone isn’t as easy as it sounds, and other Android manufacturers may not want to yet dedicate resources to mass production until they see proof of the iPhone X’s commercial success.

However, once the initial investment is made for bezel-less designs and screens that take up nearly all the phone’s face, we’ll start seeing it trickle down from premium phones like the iPhone X, LG G6 and V30, and the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Note 8.

Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone will keep its gleam in populous countries like China and India for years to come — if the masses can see what it is.


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