Juha Saarinen 's Opinion

Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen: Xiaomi copy phone and Google Translate

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Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun launches a the new Xiaomi smartphone in Beijing. Photo / Getty
Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun launches a the new Xiaomi smartphone in Beijing. Photo / Getty

Chinese smartphone vendor Xiaomi has shown that it's possible not just to beat the competition in a mature market, but also to do it quickly.

According to data from analyst firm Canalys, Xiaomi took the number one smartphone vendor spot in the giant Chinese market in the second quarter, beating established makers Samsung, Lenovo, Yulong, Huawei and Apple in a very short time.

Some of the credit for Xiaomi's rise may be down to a smart hire: last year it recruited senior Google Android executive Hugo Barra as vice-president of its international sales.

Xiaomi's strategy is fairly straightforward: the company focuses on expanding in developing markets that have large populations, with high-specification Android-based phones selling at lower price points than competitors.

Read also:
New phone makers top Samsung in China and India
China's Xiaomi targets India in push for 100m phones

Barra claimed this week that Xiaomi's top of the range Mi3 phone had sold out in seconds after its launch in India, taking just 2.4 seconds to go out of stock.

The race to the top has been marred by controversy for Xiami however. Its Mi4 handset launched in July was widely derided as a design copy of Apple iPhone, along with the Mi Pad tablet which bears similarities to the look of the iPad mini. Well, the name's pretty similar too.

Xiaomi was also accused of using copyrighted photographs from various sources such as Flickr and the National Geographic publication, and passing these off as having been taken with the cameras on its phones.

The Android-based MIUI 6 operating system Xiaomi uses has a clean, elegant interface with flat graphical elements and colour gradient backgrounds. Here's the home screen:

If you think that bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple's iOS 7, you're not alone.

Privacy concerns have also been raised for the way Xiaomi handles customer data. Finnish security vendor F-Secure discovered that the company's Redmi 1S handset sent data to a server in China, without telling users.

Data transmitted included customers' phone numbers, IMEI device identifiers, as well as their carrier names and phone numbers. All the data was sent in the clear, without encryption.

Barra initially defended the apparent privacy breach, saying it was simply part of Xiami's MIUI cloud messaging service, but was later forced to apologise.

Xiaomi has since then issued an update for Redmi 1S that makes the MIUI cloud service opt-in, and introduces HTTPS encryption for the data transmissions. F-Secure has tested the update and confirmed that there is no data leakage after it is installed.

It'll be interesting to see how long Xiaomi will maintain its lead in China. There could be local competition coming after its chipset technology was leaked to a mainland China manufacturer by its semiconductor supplier.

According to Taiwanese media reports, fabless semiconductor maker MediaTek has reported ten of its former employees to the police, with nine of them being arrested already.

The ten are accused of leaking technical information on the chipsets used for Xiaomi devices to Spreadtrum Communications in China. According to MediaTek, this includes information on how to produce the Xiaomi chipsets at very low costs, something that would hurt the Taiwanese vendor if competitors were to copy the methodology it said.

If the chipset was copied and found its way into smartphones from competitors, it would be a fine irony that Xiaomi might not appreciate.


The machine translates

The stories on security journalist Brian Krebs's website never fail to intrigue and interest, none more so than the current Ipsum Lorem one.
"Ipsum Lorem" is that nonsense text in Latin typographers and designers use to fill spaces for layouts, before the copy is ready.

Could it be used for potential evil doings and steganography conducted via Google Translate [translate.google.co.nz] though by those dastardly Chinese hackers?
I mean, look at these translation examples from "Kraeh3n":

Most of the above return different results now but still... makes you think. The comments section at Krebs' site is working on it, but maybe there's a mysterious Chinese connection in there somewhere?

It could be a very subtle and clever way to get through the Great Firewall of China and state censorship, but it's difficult to tell.

Trying it out, the results are certainly interesting. These two paragraphs:

Morbi tincidunt magna erat, dictum iaculis dui tincidunt vitae. Nullam hendrerit interdum purus. Ut fermentum risus vel semper tincidunt. Ut lacinia suscipit odio non convallis.

Aliquam quis sapien eu neque aliquam elementum eget id nunc. Curabitur tempus at leo non ultrices. Proin quis tellus eget elit semper accumsan.

are rendered as:

Website link it was great, said on Monday's start to feel good. Immigration Bureau protein production. In order to warm-up laughter 'or' always start that. In order to hate, not the valley, on the fringe of the screen.

Then it has a football or move any element of the development of that now. Wow, look at the timing is not the time for basketball. It's like chicken soup ever-oriented development.

by Google Translate.

Ah yes, the old "chicken soup ever-oriented development" ploy again.

- NZ Herald

Juha Saarinen

Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

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