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Did HTC copy Apple? Did Apple copy HTC? Does it matter?

By Adam Doud November 1, 2015, 7:00 pm

At a casual glance, the new HTC One A9 looks a little bit like the iPhone 6. Ok, ok, I’ll confess, if you look closely, you’ll see that this phone slightly resembles the iPhone. Ok, well if you get out your slide rule and microscope, you’ll find that they’re pretty much dead ringers for each other. So folks are calling out HTC for blatantly ripping off the iPhone. And hey, they’re not totally wrong.

HTC One A9 vs iPhone 6s Plus

When you put these phones next to each other, aside from the rounded rectangle vs circle home button on the front, these phones are twins. The HTC One A9 comes in more colors, which does differentiate from the iPhone, but it’s hard to deny that one clearly inspired the other down to almost every detail.


Can’t beat ’em, join ’em

HTC isn’t exactly burning up the charts these days, so maybe this is an attempt at dressing for the job you want instead of the job you have. If HTC wants to be successful, maybe it’s modeling its next phone off of a success. But in this case, it seems like “modeling” went a bit too far and starts to feel like copying, so Apple’s legal department may very well be in the war room as we speak.

And yet…

But then HTC is standing up and being all like, “Oh my, you mean we copied that unibody design with the antenna on the top and bottom. Well we already made that years ago.” Which is not untrue. The iPhone did indeed adopt some of the concepts that HTC brought forward with the HTC One M7. So the circle of life is complete, eh Simba?

When you look at the HTC One M7, that phone still stands out as an iconic design from just a few years ago. It’s a design that was repeated for several generations and gave HTC a signature look to its phones. In a sea of black slabs, HTC phones do stand out. And the similarity between the One M7 and the iPhone 6 is maybe not as clear as the parallel between the iPhone and the A9, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see it.


And yet (again)…

So now we come down to the heart of the matter – did HTC copy Apple? Maybe. Did Apple copy HTC? Maybe. As Captain Picard would say, “It’s very good timing, don’t you think?” But then there is the question of concept versus execution. We’ve already talked about how everyone copies everyone. While the HTC One A9 might be as close to a dead ringer for the iPhone 6, have we all forgotten about the Galaxy S6? That’s not far off either. Take it further back in the timeline, and yes the concepts of the iPhone 6 were “inspired” by the HTC One M7. Go back further and every slab phone with rounded corners is copying off of the original iPhone.

So does it really matter who copied who? I personally have to admit that HTC is being particularly bold about this. Look no further than the product page for the A9.

Design worth imitating.
From the company that crafted the world’s first all-metal design, HTC again sets a new design standard.

This tells me two things:

  1. HTC saw this blowback coming.
  2. HTC doesn’t care.
htc copy

Own it

Nor should it. I’m actually rather proud of HTC for owning this. Unless I’m completely off on this, HTC knew that its new phone looked a ton like the iPhone and it was ready with rebuttals. A verbal rebuttal came from President of North Asian Operations Jack Tong who said, “We’re not copying. We made a unibody metal-clad phone in 2013. It’s Apple that copies us in terms of the antenna design on the back.” A social media rebuttal came from Jason MacKenzie, president of HTC America who called people “history revisionists.” He also said it with an exclamation point, so this stuff is serious, people.

This was expected and anticipated.

But I’m going to go a step further and say that it doesn’t really matter who copied whom. We’re working in a space with one accepted design with very little variation between iterations. Someone is bound to do something that others have already thought of. So then if that’s going to happen, you may as well do what HTC is doing and run with it. Sure, it looks like the same phone. So what?

The bottom line is, HTC made a great looking phone (that we reviewed by the way) and yes, it looks a lot like a competitor’s phone. So does Samsung’s flagship.  Maybe it matters. I don’t think it does, but we’re not here to talk about what I think. We’re here to ask you. Did Apple copy HTC? Did HTC copy Apple? Does it matter either way? Let us know what you think in the comments don’t below, and as always, let’s see if we can figure this out.


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