Facepalm: Chinese phone maker Xiaomi has unveiled its latest original invention — the “Mimoji.” Mimojis are 3D avatars that users can customize to look like a cartoon version of themselves and then record chat messages with the selfie cam which will translate movements to the Mimoji.

This would be the point where you hear the needle scratching across the groves of a record.

Wait. Doesn’t this all seem familiar? Of course it does, it is remarkably similar to Apple’s Memoji.

Apple does not have a corner on the customizable avatar market. Samsung and Microsoft had been using them for a while before Apple. However, Xiaomi’s designs look an awful lot like the ones you will find on iPhones. The main difference it would seem is a broader number of choices of hats and glasses, but that is a cultural thing according to The World of Chinese.

Xiaomi has a history of “borrowing” ideas from Apple. Last year, the company released its version of Animojis (animal emojis) with the Mi 8, which in and of itself was a clear clone of the iPhone X. The company also launched AirDots, which are clunky AirPod clones, earlier this year.

Apple has allowed most of Xiaomi’s cloning slide by without a fuss. Although in 2017, Cupertino challenged the rival in court over its use of the name “Mi Pad” for the company’s iPad clone. MacRumors reported, Apple won that case with the court ruling that the name was too similar to “iPad,” which is a registered trademark.

Since Memojis were not all that original anyway, it is not likely Apple will take action in this case despite the similarities of the avatars and the name that is only one letter off. China has a softer stance on IP law, and it would probably not be worth the effort. But the controversy goes deeper than that.

Since all the hubbub over Mimojis started, Xiaomi has issued a scathing statement via Weibo saying it did not copy Apple. It says news outlets spreading this "inaccurate information" are "rumor-mongers."

GizmoChina notes Xiaomi Group’s General Manager of Public Relations Xu Jieyun tried to clarify the matter saying that the company released its first version of Mimoji in May of 2018. He further states that Apple did not come up with their Memoji until June of that year. Jieyun threatened legal action against outlets that claimed Xiaomi stole Apple's IP without providing proof.

Mimojis are a planned feature for Xiaomi’s upcoming Mi CC9 smartphone, which launches in China on July 5. Pre-orders started today.

Masthead image credit: Engadget