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Apple design guru Jony Ive goes all Steve Jobs when quizzed over iPhone 'copycats'

Apple may still be the number one brand in the world, but it's no longer head, shoulders and torso above the competition.

The likes of HTC and Sony have caught up with (and arguably surpassed) the firm in the smartphone market, while Lenovo and Microsoft are absolutely hounding the iPad and MacBook with their terrific Yoga and Surface products.

Read more: Barra wants Xiaomi to be next Apple or Google

Unfortunately for Apple, the strain is beginning to show. The excruciatingly hip company is no longer trying to maintain its old aura of effortless brilliance, as head of design Jony Ive has demonstrated.

The man who is revered in design circles across the globe – and well-known for his calm, quiet demeanour – became a little tetchy when asked about so-called copycats at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit this week.

After being quizzed on some of Chinese firm Xiaomi's products which, admittedly, do look a lot like Apple's iPhones, Ive simply replied, "I don't see it as flattery. I actually see it as theft.

"When you're doing something for the first time, for example with the phone, and you don't know it's going to work, and you spend seven or eight years working on something, and then it's copied — I have to be honest, the first thing I think isn't 'Ooh, that was flattering.'

"All those weekends I could have had at home with my lovely family but didn't, but the flattery made up for it," he added, sarcastically.

Xiaomi, which only launched in 2011, has made great market share gains over the past year or so, and grabbed many a headline when it picked up former Android head of product management Hugo Barra a year ago.

Read more: Tech's top 10 betrayals

This is of course not the first time Apple and somebody connected with Google have clashed over accusations of theft. Late former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once famously raved, "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product," because he believed that Google chairman Eric Schmidt had engaged in foul play.

"I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this," Jobs continued. "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple $40 billion [£24 billion] in the bank, to right this wrong."

Image credit: Flickr (dannyjackie)