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China's Smartisan says Apple has 'lost its soul' in pitch for new smartphone

Known for treating product launches as variety shows, even selling tickets to such events, Chinese device maker Smartisan cast doubt on Apple's prospects in recently announcing its new R1 smartphone in front of a crowd of about 37,000 people.

The goal is to "make Smartisan a great company like in the [Apple] era of [Steve] Jobs," founder Luo Yonghao said at the May 15 event, which occupied the 80,000-seat National Stadium in Beijing, according to the South China Morning Post. Luo argued that Apple has "lost its soul" since Jobs' death in 2011, in turn resulting in the decline of its designs and performance.

He further claimed that Apple would copy Smartisan "like crazy" after the launch of the Android-based R1, which has up to 1 terabyte of storage. Available alongside it is the TNT Station, a 27-inch 4K display which the R1 docks with to make it an Android-based desktop.

Many smartphone makers — Chinese or otherwise — often target Apple's iPhone in their marketing and designs, but it's relatively uncommon for them to simultaneously praise and damn the company, much less in front an audience of tens of thousands.

The most prominent company to chase Apple is typically Korean multinational Samsung. The two companies regularly leapfrog each other in features, but the latter is known for ads directly referring to Apple. One recent spot depicts a woman becoming frustrated with her throttled iPhone 6, visiting an Apple store, and eventually buying a Samsung Galaxy S9 instead.