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Huawei Loses Ex-Apple Designer Hired to Revamp Smartphone Software

A former longtime Apple designer who joined Huawei two years ago with much fanfare to help improve the oft-criticized user interface of the Chinese company’s smartphones, has recently quit. Abigail Brody’s departure highlights the risks and challenges facing Chinese technology giants as they step up their recruitment in Silicon Valley.

Ms. Brody, who served as Huawei’s chief designer of user experience based in San Francisco and doesn’t speak Chinese, didn’t fit the company’s culture and had a hard time coordinating with its headquarters in Shenzhen, employees familiar with the situation said. Some colleagues viewed Ms. Brody’s proposals for a drastic makeover of Huawei’s user interface with suspicion, the employees said.

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When British designer Jamie Bates joined Huawei in 2014 to head its London design studio, he proposed some big changes to the company’s mobile interface software, Mr. Bates told The Information. But Chinese executives in Shenzhen were often reluctant to move too far away from the tried-and-tested design of Huawei’s existing product, which shared some similarities with Apple’s iOS such as the way the app icons looked. Mr. Bates left Huawei in 2015 and is now a design leader at Unilever.

“Everybody wants to be like Apple, but you have to move beyond that,” he said.

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