Should you buy a copy-cat iPhone?

Mala Bhargava | Updated on February 08, 2018 Published on February 07, 2018

Chinese fake-makers bring out an iPhone even before Apple does. But stop to consider before you put down a reasonable sum on a copy

There’s a whole industry in China hard at work copying Apple phones, watches and other gadgets. They’re so ahead of the curve that they even brought out the tenth anniversary iPhone before Apple did!

Targeting the unsuspecting tourist who can’t believe the fantastic price for something that really looks every bit an Apple device, fake-makers even copy entire Apple Stores, brimming over with cheap imitations. Squabbles and legal wrangles haven’t quite wiped out the copy-cat industry and visitors to China still come back proud owners of a great looking iPhone sometimes without realising what’s on the inside.

“Why shouldn’t I buy it?” one defiant customer asked us. “It looks very real, it works, and it costs just ₹6,000. If it isn’t real, why should I care, as long as it works.”

And indeed an iPhone that can be had for $300 or less does work — but not on Apple’s servers or software.

Copy cats manage to do a brilliant job of both packaging and building an iPhone. Someone once even designed an under-screen fingerprint sensor, which hasn’t even been done by Apple yet. Of course, it didn’t unlock the phone, but that’s another matter. It’s only on very close inspection that one would be able to spot all sorts of differences. What should be glass turns out to be plastic, what should have been rose gold turns out to be some other shade altogether and what should have been the Apple logo with its bite on the right side was bitten up on the left. The degree of expertise and finesse with which the fake is made varies and so does its positioning when someone sells it as being as good as the iPhone or as the real thing.

It’s when you switch the device on and start trying to use it that you’ll find everything that doesn’t work. A home button behaves like none you’ve ever seen on an Apple device, notifications and widgets look nothing like they do on a real iPhone and well-known features are just missing.

The copy cat industry has managed to get the software on the fake iPhone to look like Apple’s iOS 11 alarmingly closely. You’ll see the Control Centre, icons laid out exactly the same way as on an iPhone and many other familiar elements. There’s even an App Store. But, you don’t use your Apple ID to log into Apple’s servers; you don’t actually buy real Apple certified apps, and don’t get access to Apple’s services. The device may even be running a skinned version of Android.

Some may care little if they can still get a fantastic looking device that runs Android — but there’s little known about how much of anything on that phone’s software is fake, compromised or dangerous in terms of tracking and privacy.

Apple’s products are astronomically expensive, but our unequivocal advice would be to buy the real thing, step back a few versions and buy an older model but still the real thing, or opt for an Android phone from a reputed company. Putting your money and more importantly your trust in a fake will mostly end up being a waste or worse still, a privacy nightmare.

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Published on February 07, 2018
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