Mobile phone manufacturers have struggled for years to combat the problems of counterfeit batteries and phone accessories being sold in city markets and dubious phone stores. Asia and the Middle East have been a battleground as phone manufacturers sought to stop fake batteries, ear-phones, cases etc being sold with impunity.
However, now the problems have gotten far worse; whole fake phones are being made with substandard operating software. Earlier this year, an associate returned from China with a cheap phone which he claimed was a bargain. After a few weeks the phone was malfunctioning and on closer inspection the label indicated it was a `Blueberry’ phone, not the Blackberry he thought it was.
Now whole phones are being copied illegally and sold as the genuine product. As per usual, the epicentre of this fake trade has been in China. The confluence of lax enforcement of IP [Intellectual Property] rights, a hungry demand from consumers for the latest products at a very low price and the technological ability to make these products has meant that it is now possible to buy an entire fake iPhone or Blackberry in China.
Recent news reports indicated that online sites in China were listing the fake iPhone 5 for as low as 200 Yuan or about US$33. A stunning offer considering Apple has yet to officially launch the genuine version of the phone. Some of the phones on offer use names like “HiPhone 5” or “iiPhone 5” in a thinly veiled attempt to avoid prosecution for trademark violations. However, images of the devices show the Apple logo and they have the shape and finish to look just like an iPhone.
After finding success in selling these phones in Asia and the Middle East, these counterfeit products have begun to show up for sale in the US and Europe. Some anti-counterfeiting experts estimate that up to 10 percent of technology products sold worldwide, or roughly $100 billion worth of technology product transactions each year, are for counterfeit or fake products.
In the US & Europe, these products are often sold on the web by small to medium sized traders via online marketplaces, like eBay or Craigslist. This is known as the `secondary market’ where manufacturers and large scale distributors can offload mobile phones which may not be popular or out of date at a cheaper price without affecting their main markets. But this sales tactic can be exploited by those selling counterfeit phones as consumers are duped into believing that they are legitimate products.
How to spot whether that is a fake iPhone or Blackberry
If you are searching on the web for a new phone or else travelling and spy what seems to be a great deal, here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of these fake vendors:
Is the price too good to be true?
As mentioned above, genuine Resellers offer bargains on the phone models that didn’t sell very well or else are out of date. A genuine reseller will be unable to offer significant discounts on new devices that are in high demand or have just been released.
A suggestion is to check prices online from a variety of sources to get an idea what the general going rate is. If you see a price that’s too low, then that’s a red flag that it’s likely a fake.
Unit numbers for sale
Does the reseller claim to have an unusually high number of units of the same device to sell? Manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are adept at controlling their sales channels. This means that retailers are unlikely to have large excess inventory to offer to resellers. Therefore it’s unlikely that a reseller on eBay or Craigslist would be in a position to offer more than a few of the latest phones on the market.
Does the device look real?
This might be tricky for online shoppers looking for the iPhone 4S, since it looks just like the iPhone 4. But when you look at the pictures and the product descriptions, you should know which features are supposed to be available and which are not. And if the advertisement lists features that aren’t on the official spec sheet for the device, it’s probably not legitimate.
Does the seller offer a viable return policy?
If not, then be very worried. Do some research to check what has been the experience of other buyers from the vendor and weigh up whether they are legitimate.
Does it have a warranty?
In addition to the manufacturers 12 month warranty, many authorized resellers also offer their own versions of extended warranties. A reseller that doesn’t offer such warranties may be selling fakes.
Should you be in a store and in the position to handle the iPhone, try out the following:
Test the touch screen
Genuine iPhone touch screens react only to objects that conduct electricity (i.e. your fingers). Authentic iPhones screens will not work with plastic or metal styluses. A good test to try early on
SIM Card slot
Any version of the iPhone has only one SIM card slot. If there’s more than one slot, then that’s all you need to know.
The iPhone is sealed so that batteries can only be changed by opening up the whole phone, preferably by your local Apple store. If the phone has the ability to change the battery or else the box comes with a spare battery, then keep on walking
If the iPhone comes in any other colour except black or white then it’s a fake.
Start Up mode
When you press the “on” button, a genuine iPhone will display a black background with a silver border and four rows of icons. Many fakes will have more icons on display or a different coloured background. If you have a friend who’s familiar with the model, ask them to handle the phone and see how it feels
Better safe than sorry, iPhones are a big purchase item and you need to be sure you’re getting the genuine product
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