15 January 2009

Top 10 Chinese gadget fakes

Chinese manufacturers are widely known for their inclination to copying famous brands and faking them. People were shocked when Nokla phones were sold instead of Nokia, and some of the less advanced users didn't even notice that they are using fakes. Internet is full of images and photos of different fakes from the Chinese so-called "brands", with very creative names: from well-known Nokla and Sany Ericssan to Nokir and HiPhone. In this top we decided to bring together most bizarre and interesting rip-offs and tried to review each of them. Let's begin!

10. Kogan Agora / Samsung i780

This Blackberry-like device looks very familiar to one of the Samsung business smartphones - although many devices share this form factor, Kogan Agora stays very close to its Korean brother. However, Kogan designers tried to do make their product somehow different - thing that very rarely happens. One of the biggest differences between Kogan Agora and Samsung i780 is the operating systems they run. While Samsung is powered by Windows Mobile, Kogan Agora runs on a new Android OS from Google. Keeping in mind that number of Android devices is very limited by today, such choice of the manufacturer can become the main selling factor of this device. Kogan Agora comes with 3G (UMTS / HSDPA), EDGE support, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, 128 MB RAM, 256 MB ROM and 2.5 inched QVGA screen. Memory can be expanded with microSD cards. This phone is a good example of a ripped-off design but good hardware inside, so if you are looking for a cheap QWERTY smartphone on Android, check this one. Recommended price is 195 dollars for simple version and 260 dollars for extended Pro version, which has 2.0 megapixel camera and Wi-Fi.

9. MID 2008 / Nokia N800

Mobile Internet Devices, a hybrid between PMP and Tablet PC, was recently populated mainly by Nokia with their N8xx models. This time, Chinese manufacturers presented their own MID - MID 2008 (what a lack of fantasy). While it looks just like the Nokia N800, it also has the same retractable stand as its Finnish brother. It has big display with 800 x 480 resolution, powerful 628 MHz Marvell CPU, 128 MB of RAM and support for adding up to 16 GB external memory. Of course, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are included too. While Nokia had Linux inside, there is no information about this Chinese brother, maybe it uses Linux too. If not, it will be a pain to the users when they will decide to install some games or applications on it. There already is a lot of software preinstalled: Firefox, MS Office and PDF document viewer, YouTube Player, English - Chinese Dictionary and some games. Manufacturer claimed about phone functions included, so maybe it will work in GSM / UMTS networks. It looks interesting, if only there were more information about it - especially the price.

8. HKC Pearl / HTC Touch

This device certainly is almost a copy from HTÑ Touch, but it is very different inside. It is way more powerful in terms of hardware than its predecessor - 624 MHz Marvell CPU (instead of 200 MHz OMAP in Touch), 128 MB of RAM (64 in Touch), GPS (Touch lacks it) and 256 MB of ROM. This impressive list of features continues with Wi-Fi, 2 megapixel camera and microSD expansion slot. Phone supports EDGE and quad band GSM, and operates under Windows Mobile 6.1. Like on the Touch, screen has no borders, so it is easy to control this device with fingers. According to all this specs, it belongs to a small group of interesting rip-offs that may be even better than the original. If only price was reasonable…

7. Meizu M8 / Apple iPhone

Meizu M8 can be called the most famous iPhone clone - it made a huge buzz in the Internet and even today it draws much attention. It almost completely copies the Apple design and features - this helped Meizu to gain popularity using the world's craziness about the iPhone and its launch. Meizu company was frequently banned from participating in many official events, all because of this similarity between Apple and Meizu gadgets. Many Chinese fakes have design that is copied from iPhone, however very few of them can stand even close to the original in terms of hardware. Meizu M8 is a very interesting and unusual replica, which comes very close to the iPhone and even, in some cases, overcomes it. Meizu M8 supports one of the main features of original iPhone - Multi Touch, so this technology is not exclusive to Apple anymore. Inside it carries 667 MHz ARM CPU, 256 MB of internal and 8 / 16 GB of flash memory, has 3.4 inched LCD with 720 x 480 pixel resolution, 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus - all of these specs make Apple device look less powerful than its Chinese opponent. It operates on Meizu OS, which is based on a Windows CE 6.0. Wireless interfaces are also full-scale supported: device has Bluetooth 2.0 and Wi-Fi. Last but not least, Meizu M8 has light and motion sensor that can detect the phone's position and the amount of light that surrounds it - for backlight adjustments or other purposes. Like the previous contestant, this one can be called a very successful rip-off.

6. Nokia N95 8GB (?) / Nokia N95 8GB

While previous contestants were just partially copying design of the famous brands, and wanted to make something by themselves, this time we are talking about complete fake - company that made this rip-off faked even the Nokia label. Specifications claim that it is a Single SIM GSM Phone with 2.6-inch TFT Screen, Supports Bluetooth Function - not so different from the original at the first sight, but beware: it is much worse than real N95. While it seems that it has a frontal camera, it hasn't, this is just a sticker. No Symbian too, it operates on a weird shell not so different from other cheap Chinese phones using, with ugly font and bad translation. Instead of 5 megapixel camera with autofocus, it has bad 2 megapixel camera with no autofocus. No radio support, no GPS, no 3G networks, and, of course, no 8 GB of internal memory. Perhaps Nokia doesn't want to waste its energy to battle fakes like this, because majority of them are home-made industry. They can't hurt Nokia's sales, but they do confuse consumers, so stay sharp and watch closely before buying some of the popular models over the internet. The only reason for somebody to buy this pile of junk is small price, so if you don't have money for real N95 you can show off with this fake one.

5. Nokir 828 / Nokia N73

As we can see, Nokia and Apple have the most noticeable crowd of Chinese clones, probably due to popularity of these brands. Very often copies play around with famous brand name, changing it a little, so it is recognizable but not matching. This one is only one letter different from Nokia name, changing it to Nokir. Another lousy attempt to enhance Nokia smartphone with a touchscreen - this is the one and only enhancement over the original device, Chinese fake fails in everything else. Of course, there are no Symbian inside, instead, it has creepy shell that is badly translated and looks ugly. QVGA screen is 2.6 inched and is sensitive to touch - feature that Nokia's smartphone is really missing. It features 3GP / MP4 full screen playback, voice recording, WAP, GPRS and polyphonic ringtones. Sadly, there is no Bluetooth in there, which automatically throws this phone from the market N73 targets on - even the cheapest phones nowadays has Bluetooth, so it is unacceptable that a phone for 200 dollars, like this one, hasn't. For a 200 dollar price you'll get Chinese manual, spare battery, stereo handsfree and 128 MB microSD card - at least you can practice in reading Chinese after all.

4. HiPhone / Apple iPhone

iPhone is another famous device that gets copied very often. However, not every Chinese manufacturer is inventive enough to make an interesting copy, like Meizu. Majority of them are simple and cheap touchscreen cell phones, which was made to look like an iPhone. This one belongs to second group. While all icons and graphics are made to be like on the iPhone, appearance is the only thing that is in common between these devices. Copy use QVGA touchscreen with no multi-touch at all, has microSD card support and stereo speakers. It even has Java support, which is a rare thing in the Chinese rip-offs (so we should admire this, huh?). The only thing that is interesting enough to have is multiple SIM card support, so you can have 2 SIM cards simultaneously working. 1.3 megapixel camera can shoot photos and record video in MP4 format, quality is poor as expected. Wireless abilities are very poor, list of supported functions include only GPRS and Bluetooth, nothing about Wi-Fi or 3G. 1200 mAh battery is replaceable, spare one is included. Conclusions - another piece of garbage, which was meant to confuse customers and to play on the popularity of Apple's device. Avoid it at all costs.

3. Chinese Nokia N95i / Nokia N73

Sometimes impudence of fakers has no bounds - when some manufacturers are trying to make their product distinguishable from others, there are others who simply steal the brand and name from the original, confusing customers and angering big companies. This guest from China tries to kill two birds with one stone - it takes the name from one famous mobile phone, design - from another. Result is terrific - sharing the name with Nokia N95, rip-off takes its design from another Nokia phone, Nokia N73. It is clear that this phone is not even near to the quality of Finnish original, however there are some improvements. Like in majority of the Chinese mobile phones, fake Nokia N95i has touchscreen (maybe it's here because of the need to input complex characters that Chinese language has) and dual SIM card slot. While touchscreen doesn't improve functionality of the device, dual SIM is a very interesting feature - it is a shame that Nokia ignores it. In every other aspect Chinese fake fails: starting from the automated translation made from Chinese (it is completely horrible) and finishing with overall helplessness of the device - instead of using Symbian it uses some strange firmware with unknown capabilities and functions. While it may be a good tool for making and receiving calls, it is obviously NOT Nokia and not a smartphone, so the price must be appropriate.

2. iPhone (Clamshell) / Apple iPhone

Lack of originality in name creating helped those fakers to invent some extremely new device: meet the new iPhone in clamshell form-factor! Its design is carefully tuned to match the overall Apple design line; it even has the famous glowing Apple logo like on MacBooks. Body is made from aluminum, it feels strong and look interesting. Inside it has 240 x 320 QVGA 2.6 inched screen and a set of hardware buttons, lack of which is one of the main features of real iPhone. Small but useful external display can be used to display time and caller ID during a phone call. Dual SIM is here as usual, this feature is one of the main selling points for all Chinese mobile phones. All interface and icons were taken from the original, however this time copy lacks one of the main feature of the original - it does not have touchscreen. This is a major flaw, however, clamshell shaped phone with a touchscreen is a very rare thing, so there is no real need in such feature here. It even has Bluetooth, and maybe it is a bit more useful than on the Apple smartphone. While this fake is an interesting one, ugly LEDs below the Apple logo clearly states that this new phone from Apple is a cheap Chinese fake.

1. Sany Ericssan A8000i / SonyEricson XPERIA X1

Well, meet the star of our show. Here it comes - device that made a big buzz in the internet long before it actually arrived now has its clone (made by our Asian brothers from China, of course). Its name is slightly different, but recognizable; front panel is almost completely ripped off - triangle-shaped elements look just like on the original. To make things even more serious manufacturers put a VAIO logo on the back of this device. This is confusing - why they mixed up VAIO and SonyEricsson in one device? In the best traditions of such poorly made fakes, instead of 8 megapixel camera (as stated on the phone) we have only 1 megapixel. 2.8 inched display has QVGA resolution, and is very far from brilliant display on the original. SanyEricssan copied even form factor of the device, keyboard is hidden beneath the screen and can slide down. Unfortunately, no QWERTY keyboard here, slide-out keyboard has gaming buttons and usual set of numeric keys. Gaming buttons are very alike to the old-school gamepads, so, unlike the Xperia, this device is targeted to mobile gaming instead of business. Apart from 3D games, SanyEricssan has built-in FM radio, MP3 / MP4 player, support for E-Book and E-Map - pretty usual set of features. There is also a room for memory expanding - microSD slot supports cards up to 8 GB (256 MB card is bundled with the device). Battery has 2300 mAh capacity, which is even more than on the original (if only it TRULY has 2300 mAh capacity), so theoretically this Chinese friend must work much longer than its Swedish / Japanese brother. As you can probably expect, SanyEricssan is priced way cheaper than Xperia - you can support Chinese fake developers for only 193 dollars.

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