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AirPhone No 4: Counterfeit iPhone Spotted

at 2011.03.11
This is not a real iPhone

This is NOT a real iPhone

It used to be fake Oakley sunglasses, or Foakleys as they were commonly called. Then came the knock-off Louis Vouiton, Prada, and Coach bags. Now, we at LaptopMD+ have captured the next level of counterfeits being peddled on Craigslist, Ebay, and in shady shops along Canal St.: The counterfeit iPhone4.

It’s not a new problem by any means. In fact since the very first iPhone came out, eBay has had their work cut out for them trying to single out and shut down counterfeit operations. Those early fakes were obvious, and anyone who received one knew right away that what they paid for was not an authentic Apple product. But the counterfeiters, many working with factories in China, many employing the same people that were former employees of the very factories that Apple itself uses to make iPhone components, have learned and improved. We recently had a counterfeit iPhone 4 cross our desks, and even our techs had difficulty telling it apart from the real thing on first sight.

There are ways to protect yourself from purchasing a fake. The first, easiest, and most important one is don’t buy an iPhone from anyone but an Apple authorized retailer. The guy selling “brand new, in the box, never been used” iPhone 4s on the side of the street for $100 each is probably not selling legit iPhones. Neither is the craigslist ad that will sell you their friends’ “brand new iPhone4”, nor the eBay listings that start bidding at $0.01. To sum up using an old maxim, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you simply must buy an iPhone from a non-authorized source, there are still a few things you can check for. First, and easiest to spot if you are buying a new phone, check the box. Though the picture on the front looks startlingly similar to the picture on the front of an actual iPhone4, if you turn the box you’ll notice that the Apple logo is missing from the bottom panel, and the side of the box say “Phone4” instead of “iPhone4”. Alternately it might refer to the product as the “Air Phone: No 4” (with the amazing tagline of “Such as the thin air.” The spelling and grammar is off (There is a reference to a “3.5-inch WVGA screen village” on the back”) and the production quality both on the box itself and on the graphics is way below the standard Apple quality.

Once you actually take the device out, there are yet more tell-tale signs:

  • plastic side – Instead of the usual metal external antenna (the one that caused the antenna-gate scandal), you get a cheap, plastic “metal-like” material
  • plastic screen – The screen, which is billed as a heat-tempered high-quality glass, turns out to be neither heat tempered, nor high-quality, nor, in fact, glass. It is a cheap plastic screen.
  • more recessed speaker grille – The speaker grille on the front of the phone is deeper, and noticeably shinier than on a real iPhone4
  • sim slot on side is printed on – Yes, it is not in any way a real SD card slot. The real slot is inside under the removable back  (see next point). It’s just a sticker
  • back removable – That’s right, the back actually comes off. And you can remove the battery. And it comes with a spare battery. This is either a good sign or a very bad sign
  • can take 2 sim cards at once – ! It actually has spaces for two sim-cards under the back plate, and you can chose which one to make calls from in the phone app. Odd

The easiest things to check for before buying an iPhone is the screen (the difference between glass and plastic is quite noticeable if you tap it with a fingernail) and the fake SD card slot. As long as you’re aware of those issues, you should have no trouble spotting a fake.

Special Note: It seems that to make the phone feel heavier like a real iPhone4, the back-plate is filled with some sort of heavy metal to offset the lightness of the actual phone. Heavy Metal + China….hmmm….what could that equal? Just a note to be cautious around the AirPhone No. 4