Тhe shameless practice of selling affordable replicas of red-hot foreign smartphones has become an awe-inspiring industry of its own. What used to be a gathering of poorly-manufactured, borderline grotesque imitations of sleek, expensive flagships, has evolved into a clone army that eats into the Chinese market share of big-game, premium devices. The latest MediaTek-powered replicas of Samsung's, Apple's, and HTC's heavyweights, for example, are virtually indistinguishable from their originals. Each detail of not only their construction, but their factory interfaces as well, is faithfully reproduced. Meanwhile, these knock-offs sport capable quad-core and even eight-core chipsets, and don't joke around in hardware terms. Although the experience of creaking plastic and paint-chipping will likely accompany your purchase.
Not only that, but it's not unusual to see some Chinese maker you've never heard of release a replica of an upcoming flagship smartphone before the original has been formally announced. Some brands, such as GooPhone, have even went as far as to patent the stolen design in their homeland, quicker than its rightful owners could utter “Lawsuit!”. That's completely outrageous, but also an impressive demonstration of the world's most potent manufacturing force. We could say the same words – outrageous and impressive, for almost each of the 11 Chinese replicas we've rounded up here. Alas, the fake Galaxy Note 4 or Nexus 6 are yet to be produced, but we assume it's only a matter of time plus a few leaked sketches and photos.
Now, let us show you what a saunter through the depths of China's wholesale shopping websites uncovered...
11 Chinese smartphone clones that blew our minds!
1. Star LT36H - go home, Sony Xperia Z, you're drunk!
The Star LT36H features a 5-inch 720p IPS display; an MTK 6589 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, paired with 1GB RAM; 4GB storage; dual-SIM; a 9.4MP rear camera + 8.0MP front-camera (OK, the Chinese dealer might be playing possum here!); and a 2500mAh battery. It runs Android 4.2.1 and is able to access the Google Play Store, which isn't always a given in China.
2. HDC Galaxys Note 3 - go ahead, take a wild guess!
Although HDC apparently forgot to clone the S-Pen stylus, which is something other makers such as GooPhone can do for breakfeast, the Chinese achieved an impressive imitation. They'll also make-up for the missing S-Pen by sending customers an ordinary stylus as a gift. Splendid!
Apart from being visually identical, complete with a stitched faux-leather back, the $210 HDC Galaxys Note 3 houses a 5.7-inch 1080p IPS screen, a quad-core MTK 6589T CPU running at 1.5GHz, paired with 2GB RAM; 32GB storage; 13.3MP rear camera + 8MP front camera; a big ol' 3200mAh battery; and Android 4.3.1.
Believe it or not, there are even more authentic and powerful Note 3 clones out there - ones with actual S-Pens, three gigabytes of RAM, Galaxy Gear compatibility, and octa-core CPU. These replicas are downright scary in how close they come to the real thing.
3. The iPnoho 6 and iPncne 7 - China's rotten Apples
4. HDC X - First-ever Moto X clone!
That's a nice set of features, complete with a highly authentic look, but don't expect the HDC X to have the Moto X's high-end speech and contextual recognition. Proprietary technology isn't that easy to clone, yet.
5. Galaxy GalaTab 6.3 – a genetic experiment that went awesomely awry!
6. Sinoteck H10 - the bottom-end BlackBerry Z10
The H10's 4-inch display has a wimpy resolution of 320x480; its CPU is a dual-core MTK 6515 running at 1GHz, paired with a miniscule 256 megabytes of RAM. According to the listing, the storage memory is also an appalling 256MB - which introduces the question of how, exactly, does one fit Android 4.2.2 in there???
As for the rest of the "goods", the SinaBerry H10 has a 0.3MP camera up-front and 2MP at the back. And its battery is a 1800mAh unit. Well, let's hope the low-cost phones that BB CEO John Chen has been cooking up with Foxconn won't end up like this.
7. Sinoteck N1020 - it has a 2MP camera that says 41MP on the back!
Among the N1020's endless curiosities, we find it highly unusual to control Android with a Windows Phone button layout. Perhaps Sinoteck got an early clue about the Bluebird phone, and decided to launch the N1020 while it could still be considered ahead of its time. By the way, we're still laughing.
8. Excite 502d - or how the Android phone by Nokia could have looked
The 5-inch (with a 480p resolution), dual-SIM smartphone runs Android 4.0 on a dual-core Snapdragon CPU, paired with 512MB RAM. It has 4GB of storage. It also packs a surprisingly hefty 13MP camera, perhaps to stay faithful to Nokia's photo-centric image. Furthermore, the Excite 502d serves to show how Android would look on a current smartphone made by the Finns. We like it.
9. iNew V3 - a gorgeous Xperia knock-off
Under its alluring Sony-inspired visage, the handset houses a quad-core MTK 6582 CPU, paired with the good old Mali-400MP GPU and 1GB RAM; 16GB of storage space; an 8MP camera in the rear and 5MP camera up-front; and a 1830mAh battery. It runs Android 4.2.2. Allegedly, the iNew V3 features Motion Unlock technology that lets you unlock the phone and browse its contents by brushing your palm in front of its display.
Alas, we have a reason to doubt such premium functionality, because Chinese dealers have the sneaky practice of false advertising. If you take a look at the iNew V3's brochures, you'll see glowing promises of a 1080P display with 441PPI pixel density covered in Gorilla Glass 2, and a 13MP Sony camera sensor. But the real spec-sheet, conveniently placed at the bottom, spells a much less glamorous set of features. Which doesn't mean the iNew V3 is not a bargain at $200.
10. OrientPhone One MAX - One HTC clone to Max them all!
It also has a 13MP rear camera and 8MP front camera, a 2800mAh battery, and runs a clean, Sense-less version of Android 4.2.1. Very tempting, overall, unless you work for HTC and have this Chinese company called OrientPhone profit from your work...
11. OrientPhone P6 Plus - the Huawei Ascend P6's doppelgänger Mate
Looking at the OP P6 Plus's photos shows these guys made an impressive phone, but they weren't able to match the original's ultra-fit 0.24-inch (6.18mm) thickness and 4.23 oz (120g) form. The copy-shop P6 is 0.29 inches (7.5mm) thick and weighs in at 8.18 oz (232 grams) in comparison.
Spec-wise, though, the $287 P6 Plus tramples the Ascend P6 with its 6-inch 1080p display and 13MP rear-camera, while having roughly the same quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM power. Still, this doesn't mean it's actually faster than the P6, as those quad-core MediaTek silicons seem to struggle with 1080p displays.