If you're thinking about buying one of those fake iPhones -- like the sciphone, the hiphone, the i9, the i68, or whatever -- I'm glad you found this page first. I hope to convince you NOT to buy one. Why? Well, to put it in a nutshell: there's no warranty, no support, problems with returns, problems with frequencies, low-quality construction, and a poorly designed user interface. Still not convinced? Read on!
The phone that I bought had no indication whatsoever of any warranty. Nothing on the packaging or on any documentation contained in the packaging listed a phone number or address by which to contact the manufacturer. Furthermore, to my knowledge, the Chinese factories that produce these fake iPhones do not have any service or repair centers located in the United States.
So, should you receive a device with manufacturing defects, who will you call and where will you send the phone for repairs?
If you call up AT&T or T-Mobile's customer service, and start asking questions about your fake iPhone, they probably won't be able to help because they have information only on the phones that they distribute. This can be very frustrating, and you end up having to try to find support somewhere out on the Internet -- usually through random forums and blogs like this one. (By the way, Howard Forums and the forums at Mobiledia are good places to get support beyond the customer service offered by your manufacturer and cell phone service provider.)
Possible Problems with Customs
If you are not careful, you may end up purchasing one of these phones directly from China. If you do that, technically you are importing the phone into the United States. There are a lot of rules and regulations involved with importing products into the United States. But, since you don't realize you're importing something, you will not have familiarized yourself with these rules and regulations. If, for some reason, the phone doesn't make it through customs, you can certainly end up with some unexpected headaches. It's unlikely of course, but still very possible. So, if you do buy one of these fake iPhones, please make sure that it is already located in the United States at the time of purchase.
The Wrong Frequencies for Your Country
There are four main radio frequencies used by GSM cell phones. Generally, any particular country will use two of those frequencies. For instance, the United States uses the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands. Now, in the United States, some areas use the 850 MHz band, and some areas use the 1900 MHz band. So, a phone that is to be used in the United States needs to use both frequencies.
Reputable manufacturers -- like Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung -- are careful to market phones manufactured for the United States in the United States. Likewise, they market phones manufactured for other countries only in those countries. However, the Chinese manufacturers of these fake iPhone are not so careful. So, people in the United States frequently end up with phones that will work only in Europe.
As you can imagine, receiving a phone that cannot be used in your country can be quite an upsetting experience.
Beware the Tri-band Phone
There is a such thing as a world phone, or quad-band phone, which uses all four frequencies. Quad-band phones will work anywhere in the world. For some reason -- and I'm not sure why -- cellphone manufacturers also make tri-band phones. Tri-band phones typically will work fine in one country and will work in some places in other countries. Well, these Chinese manufacturers also made a tri-band version of the fake iPhones. But, don't think just because it's a tri-band phone that it will work fine. You must make sure that the phone uses both of the frequencies used in your country.
Problems with Returns
Reputable retailers -- like AT&T, T-Mobile, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Radio Shak -- usually have some sort of return policy that will allow them to work with you should you change your mind, receive a defective handset, or have some other strange problem. (However, before buying a phone -- no matter where -- you should inquire about the return policy of that particular retailer. Certain retailers do not accept returns on electronic devices.)
However, these fake iPhones (also known as iClones) are sold through nontraditional distribution channels -- like eBay or "factory direct" websites. Such dealers may or may not offer you a return policy. And, frequently, the return policies that are offered are barely realistic: for instance, giving you only seven days to return the phone to them.
Typical Cellphone Interface
It's a good thing that I bought this phone mainly to determine how to set up the Internet on it. Because the phone is touted as an iPhone clone and because it pretty much copies the entire main menu of the iPhone, I thought that the fake iPhone would have a very advanced, PDA-like interface. It is touchscreen, but its interface is more like a standard cellphone -- like the Motorola RAZR or similar. So, someone who's in the market for true PDA-type device should consider other phones -- like a Blackberry or Palm. (Note: do NOT get a Blackberry if you are on AT&T prepaid service...the internet will probably not work.)
I bought my i9 couple of years ago off of eBay for about $150. The construction of the phone is somewhat chintzy, in my opinion. The stylus is hollow and I easily broke it (I now use another cheap stylus that came with a horrid cheap fake iPod I bought off eBay). The battery cover fits okay unless I have a battery in the phone. I can still put the battery cover on, but it just doesn't fit quite right. Also, when inserting the charger into the charging port, it feels like something might bend or break inside the phone if I don't insert the charger just right.
I have a Motorola c168i, which I paid $19.99 for. It's a very plain little phone, but it exhibits high-quality construction. So, when compared to my little $19.99 c168i, I just felt that these fake iPhones are overpriced considering the chintziness of construction. I mean...they're okay, but the $19.99 c168i is better.
Difficult to Get Getting Replacement Parts
I've had my phone for about 2 years. The batteries that came with it are both dead. I would like to get a replacement battery, but search as I may, I seem unable to get a battery for the original i9. I can get batteries for the i9+, but all the websites say specifically that the i9+ battery is NOT for the original i9. After only 2 years? Phones purchased from reputable manufacturers will have replacement parts available for several years after the phone goes out of production.
I have found a good place for buying replacement parts for several models: www.24hrsdeals.com (I buy from them on ebay, not their website, but whatever.)
What You Should Do
If you are in the market for a phone, then I highly recommend that you purchase a phone made by a reputable manufacturer -- like Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, etc. Furthermore, I recommend that you purchase a phone that is made for your cell phone service provider. For instance, if AT&T is your cellphone service provider, then buy a phone made for AT&T. If T-Mobile is your cellphone service provider, then buy a phone made for T-Mobile. That way, you can be certain that the phone will work on their network. Also, you can turn to your cellphone service provider for device support should you need it.
Several of the major phone companies now offer reasonably-priced, high quality prepaid android phones. Consider getting one of those if you don't mind being a prepaid customer.
This is especially easy if you're with AT&T. It doesn't matter if you are a contract or prepaid customer. Just take your existing SIM card and put it in the LG Thrive, a prepaid Android GoPhone from AT&T. For prepaid customers, doing so will have no effect whatsoever on their account. It will only mean that they've got a nice, new affordable Android phone. However, beware that non-prepaid customers may automatically have a smartphone data package added to their account.
Do You Still Want to Buy One of These Fake iPhones?
If you absolutely must buy one of these fake iPhones, then make absolutely sure that the phone you buy uses the two frequencies used in your country. Make sure that the phone is already located in the United States or your country (to avoid being involved in importing). Do everything in your power to make sure that you are dealing with an honest dealer that offers some sort of return policy. And, be prepared to be content with a phone that LOOKS like an iPhone, but will never BE an iPhone.