October 19, 2009

Why You Should NOT Buy a Fake iPhone

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!

No Warranty

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?

No Support

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.)

Somewhat Chintzy

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.


  1. Good article. Any reviews on the i9++. Just curious.
    {email address removed}

  2. No, I have the original i9. The only thing I can say is that, aside from features, everything else probably still applies (i.e., lack of warranty, less-than-stellar quality, problems with returns, no support from your carrier, etc.)

  3. Yep I have one of these newer fake ones, they have so many makes now, it's even hard to know which one it is. At first I thought it was good, but now compared to a real iphone, it just isn't the same. Plus when you do get a problem you are *bleeped*!!

  4. the new i9 3g is definitely built better, and has more features but another thing... it's for the more tech savvy. I find it leagues better than the iPhone, especially with the ability to hard code anything i can't already accomplish into it with java, (like opera mini *drool*) but then add in the new standard quad band, dual sim, and the expandable memory up to 32gb. It's fairly solid. And with my phone, I managed to find a US retailer that also services the phones within my state (CA) and he offered me a 2 yr warranty on the phone, for only 12 bucks more than the phone. Just in my personal experience with the phone... I can everything my iPhone buddies can, and often more... I just have to put in a little extra effort. It would make a perfect phone for a tech geek, or an IT guy, or anyone that tinkers around in open source, as you can literally create anything that's not in the phone.

  5. how about i68+ ? Its same crap as i68?

  6. Maybe the author is right about all the downsides.
    But I can buy a new i9 for €40 on Ebay, so that makes most of it mood. A new Iphnone will cost me several €100.

  7. On the other hand...
    - It's less than 10% of the price of a real iPhone
    - All the vendors I've seen offer a 1 year warranty
    - You make it sound like a blackberry is cheaper than this phone.
    - Genuine replacement batteries for brand name phones cost about as much as a fake iPhone.

  8. I have a Sciphone i9b and it rocks. No, it's not an iPhone and the more i learn about the iPhone and the i9b i'm glad that it's not an iPhone. Rage states it very well above: it's not for everyone and for those who have more money than personality the iPhone is the thing to get.

  9. I agree that there can be warranty and support issues with clones, so these phones are not for your average complete non-techie individual who almost always need their hands held to learn new devices, but when you get a good one, you really can't beat the bang for the buck they can provide.
    Unfortunately as well, you can't really even compare the clones from even several months ago let alone those made over a year or so ago to many of the newest clones being made and sold today, they keep getting better over time. Are there still some issues with some of the clones sold today? Sure, but that's why they are a fraction of the price, and in many or most instances, the issues with a little work can be resolved, not always, but mostly. Even the precious iPhone had issues users complained about, and though eventually righted by Apple, it's why you pay 6-8 times more money out of your precious wallet to get one. I have 2 i9+ phones which both still work just fine and both well over a year old, with the Javquisoft firmware upgrade. It took a little while to get them working the way I needed, but they do everything they are supposed to do well enough. I also have an F003, and all are actually pretty well made for how inexpensive they were to purchase. It's a crap shoot out there with so many sellers and many unscrupulous ones at that, but there are still many clones well worth the price you pay for them. Maybe I was just lucky, but I have 3 reasonably good clones out of 3 purchased

  10. Why You SHOULD buy a fake iPhone.

    - Clones are far less expensive than the original and you won't need to lock in to a contract upfront in order to afford one.

    Furthermore, your clone will be unlocked so you can use it with any GSM provider whereas when you buy an original it will be locked to one particular provider.

    - If your clone breaks, throw it away and buy another one... you could buy several before you spend as much as an original, but you likely won't need to. The quality of Chinese goods is increasing all the time. Japan went through the low quality phase in the 50's 60's, now look at them. China is moving in the same direction.

    - Get a clone that uses Windows Mobile 6.1 OS and a 450 MHz processor and 8gB of memory like the Ciphone C6. 4 bands, It is stable, runs JAVA and you will be able to add many of the free apps available on the 'net.
    The 450 MHz processor is noticeably faster than the cheaper non-WinMo clones. The C6 costs a little more but it's worth it and you'll still be way ahead of the game.

    - Some clones offer additional features like WiFi and a true hardware GPS.

    Don't be an uneducated consumer like the author of this web page... Do your homework, spend wisely and you will be rewarded with good value.

  11. Hi anonymous,

    There are, perhaps, some pros to buying these clones, but, just in case your comment encourages someone to buy one, let me reiterate my position.

    One reason I weigh so heavily against recommending these iphone clones is because I have put up this blog and videos on my youtube channel showing tutorials about how to get the internet working and such on these clones. So, firstly, the reason for the videos and blog tutorials is because there are a great number of people who cannot get any help from their carrier about how to set up the internet and mms on these phones (my videos combined get about 800 views a day). So, there is little support for the consumers.

    Also, I got the impression that some people were encouraged to buy these things after watching some of my videos, which was never my intention. So, I feel a certain level of responsibility. One fellow apparently bought a phone in the UK after watching my video (I don't know if the video encouraged him to buy it or not...I just know he subscribed to my youtube channel, which currently has videos only about these phones, and a few days later left a comment about how he just bought one and it wouldn't work at all). I had been intending to write this article for awhile, but that event encourgaged me to do it more hastily. Everyone of my video tutorials about the iphone clones references this article somehow (usually via youtube annotations).

    A great many people have ended up with these phones that will not work in their country or a host of any number of problems. And, they have no recourse. In the end, people are putting their money at a greater risk than they are normally accustomed to due to the non-standard marketing of these phones (they are sold mostly from ebay, frequently direct from hong kong). I just wanted to make people a aware of the pitfalls.

    You could pay a LITTLE more and get a nice, touch screen LG, Samsung, or Nokia (some even with wifi). That way you've at least got a manufacturer's warranty, a reasonable assurance that you can return the phone, US-located repair centers, and, if you buy a model distributed by your wireless service provider, you can get trouble-shooting support from both the manufacturer and the service provider.


  12. Mine is decent, too, (it just wasn't worth 160$) and I finally found a replacement battery...I just haven't updated my article, yet. Now, you can get them for 180$ with wifi (like the f003), which sounds pretty neat.

    I think these are great for people who just like experimenting with gadgets. It served it's purpose for me. I bought it specifically to be able to create tutorials to help others set up the internet and mms on the devices.

  13. And, by the way, I found your comment title witty. :))

  14. i did everything you just said not to do i bought mine from hong kong but i got it

  15. I ordered one, too.

    I live in Switzerland and I want to support the Chinese Market... China produces Apple Iphones, so why shouldn't they produce their one Phones? Would be kinda unfair.. don't you think so?

    I spent 150.- CHF (Swiss Franks) - 100 USD for my Sciphone 4-Band, WIFI, Digital Compass, i9 Handy. What do you want more?

  16. You deserve a gold crown for making these videos. They are greatly appreciated by a lot of people- including me!

  17. I find this very informational. You pointed out alot of good features. I checked out the features for the one I purchased and mfound out that everything you noted was included in this version of the phone (warrenty, return policy, Quad-band). This is really just a replacement phone until I get an upgrade at the end of the year because of me losing my old phone and it causing me my upgrade to delay for the replacement because I failed to purchase the warrenty in time. I just happened to want a someone descend phone to hold on to for a year in the mean time and found this to suit my needs. I do believe you should buy a phone from your service provider but sometimes, things happen (like with me) which may cause you to have to get something else. But for my next phone, I will try to stick with my kind.

  18. ive been buying and selling these chinses phones for years and i only had 1 problem with 1 customer i also sell the reall iphone for cheap and i have more problems with the real one dont listen to someone who is mad cause they broke there phone these are real good phones i never had a problem thanks

  19. Heck, I bought three at $50 each with shipping, so I don't need to worry about warranty. I have the one I use plus two spares and total was still a forth of the price of an iphone.

  20. Considering that the phone is down to under $50 bucks, your warranty is simply to buy another one. Also, it's a quad band phone that supports all 4 standard GSM frequencies, so it should work fine on any GSM network (3G excluded since tmobile runs 3G on 1700 Mhz band). Anyone who's looking for an iPhone 'clone' will be disappointed. A <$50 phone is not going to compete with a $600 phone ever. It's a great phone for the hacker type who wants something to tinker with. Only an iPhone will give you the look, feel, power and complete interface style of an iPhone, so if you're drooling to get an iPhone but can't afford it, then this phone is NOT for you, but, if you're a tinkering type who wants a fun "iPhone-ish" phone, then this is a good choice.

  21. I had already bought the i9+++ before reading this article. Ibought my i9 straight from China- no difficulties with Customs at all...took the exact time to ship as the website (lightinthebox.com) said it would. It came in perfect condition, with everything it said it would come with (except for the case, but there was other feedback on the website saying the same thing, and the last thing I worry about is the case that I can go to target to get for $10.00). I'm not big on internet on cell phones and all I really wanted was to be able to call and text people. Works perfectly fine and I actually prefer its interface over my other phone (Motorola Razr). The only thing I wish I could figure out is how to fix MMS and get it to work on the i9+++...but again, that's not a big concern of mine, considering anyone can send me their photos to my e-mail on my laptop. Aside from a little static here and there, the sound quality and everything while talking to someone on the phone is perfectly fine.

    What I do hate, that you mentioned, was the very low battery life these phones have. I'm used to my old phone going 4-5 days without having to be charged...and now I have to charge this phone in the middle of the day every day...I bring the two chargers everywhere (the car charger and the regular USB charger, since I bring my laptop to school with me). As long as I have my two chargers, I'm good to go, but every now and then it gets a little irritating.

    I don't mind the phone, and I hope it will last me at least two years. After that, I'd probably go with your opinion and consider getting a phone from a company I know I trust.

  22. Hi, I'm glad it's working out for you. You might like to check out this video on setting up MMS. If you don't use at&t, I have the settings for several other carriers here.

  23. yes all you say is real but face it. IT is really really cheap compared to the real i phone it got this for about 40 euros and the real iphone is like 450 euros. If it just last me a month it is great. 10x for opening my eyes but considering it is cheap it is worht it.

  24. well i just dont want to pay 350+ euros for an i phone. i just want a cheap phone with java, camera, touchscreen etc. this will work fine (for shorter period, but that's ok). instead of 1 i phone i could buy 10 fake ones.

  25. My i9+++ cost me 35€ = 47 USD . So I don't expect anything in particular. Its a great phone that does everything I want. Not so good in music and mp4 but what the hell.. was 47 USD. Do you relly think Iphone is great? Those are STEALING every penny you got! For what? Mp3/Mp4 and good quality? Give me a break!

  26. I wish I had read this before purchasing my fake iphone. Needless to say I wasted my money on junk that I can't return. I mainly bought the phone to be able to SMS easily like the real iphone, but to my disappointment it is very hard to write a message because you have to use that style pen and it takes forever. I do not suggest anyone purchase any fake iphone. Save yourself the aggravation and just buy the real thing.

  27. Hi can anyone tell me where did you buy the I68 and I9 from? I want to buy one and test it.

  28. Cris, you can purchase the iPhone clone for cheap on eBay. about $50 or $40

  29. hey i just got my i9+ and i can make calls and send text messages but i cant receive any text messages can you help me with that

  30. Hey, any one know which of the newer fake iphones is the best overall?

  31. Does anyone know if the i9 3G phone thing connects to T-mobile? It says that in order to Connect to T-mobile, you need a IMEI code or a serial number code of the phone but the seller said that the phone doesn't have it. Anyone know how to connect it?

  32. i just got a i9+++ on ebay for 38 bucks it works pretty good i use it to make calls, text,go on the web which the video made clear and use to organize dates. i also got a iphone 3g off my buddy for 120 dollars,another friend like my i9 so i might sell it to him for 60.it's not an iphone but who cares 38 bucks is freaking cheap..it's a ok back up phone

  33. @Stan Black,
    The IMEI number can usually be found in the battery compartment (not on the battery itself, but in the phone underneath the battery on a label that usually has some bar codes and numbers on it). The IMEI number is 15 digits long, usually starts with either 01 or 35, it can also have dashes or slashes.

    However, the IMEI number will not help you connect to anything (at least not as far as I know). I move my T-Mobile SIM card from phone to phone and have not bothered to inform T-Mobile about each phone's IMEI number. You usually only need the IMEI number when you initially set up the account with T-Mobile.

    I hope this helps somehow.

  34. Regarding the issue about not being able to receive text messages, I don't know what to say. In my experience, that is rarely fixable.

    It could be a memory issue: do you have a lot of photos, videos, or songs stored on the phone? Or do you have a lot of text messages in your inbox? Can you receive text messages while your SIM card is in a regular T-Mobile phone?

  35. I just bought a brand new PinPhone and it is amazing well built and much cheaper then going out and buying an actual Iphone.

  36. ok, seriously, forget all this and get the zte blade! $150. Comes with android 2.1 upgradle to 2.2(official). But as it's so popular, many awesome ports have been made, and now it has cyanogenmod 7(custome aftermarket firmware) with android 2.3 and it's awesome, much better than these clones and u can get 100,000+ apps on the android market!

  37. Well what i think is great about my fake iphone it takes a PREPAID SIM!!!!! And if you need new parts get em off ebay. eh! who the hell cares.


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