With flagship smartphones becoming more powerful and expensive, the black market for fake smartphones is stronger than ever. Typically, the fake version of a flagship smartphone can be bought for less than 20-25~% of the real thing. This can seem like a very attractive ‘deal’.
Besides the fact that the practice is illegal, some consumers are being fooled into believing that a fake smartphone is the real thing. Notably, some fake smartphones have similar features, weight and design to the real thing. At first glance, they can be mistaken for the real thing.
Flagship smartphones - Source: Pocketlint
At this point you might be thinking, “I have no issues with buying a fake smartphone. Sounds like a great deal”. Before we delve into how to spot a fake smartphone, it is worth looking at why you should avoid them.
5 reasons you shouldn’t buy a fake smartphone:
1) Non-existent standards
Every smartphone manufacturer has to follow strict regulations. For instance, smartphones need to be usable under high and low temperatures.
On the other hand, fake smartphone manufacturers can be difficult to trace. And even if you did, you would find that the typical countries of origin have much lower safety standards. It isn’t uncommon for fake smartphones to burst into flames while charging, overheat or even leak battery acid.
Consequently, you could be gambling with your health and that if those around you.
In the world of fake smartphones, there are no rules. Therefore, some underground manufacturers install viruses in order to collect the emails, bank information and login details of buyers. These viruses are hard coded into the smartphone and can be difficult to detect.
3) No refunds or replacements
The original maker can be difficult to trace, and they aren’t registered businesses. The defect rate in the fake smartphone market is high; therefore, you could get stuck with a smartphone which stops working after a week. If this happens, you are stuck with a useless electronic device.
4) Slow down very quickly
The aim of a fake smartphone manufacturer is to sell you a phone which looks and behaves like the real thing on day one. Unlike the real thing, fake smartphones aren’t optimised for performance, and come with sub standard software and hardware. This can make them unusable within a short period.
Purchasing or distributing fake smartphones is illegal. Fake smartphone makers don’t pay taxes, V.A.T or follow health and safety standards.
Reselling a fake smartphone can put you in legal trouble because ignorance isn’t a tangible excuse in the court of law.
How to spot a fake smartphone
Criminals have gotten very good at making their fake flagship smartphones look and feel like the real thing. However, there are still some tell-tale signs if you look closely.
Method of sale
Most of the time, fake smartphones are sold via local online marketplaces such as Facebook marketplace, Gumtree and Shpock. This is because sellers can easily enter fake details.
A big red flag is if the deal seems too good to be true, For instance, while roaming around my local shopping centre I was offered an iPhone X for £400 soon after release. After seeing my disbelief, he quickly reduced the price to £300 and looked around nervously. A new iPhone X was £999 on release date, plus it was sold out. He could have sold it for £1400 and gotten some interest.
Interestingly, it was a very good quality copy. It looked and felt like the real thing. However, the quality of lettering and branding was substandard and tapping on the app store logo sent me to the Android app store.
Be wary of sellers who don’t give any identifiable information or approach you in a public space.
Every flagship smartphone comes with unique features which are difficult to replicate. For instance, the iPhone X has animoji. Go into the transaction armed with the unique features of the smartphone and test it out. If the UI looks different or the unique features seem to load slowly, there is a high chance that it is fake.
Compare the weight, screen resolution and dimensions
A very easy tell is the weight distribution. Fake smartphone makers can get the weight down to the gram of the real thing. However, the weight distribution is usually off. Real modern day smartphones tend to be sleep and have evenly distributed weight. Balance the smartphone in your hand and if one side seems suspiciously heavier or lighter than the other, it is probably fake.
Fake smartphone manufacturers use cheap materials in order to maximise profits. Therefore, they cut corners with regard to the display, RAM etc. If the display doesn’t match what you have seen online, it is probably fake. Also compare the dimensions of the smartphone of that of the real thing. If it seems thicker or thinner than what you would expect, abort the transaction.
In the past, you could easily detect a fake smartphone from the IMEI number. However, criminals have taken the step of buying a real flagship smartphone and then using the same IMEI number for thousands of fake smartphones.
I hope this post helps you to avoid buying a fake smartphone which could lead to identity theft.
There are so many good budget smartphones that there is no longer a need to buy a fake flagship smartphone. You might be tempted because you would like to impress your friends, but it simply isn’t worth it.