The fake iPhone phenomenon
Fake iPhones and iPods: Is this a problem in the U.S.?
Over the weekend, Dana Stibolt of MacMedics in Millersville, Md., tipped me off to a video he shot of an ingeniously faked iPhone that a customer brought into his shop for servicing. (The customer claimed he bought it off eBay.) The belief was that it came from China, where there is a white-hot market for fake and look-alike phones and other gadgets.
I got to thinking: how big of a problem is this? So, as any
good hack journalist sniffing for a trend story would do, I worked the phone, the Google, the Nexis, the Twitter, and the other secret sources I turn to, a.k.a. photog/gadget wiz Jerry Jackson in the newsroom. (Oh wait, I forgot to use Bing!)
And yes, I watched the Youtube videos of people showing off their fake iPhones, like this one.
I left messages for Apple, eBay and Craigslist (which can be another online market for knock-off/counterfeit products). I'm waiting to hear back from them on the topic of iPhone/iPod fakes in the market place. I'm wondering: should I hold my breath?
I chatted with Leander Kahney, editor of CultofMac.com, about the prevalence of fake Apple products in the American market. He's written about this stuff before. (Funny aside: I could barely hear Kahney, who was talking to me on an iPhone during our interview. The call was dropped and he had to call back.)
So, here's what I now know:
There's been no significant disclosure of the prevalence of Apple fakes in the U.S. market, as far as I can tell. And the company's gadgets -- the iPods, iPhones and Touches -- have been one of the hottest must-have gadgets around for several years now.
There are reports from overseas, mainly coming out of China, Thailand and other Asian countries, about look-alike iPhones (ever hear of the Hi-Phone?) And there's apparently a brisk market in such gadgets, some of which may actually be labelled as an Apple product, though they're not.
But how many are turning up in the hands of U.S. consumers, thanks to the Internet and such sites as eBay and Craigslist? Maybe Apple, eBay and Craigslist know -- in fact, I'm gonna guess they have a pretty precise handle on how big (or small) of an issue this is for them. But so far, they haven't shared what they know, as far as I can tell.
Some good signs, though: Stibolt of MacMedics has only seen a small handful of fakes in his 20 years servicing Apple products. And iResQ, one of the bigger servicers of Apple gadgets based in Kansas, told me they almost never see fakes.
And CultofMac.com's Leander, who wrote the biography Inside Steve's Brain (about Apple founder Steve Jobs, of course), said he thought the fake/phoney/knockoff phenomenon was a bigger problem overseas, but not in the U.S.
What do you think? What do you know? I could use some help in digging out some facts, figures and sources on this topic, to see if it's still worth pursuing as a story. Where do I go from here? Please share with me in the comments or shoot me an email at gus.sentementes(at)baltsun(dot)com.
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