Made-in-China clones: Can’t afford an iPhone? Get a true copy at just Rs 9,000

The Economic Times,

NEW DELHI: It is an iPhone 5 – or is it? It has the same iconic design. It almost feels as light. But then you look at the price tag – and here’s something even Apple has never managed to achieve Rs 8,999. It is a “true iPhone clone”, as it has been helpfully named in shopping portals and comes for less than one-fourth the price of the original.

It’s not just Apple products that have been ingeniously ‘cloned’. Reproductions of the in-demand Samsung Galaxy line are also at hand. Made in China, websites ranging from the somewhat cheekily named to popular B2N site are offering them, with a shipping period of only a few days.

The iPhone 5 32GB clone is Apple only on the surface. The screen of the “true clone” is a 4-inch OLED capacitive touchscreen that runs on iOS 5 while the Cupertino-based company’s fastest-selling phone runs on the superior iOS 6 and has an LED-backlit LCD screen with retina display.

The true clone of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is more expensive than the true clone of iPhone 5 – 11,999, less than half the price of the original.

A Mockery of IPR Laws? The manufacturer is a Chinese brand, MID, owned by Shenzen-based Prote Technology, which according to its website, specialises in making tablets.

So are they even legal? Not exactly, says R Parthasarathy of law firm Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, which specialises in IP laws. He says marketing and selling replicas of branded products “may be illegal for various reasons, such as violation of registered designs/trademarks”. Owners of registered IPRs can also request the Customs to stop import of such products, he adds. Emails to Prote Technology and Mify Solutions, which owns, on the clones of branded products being sold online in India did not elicit any response. Neither did phone calls to these firms.

Another shopping portal,, offers iPhone 5 replicas from several Chinese manufacturers. And as the name of the website hints, these run on the Android 4 operating system. These are available for Rs 13,500-27,000.

One such wholesaler and importer told ET on condition of anonymity that handsets are imported from large-scale manufacturers in China and Taiwan, and thousands of suppliers are in the business of selling replicas online. “They [Chinese manufacturers] can supply any kind of handset we want. We can give you originals and duplicates of Samsung and iPhone at a far less price. We can even deliver it in a day,” he says.

Brijesh Agarwal, co-founder and director,, says his company is not an e-commerce portal and does not sell directly to customers. “We provide a platform for buyers and suppliers to meet and then transact with each other. We allow suppliers to offer a wide range of products – from high-quality products to low-quality ones. Our role is limited to helping both supplier and buyer make connections. Making guarantees on behalf of suppliers is a little difficult. Our recommendation to buyers is to verify the suppliers they make their purchase from,” says Agarwal.

But do these products have takers? The numbers will be small, say tech watchers. Rajat Agrawal of consumer technology news portal BGR India says the profile and purchasing power of the people who buy clones are very different from those who buy the original on equated monthly payments. The grey market for handsets in places like Gafar Market and Nehru Place in Delhi and Heera Panna in Mumbai is itself a very small percentage of the Rs 31,000-crore cellphone market in India. It will be far less for bargain-basement priced look-alikes online.