Are you looking for a few ways to tell the difference between a real high quality cell phone and a fake knock off or clone? Then you are in the right place. This guide includes a list of what to look for and how to avoid getting scammed duped or tricked into buying something that’s merely a cheap imitation instead of a higher quality product.
Clones and Copies are on the Rise! Keep your Eyes Peeled
There is a lot of money in the cell phone and smartphone market and when moneys involved there is almost always some less than reputable people also involved looking to get their hands on some of it.
Since high quality smartphones can cost hundreds of dollars it makes sense that you will want to search for the best deals on such devices. By using the suggestions in this guide and by keeping its advice in mind when searching for a smartphone to buy you will be more likely to be able to spot a fake or imitation smartphones and avoid those types of devices. This should allow you to find the best deals on the real and legitimate product.
Clones and copies of actual smartphones are just that, clones and copies and these devices are meant to look like their legitimate counterparts. As such finding reproductions is often meant to be a challenge. Make sure to review all of the suggestions in this article. You are going to want to pinpoint abnormal qualities in order to spot a fake smartphone.
Some clones might be spot on in some areas while lacking in others. Don’t check just a single feature on the phone and assume that it’s the real McCoy. Keep all of the following tips in mind when reviewing and assessing a smartphone; especially if the phone or deal for that phone seems too good to be true.
This Guides Outline
Most smartphones, especially expensive ones, are going to include some kind of branding. After all a brand helps show a products reputation as a quality piece of merchandise.
So look for these brands somewhere on the phone.
Typically you can expect to see the name of the phones manufacture somewhere on the device. An iPhone is going to have an Apple name or logo somewhere on the device. Samsung is going to put “Samsung” somewhere on the device. This holds true with most of the well known manufactures; Apple, Samsung, Sony, Motorola, LG, HTC, Blackberry, etc. They like to put their brand on their product and usually it’s in plain sight.
This often (but not always) includes the name of the phone as well or at least the name of that line or series of phone. You will likely see “XPERIA” branded somewhere on an Android smartphone produced by Sony. You’re going to run across the word “Galaxy” on Samsung’s line of Galaxy phones. “iPhone” on Apple’s smartphones. LG has their Optimus series. Motorola has their Atrix smartphones. Although for some reason while the name of the manufacture is usually well branded LG and Motorola have not chosen to brand the word “Optimus” or “Atrix” on their lines of smartphones for some reason…
So don’t always count on the name or model of that specific phone to be branded or shown on it but you should certainly seek out the name of the manufacture on just about every phone you encounter.
So for example, if someone is trying to sell you a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and that smartphone does not show the word SAMSUNG printed anywhere on the exterior of the phone itself then that phone is NOT a Samsung Galaxy phone and you should automatically assume that it’s a fake.
Genuine Brands vs. Counterfeits
Now that we have discussed branding this next tip is a fantastic tool and a great method to use when verifying if a smartphone is real or not. After all an imitation Samsung could just as easily say “Samsung” while not actually being a phone manufactured by Samsung. This is true for just about any smartphone clone or counterfeit.
So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate brand and a fabricated one?
Check to see how it feels. A genuine logo will almost always be flat and you will not be able to feel it at all. If the logo is raised and you can feel it when you run your finger over it then that phone is likely a counterfeit. That brand or logo should be smooth to the touch and you shouldn’t be able to feel a difference between it and the rest of the phone. If you run a fingernail across the manufactures name and you can feel your fingernail meet resistance because that name was painted on or is a decal or sticker that was applied to the phone then that phone is likely a phony.
This is a powerful tool to use when identifying a clone as a replica may be designed to look exactly like the genuine article but this little flaw can give it away as just another imitation.
Every genuine smartphone will have its own device identifier which is unique to that specific phone.
This number may be referred to as the phones IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) or MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier) number and you should be able to locate this unique number somewhere on the device. Many phones include this number printed on a sticker within the phones battery compartment. You can also sometimes find it by typing *#06# in the phones dialer as though you were dialing a telephone number, or within the phones settings.
This unique number can be used to verify the legitimacy of a smartphone and can also be used to determine if the phone was reported lost or stolen (this is a topic discussed in greater detail HERE as you don’t want to buy a legitimate phone that’s been black listed and can no longer connect to a wireless service provider). Counterfeit phones will not have a legitimate device identifier. It may not show one at all or it may show one that is fake.
If the device identifier in your phones settings, or dialer, does not match the device identifier printed on that label found on the exterior of your phone then there is a problem and you should be concerned.
Feel free to visit IMEI vs. MEID: Purpose of a Device Identifier for more information about these unique numbers, how to find them, and what types of device identifiers you may encounter when examining and evaluating cell phones.
After seeking out and locating the phones device identifier take a look at the information and placement of that sticker. That label should not be crooked and should be pretty darn straight; aligning evenly with the sides of that battery compartment. If that sticker is unevenly placed then chances are it was placed there by hand and would indicate tampering or counterfeit.
You might think that a manufacture would simply use the same exact buttons on the next generation of smartphone as to avoid the expenses involved in redesigning and manufacturing completely different pieces of hardware but you might be surprised.
Take for example Samsungs Galaxy S series of smartphones.
Shown below is a picture of the Samsung Galaxy S line including the Samsung Galaxy S1, the S2, S3, S4, S5, and the Samsung Galaxy S6. Notice how even though each smartphone is a Galaxy S they all vary and are slightly different from one other?
Take a look at the hardware buttons (the home keys) below each of the display screens. Though some are similar in size and shape each one is slightly different from the others.
Take this into consideration when reviewing a smartphone. If you are thinking of buying the newest phone in a line of phones and the one you are looking to buy seems to look exactly like a previous model then perhaps it is and has been tampered with to look like one of the newest models.
We discussed branding and logos a little bit already and chances are the suggestions already mentioned will help you identify a forgery but try not to neglect the size and placement of brands and logos as well.
If a quick image search online shows that the device in question is supposed to have its manufacturers brand displayed on the top of the phone above the screen and the phone you are inspecting shows the logo on the bottom under the screen then… it’s likely a fake.
If the logo or brand displayed on the phone you are examining seem smaller or larger than it should be then maybe it is. Another quick image search online should help you locate what the brand is supposed to look like and allow you to compare the two in order to determine if the size and placement is how it should be.
When physically examining the phone in question the screen can be a good thing to review when trying to spot a fake.
Here are a few things that you might want to look for when inspecting the screen:
- Material – does it seem to be made of a cheap glass or other cheep looking material? Or does the screen seem to be the tough Gorilla Glass that the phone is supposed to come with?
- Location – is the screen too far from the edge of the phone?
- Appearance – is the screen as bright and vibrant as it’s supposed to be or does is seem like it might be a little dim?
- Resolution – along with the brightness of the display you should also check its clarity. When the phone is powered on is the image on the screen as sharp as it should be?
If color of the phone you are investigating is dark blue and the manufacture of that device doesn’t sell that model of phone in blue then chances are good that it’s likely a counterfeit.
The physical dimensions of most high quality smartphones are often easy to locate and are freely available online.
Before purchasing a smartphone you might want to, at the very least, pull up the dimensions of that phone just to compare them with the phone you are interested in acquiring just to make sure that everything matches up as it should.
Sleek and light weight smartphones are the goal of most legitimate and higher quality manufacturers. If you pick up a supposedly new smartphone for inspection and it feels like you’re holding a brick in your hand then chances are it might be a fake smartphone made from cheap and heavy parts.
It seems like smartphones are being built with more and more features and abilities which require more and more pieces of hardware to be installed on the phone. If one of these pieces of hardware doesn’t seem to be included on the phone you are inspecting then it might just be a fake.
So for example if you were interested in buying a Samsung Galaxy S4 S5 S6 etc. then these phones are supposed to come with an infrared emitter at the top of the phone which allows you to utilize the smartphone as a TV remote. If this infrared emitter is missing then the phone is most likely a counterfeit.
This can be applied to many different smartphone features and hardware including but not limited to:
- Proximity sensors
- Fingerprint scanners
- Facial recognition
- LED notifications
- Front and rear cameras
- LED flash (for the camera and flashlight)
- SD card tray
- SIM card(s) slot
- Infrared emitter
- Heart-rate monitor
Some research may be required in order to discover which of these features and extra parts are available on the cell phone in question but once you know what to look for you will be able to more easily avoid a clone or copy of that cell phone.
If you purchase a new iPhone and that iPhone is running on software that appears to be more like Android then perhaps it is Android and some caution should be taken as far as the validity of that smartphone. This holds true for any smartphone operating system.
If you are thinking about purchasing a smartphone and can access that phones settings then you should be able to locate the software in which that phone is running on. If that software version doesn’t match up with a software version released by the manufacture then you should stop and consider this…
So for example, if you are examining an Android smartphone and it is currently running on the latest version of Android but that version of Android has not yet been released for that specific make and model of phone then for some reason that phones software has been tampered with for whatever reason and could lead to problems later.
Check the label on the phones battery as well. If you bought a Samsung phone and the battery in that phone says “Sunsang” as opposed to “Samsung” then there is an astronomically high chance that it’s a fake or knock off.
The language printed on the battery should, at the very least, include the language of your current location as well. If you’re located in the USA and you purchased a phone that’s supposed to be of higher quality then you should be able to read the majority of the text printed on that battery.
If possible you might want to consider comparing the specifications listed on the battery that came with the phone with the specifications of the battery that is supposed to come with the phone by default.
If you bought a used phone and the battery that came with that phone seems to be slightly off of what it should be then it could indicate that the battery was simply replaced with a cheap or knockoff battery as opposed to the entire phone being a knock off but if the phone was supposed to be new and the battery within that phone doesn’t seem to match up with what it should be then the phone might need a more thorough inspection just to make sure that everything is indeed kosher.
A person might expect you to check the phone but probably won’t count on you checking the battery so don’t overlook it.
If the smartphone you are thinking of buying is supposed to have a 16 Megapixel camera (or any high definition resolution) and the pictures you take with the phone seem blurry or the resolution seems mediocre at best and simply have a poor picture quality then the camera may be damaged or malfunctioning or it may have a cheap camera installed as the phone itself could be a counterfeit.
Either way you would likely want to reconsider purchasing that specific device.
New smartphones can be pretty pricy. If an unknown person is selling a phone online or locally and the price is just too good to be true then you should exercise caution. Often times when something seems too good to be true it often is.
Other things to consider when trying to spot fake cell phones
Some other things that you might want to take into consideration when looking for smartphone clones fakes and copies.
Another weird trick that is often overlooked that might help uncover a phony smartphone is to try and boot the phone into one of its troubleshooting features.
So for example, if you execute the command to pull up the Android System Recovery screen on an android smartphone and you have no idea what that screen says as it’s not in your native language then chances are that phone is on the cheap side and is not likely going to be the same high end mobile device that would be available at your local retail store.
This won’t likely be an option to try in person as it typically required the use of a computer but many smartphone manufacturers include PC software for their smartphones. Samsung offers Samsung Kies, Sony Xperia offers the Sony PC companion and for select models Sony’s official flash tool, etc.
If the phone you are evaluating doesn’t want to sync the software provided by the manufacture then there may be a chance that the phone wasn’t designed to do so as it’s simply a cheap knockoff.
Note: sometimes smartphones can be a bit stubborn when trying to sync them to a PC. If you do have issues trying to connect to a computer or when trying to sync the information on your smartphone to that computer then you might want to try using a different computer as well. Just to make sure that it is in fact an issue with the phone and not the computer you are trying to connect to.
Recap and Conclusion
So when trying to spot a phony cell phone there are many different things that you can look for which might indicate whether the phone is fake or not.
Remember to check:
The Branding – If the logo or brand on that logo is raised and it feels like it was painted on or feels like it might be a sticker then that should raise a red flag and warrant a closer inspection. Make sure to also consider the placement and location of the logos and brands shown on the phone.
The Device Identifier – Try to verify the phones Device Identifier. Every single quality phone will have some type of Device Identifier unique to that specific smartphone.
The Label – Make sure to take a quick peek at the label which the device identifier is often printed on. This label often contains other information about the phone including its model number, serial number etc. When checking this label make sure to check that it’s not crooked and that it doesn’t look like it was placed there by hand.
The Layout and Specifications – Try to verify the dimensions and specifications such as weight, color, camera resolution and picture quality, key and button layout as well as the placement of other pieces of hardware.
The Software – If the software doesn’t seem right then maybe it isn’t. Try to have a predetermined knowledge of what version of software is available for the device so if possible you can verify that everything matches up properly.
The Price – Remember that if something seems too good to be true it often is. Don’t make a hasty decision that you are likely to regret later.
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