Be Careful About Buying Fake iPhones
Or possibly other gadgets when abroad
Last winter, I went on a trip to Marrakech, Morocco – winter by North and East European where I am from as Morocco tends to stay warm year round. The inexpensive flight to Marrakech felt like a nice excursion. There were many bazaars and street peddlers around Marrakech and you can get anything from exotic spices to carpets and even electronics.
However, on this trip I ran into an unpleasant surprised when it comes to one particular purchase: a new iPhone 7 Plus, or so I thought. While walking around Ja mal square (official name: Jemaa el-Fnaa) a seemingly friendly Senegalese man approached me and offered me a wide range of iPhones he had for sale. He claimed they were genuine and gave me huge discounts from the retail price. I assumed they were either stolen or there was a catch and kept walking.
The way the culture here works is that they do not stop following you or pandering to their desires for quick cash. And when I say they, I mean there is a whole lot of hustlers here. Many different kinds of huddle or tricks as well. In fact, just asking for directions will get you a hand in your face asking for money and someone if not multiple young men following you aggressively and possibly threatening if you do not have the right sort of change they desire.
With the Senegalese man who sold me a fake iPhone was persistent and I mean very persistent. After a while of him showing me the phone, which looked like a genuine iPhone 7 Plus, I started analyzing it and he probably realized he had me at that point. Plus, someone I was with suggested that I should purchase it off of him, since my phone is dying anyway (I still sport an iPhone 5 that I have had for more than a year). The combination of my need for a new phone and his stubbornness as a street merchant made me start consider purchasing the phone.
After five minutes of him pestering me by following us non-stop and showing me the phone and its features, I handed him a $100. He even gave me a fake pair of Apple earbods and a charger (which surprisingly worked). In a way, I bought the phone just to get rid of him; he was that persistent and a good salesman and was actually was trying to sell it for much more as he made it seem like a genuine phone – he even put his own sim card inside it that he took form his personal phone to show me it works.
I only started to realize it wasn’t what he advertised it to be, legitimate iPhone 7Plus, when I bought a sim card in a Marrakech shop and tried inserting it into the phone. It worked eventually, but took forever to connect and I noticed how the home button was slow to respond when you pressed it unlike other iPhones. I then started noticing a funny Android ad asking me to visit the Google Play store. Then I started to realize what I bought. (Oh, and get this, the shop keeper even at this sim card place did not return me my right change saying that a certain amount of it was for service he provided for me by helping put it in my phone with a metal pin, but that’s a whole other story and normalcy in this city.)
So I was quite surprised to find out later that I bought a fake phone. It looks and at first glance works exactly like an iPhone 7 Plus. I did not think any Android phone has a home button like that and an actual Apple logo in the rear, exactly the way Apple phones do. This doesn’t even mention the fact that the OS and user interface at first glance seemed exactly like iOS as well as the fact an actual iPhone or iPad charger will work with it perfectly. I later started researching fake phones and Android phones running iOS to discover this was Chinese rip off that is quite known for tourists in certain parts of the world where these phones are sold.
Cult of Mac actually published a story on this same type of phone titled ‘This fake iPhone looks so real it almost fooled the experts.’ The story even comes with an image comparison of the real iPhone 7 Plus (unlike my 8 Plus, which means different iPhone versions are faked) and the fake copy and it looks pretty much the same. You can view the comparison shot here.
“Inconsistencies only arose when we took a moment to interact with the phone, which is distributed by a Shenzhen company that calls itself Hdcplayer Technology Co., Ltd and describes itself as a ‘Phones & Tablet PC Manufacturer’,” according to Cult of Mac’s story. “It’s so convincing, it passed through a few hands without notice. If it had been only a little better, the owner might have walked away with a $340 check from us.”
See this is the thing. Many tourists apparently get bamboozled for hundreds of dollars from these merchants selling these fake phones. Luckily, they only got $100 off me in Morocco and an interesting story idea warning travelers. The thing is there are many reasons for tourists to purchase a phone abroad besides the obvious reasons of hunting for a bargain: it is possible to lose a phone or damage it and then we need a replacement so we can order tickets online or show our eTickets on the plane back for instance. The bottom line is as travelers, be careful about what to purchase and now you know that fake iPhones exist.
You can look at the feature image above I created by showing a back and front comparison of the phone to see just how legit it looks. It even came with an official or at least official-looking Apple box.
The real fascinating thing about the phone is how Android phones can run replicas of iOS software and a quite convincing one at that. You would think with such a closed ecosystem as Apple’s it would be hard to copy much of iOS, but apparently not. You would also think that Google and Apple would be actively trying to take down through cease and desist orders or court cases sites or App Stores (most likely jailbroken and not Google Play) the distribution of this fake iOS app or software.
“HDCplayer Technology‘s ability to develop its own parts and pack them into a near-perfect iPhone replica proves fascinating,” According to Cult of Mac. “The operating system, which is this iPhone clone’s biggest flaw, is a version of Android roughly hacked into a copy of iOS. It possesses all the fluidity of a baby learning to walk. This is surely due to the bootlegged Android operating system disguised as iOS.”
Although I bought an iPhone 7 Plus replica from this man, he was trying to sell me even the iPhone XR if I recall correctly or a pretty new version of iPhone that must have been replicated in a similar way. The Cult of Mac story deals with an iPhone 7 Plus. This means there are a wide range of iPhones and probably other devices replicated in both hardware and software. It takes further inspections and really analyzing how the OS works to really tell.
The bottom line is if you are traveling abroad and need to make a quick or emergency purchase of a phone, do it in an actual retail outlet (or from a legitimate merchant) and not a street peddler advertising you a nice deal with a very legitimate looking phone.