Archive for December, 2005

iPod Nano Fakes, Knock-offs, Copies, Clones: A Guide for the Curious

December 24, 2005

GM1500Tianzuo Technology nanoHR-663Spotted on Phillipines siteSkyblue WhiteDafongShenzhen Thomson


New iPod nano copies appear in China at the rate of half a dozen a week. Did you know there are dozens of companies selling look-alikes of iPods in China? I have recently been doing some investigation of MP3 players in China (don’t ask!). I am amazed at how many companies have basically knocked off Apple’s designs. There are lots of copies of the older iPod and mini, but even in the few months that the nano has been available, it has been copied numerous times. I have come across so many of these, I have lost count!

The nano copies almost all have less memory than the nano (as little as 128MB, only 6% of the memory of the smaller nano). If they have 2Gb (only one that I have come across has 4GB), it is composed of two chips of 1GB each. It seems that Apple has gobbled up most of the 2GB NAND and all the 4GB available in Asia. The copies claim to have Samsung NAND and Action ATJ-2085 flash memory controller in the main. Most have video capabilities (MTV) – unlike the nano – and many have FM radios. Because of the video, they are known as MP4 rather than MP3 players. Since they have video, they have a bigger screen than Apple nano, but I suspect lower resolution (128*128 vs 176*132). Some claim a built-in speaker.

They are generally within a mm or two of Apple’s dimensions, that is between 39-41mm*88-90mm*6-8mm.

The pictures of these machines, and their operating system/s [OS], suggest that there are only three or four basic designs, copied dozens of times. Most are made in Shenzhen in Guangdong province. Some have suggested that these could be using parts from the *real* Apple nano pruduction lines. I’m sure that’s sometimes the case eg with flash chips, but these units don’t use the same controller as Apple: they all use Action J2085 controller vs ?PortalPlayer

The Action controller in the Shenzhen players leads to the stock-standard s1mp3 Chinese operating system

I assume there is no way these players could run the ipod OS or GUI.

The NAND chips will often come from the same site as Apple’s, and the Chinese suppliers hate Apple’s control of that source, which they claim means their margins are only a dollar or two on each player

iPod or imPoster?

Some companies just use Apple’s own jpegs to advertise their wares, complete with the ipod GUI, as if that is exactly what they are selling. Those displaying Apple pics include among others:

The real nano?

Shenzhen LTC IT company: LTC

Tianzuo Technology Ltd

These are not actually exact copies of the nano [the screen is usually bigger, for a start], and you can be sure they won’t be running the same GUI [graphic(al) user interface] that the iPod does. However, attitudes to intellectual property in China are very different to those in the Western world or Japan. One manufacturer boasted to a potential buyer that a visitor from Apple had said their fakes were more like the iPod than any other in China. Far from worrying his audience, the Apple guy’s comments had made the manufacturer feel “very pleased”. Another seller, when quizzed as to why his 2GB and 4GB models were exactly the same price, happily and candidly conceded that his 4GB nano’s memory is the same as his 2GB nano, i.e. it only has 2GB memory. The only difference was that the 4GB nano had “4GB” printed on the shell and the package. How do you respond to such disarming honesty?

A number of nano-copy manufacturers actually use packaging which clearly labels the product as an iPod nano:

Designed in California? I suppose technically the original packaging may have been “designed by Apple in California”, and since this is a duplication of that packaging…

With “Apple” CD’s

And even “Apple Software Agreements”


They come in boxes with fronts and backs that say “Apple”

and they look like this


The manufacturers obviously pride themselves on their duplication skills

..outside and in…

rear view


There is also one company with an interesting looking operating system on their nano:


Windows on DSM Nano

..or, if you prefer to read reverse Windows, there is this one


The Most Common Fake

The most common design is this one, which you will find at twenty or so other sites, including:

Standard knock-off designShenzhen Thomson digital technology

Shenzhen Skyblue Technology

Noka Technology Ltd

Topfar Industrial (HK)HR-663

OneAudio Digital

etc etc etc: there are lots! They come in black and white, and even in blue, purple (!) and aluminium in some cases. There must be 30 or 40 factories churning these out to order in China. One of the more recent is Moonbow, reported in

It would be interesting to know what the sales of the clones are like, but these are only a small number amongst the hundreds of different designs of mp3/mp4 players on the Chinese market. By far the most common fake in that market is a Samsung YP-T7 look-alike. Here’s the original:

Samsung YP-T7

And seemingly every second manufacturer making mp3 players in China has a model that looks just like this. Here’s an example, from Maxspeed:

Samsung Knockoff

Look on ebay and you will find huge numbers of these Samsung fakes…………..but back to the nano fakes…

The same company, Maxspeed, has bitten the bullet. It was recently selling online on ebay a product which was pictured in one place as a nano, in another as the “nano two” model [see below]…it even had an “Apple” number MA099LL/A etc, had 1, 1.5 and 2GB and took expansion cards.

Nicer than the original?

There are other “nano” models which are attempts to improve on Apple’s original model. I must admit, I prefer this one to Apple’s design:

Nano White nano style

In case the changes blind you to to the origin of the design, these tend to be called “nano” mp3s or mp4s anyway. I’ll call it “nano two”, because that’s what some of these makers call it. You can see examples at:

Shenzhen seapower electrical products C/L

Shenzhen China fast science and technology ltd (Hisure brand)

Da & Fong Industrial

(Nano One at dafong is a pic of a “real” nano)

And then there’s Bonrun, which has a dollar each way, with no less than three models which resemble nanos, with the one model designation, “NANO-005B”:

Tianzuo Technology nanoBonrunMk1

The model second from right is clearly wider than the others, with a larger screen, but never mind. The other two designs (the four views on the left are of the basic nano clone model, and the centre and right pic represent the other “nano two” model) can be found more frequently elsewhere around the place. The dimensions are usually much the same as an iPod nano, although some are obviously not as thin as the nano.

By the way, in case you hadn’t realised the seismic shifts occurring in Asia, A Japanese company is now producing [badging?] this as a t-pod. It has elsewhere been described as a knockoff of Mpio’s HD400

…and another

There is also this model, which is a bit more rare:

HY Technology (HK)

Nano does video?

This model has the advantage of having its earpod jack on the bottom – rather than the side like most other nano-fakes – which probably means skins and covers designed for the nano will fit it without alteration. However, on HY’s own Shenzhen website it’s shown in a more familiar guise

Real Nano?

Likely Impact: Very Little?

As you might expect, these sell for less than the Apple, but the price differential is less than you might predict. The case and workings are put together for 20USD or so, but the manufacturers claim flash memory costs them 45-48USD for 1GB there, compared to Apple’s costs of about 54USD for 2GB, acccording to a well-known and oft-quoted report by isuppli:

So, while they are undoubtedly popular in China, and appear commonly on eBay (generally for about 100-130USD for a 1GB, 80-110USD for 512MB models), they do not appear to have enough of a price advantage to make big inroads into Apple’s profits. They might also be said to lack in the area of a GUI, and in comparison with Apple’s click-wheel technology. Are there hundreds of engineers in Shenzhen currently trying to clone the iPod’s GUI to run on Action controllers, or reverse-engineering click-wheels?
Apple may be more concerned by this due-for-release item from a more highly-credentialled competitor, the SanDisk Sansa e200,


spotted by a macrumors reader. This player apparently will come with everything the nano does [except the all-important ipod cachet, the OS/GUi, the AAC compatability], it has 2/4/6GB, does movies and FM radio, takes expansion cards (SanDisk’s of course) and has a big screen. And they boast it has a special coating so it will not scratch! Cheeky? See their press release about the e200 series. It has quite similar dimensions to the nano at 89*44mm, but is twice as thick (13mm vs 7mm), probably because – like other SanDisk models – it has a AAA battery pod projecting at the back. That may appeal to those folk who don’t like a battery that’s hidden away from them, or who keep running out of charge when they’re out running. The press release page also has features of the c140, which is sleek, black, color screen 1.2 inches, FM radio, voice in, jpeg viewer, and offers 1GB at 120USD and 2GB at 170USD. Now these could provide real competition for the fake nanos themselves, even on price [try buying a fake 1GB nano on eBay for 120USD and you’ll see what I mean!] All they lack is movies, although the value of .amv movies on the nano-fakes is questionable.
See also a review of the Sansa e270 here from LetsGoDigital

One last pic…some AppLe Pro headphones: with a name like that, they must be genuine!

AP ep


My Mac etc Blog

December 24, 2005

Pages from down under, devoted to Mac and Open Source Software.