Archive for the ‘iPods and MP3s’ Category

iPad Fakes, Knock-offs, Copies, Clones: A New Guide

September 27, 2010

The Beginning

It was easy to pick the start of the iPod fake industry.  It started with the IPod Nano.  Soon there were literally hundreds of companies making mp3 players which often looked identical to the Apple original.  The situation is a bit different with the iPad.

First of all, the iPad itself is a derivative design.  It follows on a line of iPhones and iPod Touch machines and copies many of their characteristics.  It uses the same operating system as the iPhone, although this will diverge quickly as each machine has the OS more closely tailored to it.  Here’s an article from mid-2009 predicting (accurately) that Apple’s tablet would have a 9.7 inch screen.  And, we were told, here’s how it might look [well, a little heavy on the icons and a tad large!]


So it was no wonder that many pundits quite accurately predicted the form of the iPad and how its GUI might look: they were simply following what they knew of the iPhone.  They were more often wrong about the predicted name [iTablet, iSlate  and so forth] than they were about how it would look.

And even then there were others who might claim to have inspired the iPad design.  We had had tablets for a long time when the iPad was introduced, but they tended to run on Windows with limited touch control and sensitivity, and at a much higher price.
For instance, way back at the beginning of 2004, you could buy a Fujitsu Stylistic ST5000, which looked like this:


And there was a French article from earlier than that with a roundup of more than a dozen slate-type Windows tablets, including the VIA tablet PC:




And then there were ebook readers. The iPad actually followed the entry of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Sony etc into the ebook reader race.  Then the iPad suddenly became the ebook reader one had to have.  But people forget that in 2009 we had ebook readers that looked like this:


In fact this reader running Windows CE was a precursor of many of the iPad clones we see today.  Here’s another picture of it in mid-2009, next to a smaller reader:




If that screen was colour, it would be an iPad “clone”, pre-dating the iPad.



Form Dictated by Function

When you come down to it, the options for how a tablet computer might look in 2010 were limited by:

1. A desire to maximise screen size.  This means a smaller bezel.

2.  Fashion e.g. the fashion in TVs in 2010 was to have a narrowish black bezel around the screen.

3. The need to retain a small number of physical buttons, either on the face or the edge.

4. The need for the edge to support at least one docking slot.

5. The need for a touch-sensitive screen surface.

6. Durability, which dictates either hard plastic or metal in the case.

7. Light weight, so it can be held.

8. Screen dimensions which support an OS that works on iPhones, and also supports playback of movies and TV.


So, there were not too many options available to Apple.  And there are not too many options to other makers of tablets in the market.  Here is what we saw when the iPad was launched  at the beginning of 2010:






The iPad arrives: January 2010

A 9.7 inch capacitive multi-touch screen, 1024 x 768 pixel LED backlit display, with 16-64Gb of storage on an inbuilt flash drive. with 128Mb or 256Mb or RAM,  a 1Ghz Apple customised A4 chip.  Wifi on all, 3G on some models.  No camera. And no ability to run Flash video.


It came in a box like this:



And looked like this before you went to the apps screen:



The iPad has set new records in its first nine months on the market and has forced the rest of the market to take notice.  Suddenly MIDs [Mobile Internet Devices] are the desired form factor, in the sector where netbooks have ruled for the past few years.


Send in The Clones

The initial, knee-jerk response has come at the bottom end of the market, with iPad clones.  These are sometimes in a 10.2 inch form, trumping the iPad on size by claiming “bigger is better” or going the other way to either eight inches or (more often) seven inches, where the claim is “lighter, more portable, easier to hold”.  How can we tell the clones?  Often by the Apple logo on the back!  They trade on likeness to the Apple product.  Further up the scale are genuine rivals to the iPad: PCs in a tablet.  They run Android 2.x, Meego, Linux or Windows XP or 7, generally cost a lot more and have better quality control.  Generally they are not OEMs.  They are made or about to be made by Samsung, Archos, ViewSonic and more than a dozen other companies, in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and even Europe.  I will not be dealing with this group because, even though many may deride them as clones of the Apple iPad, they don’t set out to be so, but rather to be iPad competitors.


I will deal with the clone group lower down in the market.  The cheapest of these operate on the Windows CE mobile OS, used more successfully in GPS devices.


If you buy one of these, this is probably the prettiest it will ever look.  It’s going to be all downhill when you leave that “startup” screen.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.


The Androids

Slightly further up the scale come the Android clone machines.  Most of the clones and knockoffs fit this description:

1. From China, and mostly from Shenzhen, the knock-off capital of the world.

2. Running Android.  If you are lucky, it will be Android 2.2.  If not, hopefully you get something better than 1.5 or 1.6

3. Resistive rather capacitive screen: resistive is cheaper, but also less sensitive, and can vary between quite tolerable and virtually unusable.


Here’s how they look.  This first image is of a clone, not the iPad.  Look closely.  In fact, it’s only 7 inches.  And it’s called an “aPad”:

There are lots of machines going by names like aPad, ePad, iPed, BPad, CPad, HaiPad, etc  You’ll find a number of such on eBay.  However, this next one goes by the fetching name of iRobot.  The screen is showing Android in action (well, it’s not in action, to be more precise, since it’s a desktop shot):

This one is the Moonse E7001, tilted to give the maximum iPad impression:



Here’s an example of clone packaging next to an iPad:





While the aPad box derives its look from the Apple box, it is at least showing the Android screen and an Android logo.  This next one takes the cake for Chinese copying.  It’s the  Zenithink, actually one of the better-performing clones.  But it manages to infringe on both Apple and Microsoft copyright on the same box.  Note that it’s ripped off the iPad name, MS Internet Explorer Logo and Apple’s iPad background scene, just in what we can see here:





This next one is an early, if not the first iPad clone, rushed to market within a month or two of the iPad.  It actually owes more to earlier iPhone models and in fact looks like a scaled up Airphone No. 1 which was an iPhone 3G clone:



Occasionally we come across an iPad “clone” which is not a clone at all.  Look at this eight incher with a much broader grey bezel:



So why does it figure here? Well, flip it over and this is what you see:





It might be white plastic compared to the real iPad’s (on left above) aluminium case, but our little tablet wants to be an iPad!

Now here’s a beauty:



The “new iPad” complete with both stylus pen and scroll wheel!!  Almost deserves success on the basis of the audacity alone.

Where Can you Get More Advice About Clones?

Quality control is always the issue in this sector of the market.  It is very much a case of “buyer beware”.  For this reason, self-help groups are essential.  Seek advice from others to avoid repeating their mistakes.  Here are three Android tablet/slate/phone forums in no particular order.  Click on the logo to visit the link:



And also this one, which is more aligned with a particular retailer and product range:




Where to Buy Them – and Perhaps Why You Shouldn’t

The clones are selling, and they are being made by the hundreds of thousands.  They really are the sort of product you should only buy if you can afford to lose the money you pay, or if you are of an experimental bent.  If you love taking things apart, repairing things, loading new operating systems on things, then you are a possible buyer.  If you are the sort of person for whom a computer is s source of frustration and terror, keep well away.  Save up for an iPad or one of the new group of brand-name Android tablets to hit the market later this year – and buy it from a dealer in your country with a proper warranty,

Having given lots of warnings, I present a list of possible sources, again in no particular order.  I recommend none of them.  You hear me?  I recommend none of them.  They may be perfectly respectable traders, who will go out of their way to assist you both before and after purchase.  Then again, they may not.  Their product may be durable, fast, reliable, and fun.  Then again, it might not.  Do your own research and decide whether you wish to deal with any of them.



Alibaba [may need to negotiate to purchase a sample]

AliExpress [a retail subsidiary of Alibaba]



PandaWill [link may or may not work in your browser]


JT Shop


And of course, eBay.  The sellers of tablets like this on eBay are generally either in China or Hong Kong, or are acting as agents for a supplier in China or Hong Kong.  Again you need to ask why you are buying where there is no long term warranty – and if you can afford to lose your money.  If you are happy to take the risk, go ahead.  Enter “tablet pc” in an eBay search and you should pick up most.  Other possible search entries are “touchscreen” or “aPad”.

One last warning.  Some sellers of this sort of item want you to be happy, so they will agree with whatever makes you happy.  If you want it to be Android 2.2, some will tell you that their model has 2.2, even when they know it has 1.5.  If you want it to have 256MB RAM, they will tell you it has 256, even when they know it has 128.  Similarly, often some careless copywriters will copy English words as if they have no significance.  That’s how a product can be described as, say, an aPad, a Moonse, and an Eken in the same advertisement, or on the same box.  Then of course there are the cloners of clones.  We know that, in this market, skill in making a good copy is admired.  So, when one company sees a competitor make a good iPad clone, they rush to copy it – and they use the same name so that you are clear about what they copied.  What I am saying is that, while one iPad is identical to the next, one “aPad” may not be identical to the next, and may have quite different components inside.  In this photo below, I can be sure that the tablet on the right has a metal case, but the one on the left…?






How and Where to Find Out More

One of the most entertaining places to find out more is from Nicolas Charbonnier.  M. Charbonnier, or charbax as he is known on the net, has reviewed many of the tablets on the market.  He did seventy in a few days at one major exhibition!  His trademark is the energetic, idiosyncratic four-minute video review.  Here’s a sample:

More links:

  • There’s a site at Shanzai which specialises in the Chinese cloning industry.  Well worth a visit.
  • Engadget has an article on tablet computers which is also worth reading
  • And this CarryPad site is also worth a visit.
  • I suggest you have a look at Tom’s Tablet Chart (Aug 2010) if only to see what you might be missing out on by buying in the lower end of the market.




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