Posts Tagged ‘copies’

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.