Iops Jock and Z3
Cheap copycat versions of Apple's iPods and iPhones, dubbed iClones, have been flowing out of Asia for several years now. They can be found in foreign online and local shops--and sometimes on eBay. Apple doesn't view this mimicry as the sincerest form of flattery; indeed, "familiarity breeds contempt" may more aptly describe its reaction. Here are 10 of the most immediately recognizable variations on Apple products we could find. We hope that you enjoy looking at them--but remember, not all iClones are created equal to the real device.
Apple's attorneys don't always spring into action as soon as they become aware of a new iPod clone, but they do if such a product becomes popular enough to create "confusion in the marketplace." In 2005 Apple sent a cease-and-desist letter to Iops, which at the time was the fifth-largest MP3 maker in South Korea. Two of Iops's products, the Jock and the Z3 are unmistakably iPodesque. Apple also asked for compensation for lost iPod sales and a formal apology published in at least two major South Korean newspapers.
Meizu M8 Mini One
Chinese MP3 player manufacturer Meizu Electronic Technology says that this year it will begin selling an iPhone look-alike called Meizu M8 Mini One. On its Web site, the company introduces the phone thusly: "The iPhone look-alike is only one of many concept renderings of the Meizu M8. And, as it is set to be released in the third or fourth quarter this year, there will surely be room for change."
Another near replica of the iPhone is CECT's P168. The phone seems to be solidly built and features a 3.5-inch touch screen, 3D surround sound, and a 1.3-megapixel camera. The company even mimicked the Apple OS in the P168's screens. But CECT got one thing wrong: When the phone powers up or shuts down, it plays a Windows sound file. The P168 phone lacks a lot of iPhone magic, too, such as visual voicemail, an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor. The phone's case features a line of buttons just below the touch screen. You can watch video of the phone here and here.
In 2005 a Chinese company released the i-Bob, a Nano look-alike that also plays videos. The i-Bob has shown up on eBay in 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB versions. Some commentators noted at its debut that the i-Bob seemed cheaply built, with screws left visible on the casing. One unhappy buyer set up a Web page comparing the picture posted in the eBay ad with the product that arrived in the mail. Other disgruntled owners complained that their 1GB version of the player stored only about 50 MP3s. Can you say "caveat emptor"?
M-Cody M-20 Digital Audio Player
Another Chinese company, M-Cody, released a Nano knock-off of its own in 2005, which it called the M-20 Digital Audio Player. The M-20 has a white organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, touch-sensitive navigation buttons, an FM tuner, line-in recording, and seven preset EQ modes. It plays MP3, WMA, WAV, and Ogg Vorbis audio files, but not video files. The player holds about 2GB of music. You can see more pictures of and commentary about the device at DAPreview.net.
Some copycat manufacturers limit themselves to copying just one or two of the main features of the Apple device that serves as their model. The Dbtel M50 borrows perhaps the most important innovations of the iPod family--the control wheel--but slaps it on a phone instead of an audio player. In fact, the Dbtel phone has a lot in common with what Apple watchers thought the iPhone would look like before before it actually appeared: smooth, rounded white design, large color display, touch-screen keypad, round control wheel, and so on. The handset weighs about 3 ounces and has a 2-megapixel camera at the back.
iPhone mimics don't always come from abroad. Chicago-based company Deeda has released a 3G product called the Pi that closely resembles an iPhone. Deeda says the Pi has a camera on the front and the back; supports 3G wireless, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi; and has a 3.6-inch screen. Actually, the Pi is part of a three-product series. The other two products, the Kuku and the Menx, appear to be variations of the Pi and show some of the same Apple design themes. The preceding information was taken from Deeda's Web site; whether so much as a prototype of the Pi or its siblings exists is another matter.
iPhone clones are rushed to market by both small underground manufacturers and large established companies. A good example of the latter is Desay, based in Guangdong, China, which sells various electronics products (audio/video, telephones, batteries, and so on) to the Chinese, North American, European, and Southeast Asian markets. For a company like Desay, which has a consumer electronics manufacturing infrastructure in place, tapping into worldwide interest in the iPhone must be a tempting proposition. The M888 has a TV composite A/V output, supports 4GB micro-SD memory cards, and includes a two-band wireless radio.
Same idea, different manufacturer: This iPhone remake, called the Hiphone, showed up in a search of Chinese reseller sites. Like the Desay M888, the Hiphone looks almost identical to the iPhone. In fact, online reseller M8COOL provides a convenient lineup of iPhone copies. You'll notice that the product names are clear enough, but nowhere in the listing or on the phone itself does the manufacturer's name appear. Some of the phones even include a cheeky production note: "Designed in California, Assembled in China."
But Apple's design prowess reaches beyond the ranks of clones. The iPod and iPhone have also influenced--in more general ways--the designs of Apple's gadget-making competitors around the world. For example, if you look closely, you can see a lot of iPhone in Samsung's YP-P2 Slim Portable Media Player ($230). Check out the "bar phone" shape of the 8GB product; the size, shape, and color of the icons on the touch screen, and the 3-inch-wide LCD screen for horizontal video viewing. The player supports video playback in MPEG4, SVI, and WMV9 file formats and audio playback in MP3, WMA, and subscription WMA file formats.
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