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A Look at Shenzhen’s Cell “Phonie” Industry



On top of housing Foxconn’s manufacturing facility and pushing an occasional iPhone 5 rumor, Shenzhen has developed a reputation as the world’s center for fake phones. A bustling economy has developed in the Chinese city from imitators selling cheap replicas of popular cell phones. Though many of the phones attempt to mimic specific devices (such as the iPhone 4), some of the cell “phonies” are improved models of dismantled products. The success of the Shanzhai cell phone industry raises an important question- are “fake” cell phones a problem for consumers?

As you may expect, there is no easy answer. While bootleg phones aren’t backed by a mainstream manufacturer’s warranty and may violate various copyright laws, there is no denying that cell phonies are serving a need. The mobile devices are significantly less expensive than their authentic counterparts, allowing people who can’t afford cell phones the luxury of owning one. Additionally, there’s a clear advantage to buying a cell phonie- often they come with features which traditional phones don’t support or can’t offer.

At this stage, phone piracy is progressing to a point where a whole new type of phone is being created. While the foundation of the device may be borrowed from a popular phone manufacturer, it’s undeniable that some the cell phonies sold in Shenzhen are a whole new type of product. To learn more about this fascinating industry and get a firsthand look at the Shanzhai marketplace, check out the video below:



  1. Anonymous

    04/21/2011 at 8:51 am

    Some of the shanzai devices surely aren’t more of a copy any more than a Samsung tablet is…

    Its the ones that borrow brand names that you need to watch out for :)

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