Android Sets iPhone Cloning Factory in Motion

Chinese company Wico has cloned the yet-to-be-released iPhone 6, if videos posted by 86Digi can be believed.

One video provides a detailed view of the clone:

The other compares it to the iPhone 5s:

“The similarities are eerily close,” Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC, told LinuxInsider, to the extent that the casual observer “may just simply accept this as an iPhone.”

There are slight differences on the sides, such as the volume and power buttons and the headphone jacks, as well as the chassis overall, but “it’s not until you place them side by side that you can see the differences,” Llamas noted.

The Wico phone’s start screen looks almost identical to that of the iPhone, as does its control panel, Llamas said. “Even the colors and fonts look alike.”

The Wico phone apparently is named “i6,” based on its software, although the case displays an Apple logo and an iPhone label, including the claim “Designed by Apple in California” and an FCC ID number.

How Apple’s Helping iPhone Clone Makers

The iPhone’s launch reportedly has been delayed, and it’s now scheduled to be released in Q4, which let Wico steal a march on Apple.

Apple reportedly was having production problems with the device’s in-cell touch panel and with uneven colors on the casing. The company introduced in-cell touch panel technology on the iPhone 5, so it’s not clear why it might be having problems in this area.

There’s speculation the iPhone 6 will be available in a 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch versions; that it will have a scratch-resistant sapphire front panel; that it will have a faster, more efficient Arm Cortex A8 processor; and that it will have slimmer bezels and a thinner chassis.

As usual, Apple has not disclosed any details of the forthcoming iPhone 6, fueling the rumor mill and paving the way for clone makers to come in and steal Apple’s thunder, which Wico seems to have done.

A Step Ahead

Wico has “done a nice job anticipating where the next iPhone will go,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider.

The Wico’s rounded corners make it look thinner than it is, as well as more comfortable to hold, Enderle said. Both are changes “Apple would likely consider.”

The Wico phone is about one inch longer and half an inch wider than the iPhone 5s, and “the end result is very close to what the market believes the iPhone 6 will be,” Enderle commented.

“They even appear to have copied the Apple charging interface port and the sideswipe-to-start interface,” he said.

Instead of Apple’s proprietary iOS software, the Wico clone reportedly runs a custom version of Android KitKat.

Without Android, manufacturers couldn’t create a clone that worked well enough to be a threat, Enderle said. “Google remains the biggest threat Apple will ever face.”

There’s just one niggling problem: Wico can’t be found on the Web — at least, not in its role as a smartphone maker. There are a lot of Wicos in China, however, as well as in the U.S.

The China Syndrome

Owning an iPhone or iPad is a mark of prestige among Chinese citizens, and two California men last year were charged with various crimes after making about US$4 million smuggling iPhones to China.

Schoolchildren were being used to smuggle luxury goods, including iPhones, into China, according to reports that surfaced in April.

China’s largest carrier, China Mobile, in January agreed to carry iPhones after six years of negotiations, but Apple’s prices are too high for the Chinese consumer. Its iPhone 5c, which sells for less than the flagship iPhone 5s, still was not a strong seller in the Chinese market.

Politics comes into play as well. China’s government last week declared that the iPhone was a danger to national security because of its ability to track and time-stamp user locations.

Further, the government is moving against subsidies by carriers, Enderle pointed out, which “will dramatically lower Apple’s market opportunity and create opportunities for lower-cost vendors in China with clones to make huge inroads into Apple’s space.”

Still, “I’d expect threats of litigation before price cuts,” IDC’s Llamas suggested.

That might not get Apple anywhere, though, Enderle said, because “the nature of the [Chinese] courts and the current relationship between the U.S. and China puts U.S. companies at a severe disadvantage.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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