Rating: Imitation handsets lead the way
A friend recently returned to the UK with a cloned Apple iPhone which he had bought for a pittance in a Chinese electronics mall. He was desperate to get all the applications working and, as GoMo News subsequently discovered, this requires expertise with Java.
The fake iPhone, or fPhone as one wit has named it, doesn’t even pretend to run a cloned version of Apple’s OS. Instead it runs standard MIDP Java applets. Judging from this particular handset there are akready plenty of suitable apps – especially games.
On inspection the cloned iPhone appears to be a model FM2000 from a supplier calling itself China Phone. That’s where the trail begins to run cold.
However, there are some clues. When the handset communicates (via USB) with a PC, it shows that the chipsets have originated from Mediatek.
A little bit of Google researching revealed that there is an existing package called PC Suite that enables a Windows PC to communicate with generic Mediatek based handsets. Sadly, the fPhone doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Luckily Nokia won’t have to call in its lawyers because this version of PC Suite looks nothing like Nokia’s offering – although the basic functions are very similar. Such as downloading numbers to the handset’s phonebook, for example.
The one feature which struck GoMo News as very interesting was the little penguin icon. That’s probably a misnomer because clicking on it installs Java apps rather than Linux ones.
Nevertheless, it illustrates the point that these low cost smartphones are going to play host to a multitude of Java applications.
Whilst it is difficult to see the business model for creating such apps at present – given the probable low returns – if such Java smartphones spread, there will be a big potential market.
The fPhone, for example, obviously boasts a Java app that communicates with a GPS receiver via Bluetooth to provide a satnav capability.
Without doubt, these cloned phones (and one of them was a convincing version of a Nokia Vertu handset) will be followed by perfectly legal handsets for those who want the power of a smartphone but can’t afford the standard price tag.
Incidentally, if anyone is contemplating purchasing such a clone, a few words of warning. Besides the fact that merely possessing one is illegal in most parts of Europe, there are plenty of standard facilities missing.
For example, there’s no built-in GPS or Wi-Fi. But then the price was one tenth of the genuine article. So expect a flood of legal Mediatek-based handsets soon.