How to spot a fake handset: Tips and tricks.

Lately we have come across quite a few clone Smartphones that are claiming to be real. Obviously there are people out there that may not be able to tell the difference for instance if you’ve decided to join 2014 and swap your old Nokia for a new Samsung Galaxy Note 3? Well one of our customers was in the same situation after buying his wife a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 whilst abroad in February. The customer paid around £400 for what he thought was a Samsung original Note 3 but after having it for a few months the customer thought that there was something odd about the handset and brought it in to be assessed.
Hopefully by blogging my findings it will help you see what things you can do in order to prove whether or not your phone is a clone.
Obviously this blog doesn’t only apply to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as you can use these steps in order to check any android device and possibly any other handsets.

In my case this phone claimed to be a Note 3 with the model number N9006. Currently there are many REAL Note 3 devices from Samsung, including (but not necessarily limited to) SM-N900, SM-N900(various letters), SM-N9000(various letters), SM-N9002, SM-N9005, SM-N9006, SM-N9008, SM-N9009. So as you can see clones can easily fake these model numbers so in the settings and start up screen of this phone it had the model number N9006 but if you take the battery out the phone claimed to be an N9000? Now I thought that there could be a possibly it was mislabeled, although the sticker itself is low quality and seemed to be non-genuine in comparison to a genuine label. I decided to see if it was the wrong label by comparing the IMEI on the label to the one owned by the phone and it was the same IMEI number. To check your phones IMEI number type in *#06# or go into settings.

Clone Label    Genuine Label

 

Android KitKat Logo on GenuineFaked KitKat OS on CloneThe stock Android version for the N9006 is Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. The phone I was assessing claimed to be on Android 4.4 KitKat (KitKat is the latest version of Android at the moment). Although the phone claimed to be on KitKat when you click on the tab that says it is 4.4 the screen comes up with a JellyBean hinting that it is most likely to be a rooted/custom version of Android that the manufacturer would have manipulated to say that it is KitKat although it is not.

 

These are the apps that the clone is stocked with. You can see that it looks very similar to the original stock although it has a few extras such as ‘compass’ and ‘flashlight’ and it also doesn’t stock the Samsung Hub or Samsung Apps (Samsung’s App store). Also the stock apps exclusive to the Note series such as ‘SNote’ and ‘Scrapbook’ are not on the device either.

Stock Apps on Clone VS GenuineClone on the Left Genuine on the Right

 

Notice the difference in font on the lock screen. Although minor this is a big clue that the device is not stocked with the original software of Samsung’s Touchwiz.

The main giveaway here in the next picture is the charging block. You can tell just by putting a micro USB in the clone that it is flimsy and nowhere near the same quality as the original Samsung. You can also see the huge gap in the USB 3.0 port which makes the genuine Samsung USB 3.0 cable not fit. The other minor difference is the mesh on the speakers, although not a huge difference it still shows the difference in quality between the two.

Genuine on the left and Clone on the rightClone VS Genuine Battery

 

Clone VS Genuine Battery

One of the most obvious findings is the battery. You can clearly see how thin the clone battery is. One is completely different from the other. Samsung use a lot of technology that does not come cheap in order to make their phones as thin as they are so it makes sense that to keep away from the high cost the Chinese company that would have manufactured the clone would have made a slimmer and less mAh battery in order to keep the phones slim look.

It’s very hard to tell the difference between the two handsets by looking at them from the side but you may notice that the Original is ever so slightly thinner than the clone. The clone also has a green tint to it when in a different light unlike the original that stays silver. Although these are differences the only real noticeable difference is the ‘power’ marking on the side of the clone telling you that it is the On/Off button.

Clone VS Genuine Outer CasingClone VS Genuine Full Outer Casing

Another thing I wanted to check was if the phones IMEI belonged to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It is highly illegal in the UK to change a phones IMEI but it seems as though the manufactures of this fake has taken the IMEI from a Nokia 1661 which is a cheap phone that can be sold in the UK from as little as £9.99 – £20.00 depending on the supplier. So it’s clear what the manufactures have done which is bought cheap Nokia phones (possibly even scrapped and damaged phones) and put an IMEI that looks similar to a Samsung IMEI to make the phone look genuine.

Nokia 1661 IMEI on Clone

Although unlikely some might argue this to be a Samsung original just stocked with unoriginal parts for example if the phone has been damaged and the customer got a cheap repair using non-genuine Samsung parts. Taking this into consideration I then went further by opening the two phones up. On the copy phone it is apparent that the motherboard is a low cost Chinese motherboard (you may also see these type of motherboards in today’s cheap tablets).

The difference in motherboards is the biggest confirmation you could get. The cable flexes have different connections. The clone motherboard is a very typical Chinese motherboard the quality is not the same as the Samsung. For instance it is much flimsier (components are more likely to break) and although a lot of the components are in the same place they are manufactured differently i.e you would not be able to fit any Samsung Note 3 parts onto the cloned phone.

You can also see how the clone motherboard has less components on the board because the clone does not have as many features as the Original, such as NFC, due to costs.

Clone MotherboardGenuine MotherboardWhilst not many people can strip a phone confidently and properly it could be best to send it to a technician to be 100% positive as some of the information displayed by system-information programs CAN BE FAKED – there are now clones that report 1920×1080 screens and 3GB RAM (which in itself should be a red flag since for instance an original N9005 should report around 26996 MB or about 2.38GB in RAM Manager, the rest being mapped to video/3D).

At this moment the best way to check if a phone is a clone/fake seems to be the SPen – the original Samsung pen is a device that is wireless-powered from about 10-20 mm away from screen of an original Note and on the home screen from about 10mm away you can press the special button on the side and you will get the special circular menu (aircommand). So far no clone has such a digitizer/pen. (the aircommand when you REMOVE the pen from the Note3 CAN be easily faked, since that one is another sensor that only feels the pen was removed). Further proof that this phone is a fake is the fact that it does not respond to an Original Samsung SPen nor does it bring up the aircommand when the button is clicked.

Another giveaway is the actual screen resolution – some of the clones also fake the reported screen resolution as 1920×1080 but on the fakes when you take a screenshot (with a palm gesture or with Home+Power) that one does NOT come as 1920×1080 but instead as something like 1280×720 (other known clones have 960×540 or so). This phone has done exactly that, it has faked the 1920×1080 screen resolution but when the screen is put to the test, using the Antutu Benchmark apps, it comes up as a 720×1280 screen proving that the screen is not the AMOLED Samsung LCD that the Note 3 would usually have. For example, you can see the difference quite clearly when the screens are both on full brightness:

Screen Comparison

Benchmarks are very important to phone companies as they always want to be the highest in performance. A benchmark is a test used to compare performance of hardware and/or software. In the images above you can see the results from the test I ran on the clone on the Antutu Benchmarks app. As you can see the points gathered for the Note 3 is usually near the top with a mark near the 40,000 mark but this phone ranked at the bottom with a score of 18,260. This is probably the most effective way to test your phone to see if it is a clone but you must remember that sometimes companies over clock their phones to get the benchmarks higher so even original phones can rank SLIGHTLY lower that what it says but it’s almost definitely a fake if it ranks as low as this one. So if you want to get your answer fast download the Antutu Benchmark app and put your phone to the test.

Antutu BenchmarkAntutu Benchmark