A Chronicle Of Phony Tech Gadgets

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Engadget, the technology web site, has a regular feature called Keepin' It Real Fake, charting the world's most notable tech rip-offs. NPR's Rachel Martin talks with Engadget editor Michael Gorman.


If you ever find yourself longing for an iPhone with a telescopic antenna, which serves no apparent purpose, and if you don't mind buying a totally fake phone, then we have a website for you. You can find out all about the world's best fakes at Engadget.com. The tech magazine prints a regular feature online called Keepin' It Real Fake, or K-I-R-F, KIRF. Joining us now to go through a few of his favorites is Engadget's senior editor Michael Gorman. Welcome to the program.

MICHAEL GORMAN: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: OK. Let's start off with the telescoping antenna phone. Why? Why, Michael?


GORMAN: So, it's something that kind of U.S. people and maybe even Europeans might not be so familiar with. But particularly in Japan and Korea, there are phones that actually allow you to pull down TV directly with an antenna. So, I assume that's what this was. Why you needed to put it on a fake iPhone 4 is an entirely separate question that certainly kind of screws up all that beautiful design that Apple spends so much time and effort, you know, perfecting.

MARTIN: Do you know who made it or where it was made?

GORMAN: I do not know. A lot of times it's very difficult to kind of track down these companies that make KIRFs, as we call them, really just kind of cloned phones for, I guess, somewhat obvious reasons. Basically, you know, if you're making fake phones, you don't want Apple to come after you. So, a lot of these companies tend to be in China for most - Shenzhen region. It's many major companies that actually make the real deal are manufactured in there. So, it's kind of logical that a lot of these clones come out 'cause people have easy access to parts. You know, you get one guy who manages to sneak a piece out of a factory somewhere or something and all of the sudden it's very easy to clone it and just make it somewhere else, you know?

MARTIN: OK. Do you have other favorites?

GORMAN: There are so many that are I would call them bizarrely terrible. So, Nokia came out with a phone last year that had a really, really nice camera in it, right. And it's a 40-megapixel camera. And there was some company in Shenzhen that decided they wanted to a make phone that looks like that. Obviously, they didn't have access to kind of the camera technology that Nokia did. So, to look the same, they just stuck an extra-large speaker in the back of the phone. On the real thing, there's this hump in the back to accommodate this bigger, better camera on the real phone. And on the fake one, they just decided, well, I guess slotting in a speaker is as good as use for any, which I thought was an interesting choice. I don't think too many people are looking to their phones to be, you know, pumping out serious audio. But that one was one of my favorites.

MARTIN: Michael Gorman is the senior editor for Engadget, walking us through the world of KIRFs. Thanks so much, Michael.

GORMAN: Thanks for having me.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) The green plastic (unintelligible) intact, perfection is rather bland, you say glass...

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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