Sunday, 6 April 2008

Vague Nibble of the iClones

The Times ran a light-weight piece about the first iClones (iPhone copies) available in Singapore. Bylined "Attack of the iClones", the tone is of cheap sensationalism and hyperbole; they describe the iPhone as a much-hyped gizmo. Reality check: Apple is now in the top 10 phone manufacturers after only 9 months of sales. And hype means excessive or intensive publicity; or exaggerated claims made in advertising; the official Apple advertising is notably simple and extremely unusual for mobile phones as it entirely consists of demonstrating the device is use.

There are a few imported iPhones in Singapore already. Indeed the world-wide trade in them is brisk since it's only officially sold in about 6 countries (US, Canada, Germany, France, UK, Ireland?). China Mobile says there are over 400,000 in use on their network alone and it's never been sold there.

The main thrust of the article was to introduce the D800i HiPhone, at first glance a striking fascimile of the iPhone. I had a play with one in Sim Lim recently and I can tell you straight, Apple has nothing to fear; it's rubbish. They were asking S$320 (£110) and it is a conventional tri-band phone with a removable battery, look-a-like touch screen and music player (max 2GB micro SD card). But a clone it certainly is not. A clone is a biological term and even the everyday meaning is that of an exact copy. I'd say a facsimile, from the Latin fac simile, "to make similar", is a bit of a reach as well.

The HiPhone doesn't have WiFI or a web browser, just a WAP browser, so this really is just a phone, not a hand held Internet device. The limited flash memory for music barely exceeds the smallest, £35 iPod Shuffle and is woeful against the lowest configuration iPhone that has 8GB. The screen is fuzzy with muddy colours. They copied some of the screen icons but they mean different things; they have to because so many features are missing. The other software is strictly a box-ticking exercise to claim features with a user interface (surely the one thing they should have cloned) a series of nightmarish design shortcuts.

At least Samsung's new Instinct looks the part even if it is similarly cobbled together. If you are still tempted, be aware that T-Mobile is clearing the low-end iPhones for EUR99 and industry insiders are tipping SingTel to launch a new 3G iPhone here in September. Anyone buying one of these fakes is going to look embarrassed very soon.