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The iPod Clone Wars: mini, shuffle knock-offs at Computex

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, June 2, 2005
News Categories: iPod

imageIf you’ve been reading iLounge recently, you’re probably familiar with Luxpro’s line of iPod shuffle knock-offs. What you may not know is that there are numerous companies copying every model of the iPod and even iPod accessories. At this week’s Computex trade show in Taipei, an iLounge reader snapped several photos and collected specs on a number of these clones.

The most brazen iPod copy seen at the show was an iPod mini look-alike from a Taiwan consumer electronics OEM supplier. Said to cost only US$50, the “i-Pocket” is roughly the same size as Apple’s iPod mini, but includes no internal storage—instead it has a memory card slot. It supports SD/MMC/MS cards for music storage, and acts as a card reader for SD/MMC/MS/MS Duo/MS Pro formats. The player also offers voice recording, an FM radio and recorder, a color OLED display (128 x 64), USB 2.0, and supports MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, WMV, ASF file formats. It is available in gold, red, blue and black.

Continue reading for a full report (with photos) on iPod shuffle and iPod accessory clones, as well as new products.

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The popularity of Apple’s iPod shuffle was also apparent at Computex Taiwan: at least two new iPod shuffle clones were on display. Like the iPod shuffle, each sported a white “candy bar” design and were built with flash memory. Both tried to one-up the shuffle with added functionality, namely FM tuning and recording features. One of the manufacturers also added a tiny screen to its device.

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And iPods aren’t the only devices being copied. Also spotted at the show were clones of popular iPod accessories, two of which will be familiar to speaker lovers and creators. The first photo is of a product that looks very similar to Harman Multimedia’s JBL On Stage circular speaker system for the iPod, while the second photo looks to be a shameless copy of Altec Lansing’s inMotion (iM1) speaker system.

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The following products appeared at Computex but were not clones - just mediocre designs, typical of the items found on the show floor there. These items are frequently picked up by companies in the United States and elsewhere for re-branded distribution. At top is a battery back that uses interchangeable iPod sizers, each containing a Dock Connector plug. Then there’s a rather odd FM transmitter with a built-in dial, as well as three new dockable speaker systems.

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Comments

1

and suddenly the ‘Made For iPod’ program seems like a much better idea for all those manufacturers that are having their products cloned and sold for half cost and giving their (original manufacturers) product(s) a bad name (if the cloned items suck and break down quickly)

Posted by keyMACer on June 2, 2005 at 12:35 PM (PDT)

2

Yeah and then maybe all of the companies in the Orient churning out the ipod knock off can start their own “Made LIKE iPod” program or in the case of copywriters at LuxPro, the “Making Like Ipod” program.

Posted by agentparas on June 2, 2005 at 1:30 PM (PDT)

3

Some people are even trying to copy the mac mini. Look at this: http://www.stuffmagazine.co.uk/hotstuffarticle.asp?de_id=226

Posted by tom.b on June 2, 2005 at 2:05 PM (PDT)

4

They may be knock offs, but they also add improvements to the original apple design such as that color OLED display though it lacks the hard drive (but its only $50).

And a iPod shuffle with a external LCD and FM radio?  And since its bootleg it probably alot cheaper then the real version.  Count me in!

Posted by pookgai on June 2, 2005 at 5:56 PM (PDT)

5

...or in the case of copywriters at LuxPro, the “Making Like Ipod? program.
By agentparas on 06.02.05 at 10:30 AM

ROFL!!! Now THAT is funny!

Posted by jinzo-ningen on June 2, 2005 at 5:57 PM (PDT)

6

pookgai,

The so-called improvements you speak of would only be considered as such IF these crappy knockoffs actually worked as well, even in their base purpose, as an mp3 player, as the original devices their designs were stolen from. But, the reality is, they don’t.

You see, while Apple and other LEGITIMATE manufacturers may utilize the same cheap Chinese labor, the difference between their products and these ripoffs is that the labor force still has to adhere to the designer’s manufacturing specifications and stringent quality control.

These thieves in Taiwan/China who make these knockoffs adhere to no such quality standard. Their only standard is, “Does it seem to work before you put it in the box? Good enough. Pack it up and put it on the shelf.” if they even bother to check at all.

Then, there is the issue of the quality of the components used. Try taking a set of the earbuds that come with these trash knockoffs and compare them in feel, fit and sound reproduction of those packaged with a REAL iPod. The difference is obvious…and that’s only the parts you can SEE. You don’t know what kind of sub-standard components they used on the INSIDES of these pieces of crap they’re pawning off on consumers naive enough to buy them.

Bottom line is, no matter what, you’re not going to get a Mercedes Benz if you pay a Volkswagen price. You get what you pay for.

Posted by jinzo-ningen on June 2, 2005 at 6:09 PM (PDT)

7

To jinzo-ningen: valid points, but none of these are true copies of the originals.  The ONLY real thievery is in their appearances, and even that isn’t protected by anything other than good taste and a willingness on the part of the consumer to honor originality.

I wouldn’t be so quick to brush off Chinese quality with broad-brush generalizations, regardless of who is attempting to call the shots be it Apple or some wannabee upstart.  The Chinese have had a big taste of what it’s like to SUCCEED in a capitalistic world; while many outfits can and do exist to whip out quickie copies, any of these companies—if they want to have staying power—can’t afford to push out horrible product, particularly to the western world.  Many were saying much the same thing about the Koreans in the ‘80s, and the Japanese in the ‘50s and ‘60s. 

This time around, the Chinese (and Indians, and all the rest) have a tremendous kick-off advantage in the ability to quickly transfer technology and information thanks to the infusion of investment and infrastructure from the west and established Far East economies.  A lot of the products they push out is becoming as good if not better than a fair amount of their equivalents made in other nations.  Does this mean all or any of these products are any good?  Of course not.  But that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily not, either.  But I certainly can speak from experience about some of the pure crap I’ve had the misfortune to buy from so-called “legit” companies that go by such names as Sony and Panasonic (among others).

BTW, have you SEEN the consumer quality reports on Mercedes-Benz quality in Germany in recent years?  If you have, you might want to AMEND that statement about getting what you pay for.

Posted by flatline response on June 2, 2005 at 6:34 PM (PDT)

8

jinzo-ningen,

Well the headphones that come with the iPod is crap too.  Although what you say is mostly true, knock off items have come a long way.  There are bad knock offs and there are good quality ones that match those of the original product.  I visted China a year ago and after visting a major electronics district, i was surprised by the large amounts of bootleg items, from DVDs to Computers.  Some of the items i saw and tested are accually very nice, and there are some are just plain horrible.  So the point is that you cant really judge a product without using it.

This is offtopic but… have you seen a “Volkswagen price”?  $80k for a Volkswagen Phaeton, $56k for a Touareg, $26k for the new Jetta.

Posted by pookgai on June 2, 2005 at 6:38 PM (PDT)

9

Actually, some bootlegged products in China/Taiwan are actually of really good quality. A lot of DVDs are just copies of real DVDs, with the special features and all, and the picture quality intact. And with bags, sometimes you can’t even tell the real from the fake.

Plus, in today’s industry, with products such as bags and shoes, a lot of them are actually quite similar to each other, so unless it’s blatantly obvious that the item in question is an exact replica of the original, I don’t think anyone can make a fully legitimate claim that a product is copying another product, as in the case with the shuffle with metal buttons.

Posted by greencoffeebean on June 2, 2005 at 7:28 PM (PDT)

10

I’ll file this under:

“Your product might be a worldwide phenomenon if…”

...if your product’s third-party ACCESSORIES are even being knocked off!

Posted by Nagromme on June 2, 2005 at 10:56 PM (PDT)

11

Couldn’t have said it better, Nagromme.

Posted by Gordy. in Atlanta, GA on June 3, 2005 at 8:42 AM (PDT)

12

My comment doesn’t have to do with knock-offing, but more with components. It’s something that I ask myself everytime I see it, and these knock-offs have brought it up again for me. Why does an MP3 player with your entire music collection need a built-in radio? Unless if you’re a talk show fanatic, I don’t see the need. I had a CD/Radio Discman about 6 years ago. The radio came in handy when listening to the same couple of discs became old or the batteries were too low on juice to power the laser and mechanics. Of course, that Discman only lasted about 6 months, no where near the life of my iPods. Just curious what you guys think.

Posted by sidebruns on June 3, 2005 at 9:48 AM (PDT)

13

All this so very interesting, how you point to isolated instances and a few “exceptions to the rule” to inaccurate attempt to make a “generalized” point. Or give the well-known history of business and economic development in Asia. But, none of what you’re saying make what these Taiwanese or Chinese knock-off makers do any more legitimate.

The reality is STILL that these criminals are stealing the work and investments of others; leeching off other people’s talents, making a copy, trying to hide behind “new features”, as if that makes their product any more legitimate, all to make a quick profit for themselves.

Take the Apple earbuds and compare them in look, fit, feel and measurable audio reproduction quality to any that come with these wannabe’s earbuds or the “Made in China” earbuds you by off the rack at your corner drugstore. The difference is obvious. Compare the quality of the case…how seams fit, how finished the edges are, how sturdy the switches fit..then open them up and compare the workmanship and quality of the components as well as the assembly. There is no comparison. If you’re truly objective.

You can compare your one experience with one product and claim to make a case for the trashy knockoff companies and against a legit one. But, when you’ve dealt with as many of these cheap, crappy ripoffs as I have with companies that deal in Chinese/Taiwanese imports exclusively you’d really understand the difference. One isolated experience, does not a case make.

One of my best friends is the president of her own company dealing in Chinese imported merchandise and printing services, and is herself a native of Beijing but college-educated in business here in the U.S. She says one of the most difficult part of dealing with some business people in her own country is that the basic philosophies are different. In most cases, business owners in the U.S. look at their company as a long-term investment and the goods and services they create as part of that long-term vision. In China, she says, the philosophy of most is short-term. Make it fast, sell it now, take your profit and move on. And, that, among other things, she says, makes it difficult to deal with many businesses in her native land, because the issue of quality is not as big a deal.

Think about it. If your basic business philosophy is a short term quick turn around of profit, quality is not an issue. Because you don’t see your business or any given product line as the sole lifeblood of your company. Your concern is finding the fastest way taking ANY shortcuts you can to make your profit quickly from one thing, then drop it and move on to something else.

Product quality only matters if you plan to stay with that product (or variations, like Apple’s various iPod “generations”) long term. That is not their philosophy of many in Taiwan and China and certainly not the philosophy of these ripoff artists. When you think about it, it’s a highly profitable way of thinking. Come in, sell as much as you can, making as much of a profit as you can on an item, then get out. You don’t have to deal with returns, repair or support (or at least, you minimize that negative cashflow aspect of being in such a business), so your net profits are higher still.

Posted by jinzo-ningen on June 3, 2005 at 12:49 PM (PDT)

14

If components inside a product truely does matter than the functionality of the final product, then I might have something to comment.

Most major brands including Sony, Energizer, Toshiba, GE, and yes Apple use components sourced from overseas. These sources are mainly derived from China or Taiwan. However, most consumer overlook that and go straight for the name brand.

As a consumer, I too purchase products from Sony, Apple, Toshiba, etc. My concern is not not the inside components. If the product performs as it’s expected to then I am happy with the product. If it out performs the stated, that’s even better.

Yes, the products listed above does look similar to Apples line of IPOD Player/Accessories. However, if a third party manufacturer develops something that is similar or even better than Apple’s then I that is a awesome advantage to the consumer.

Many will argue the quality of the products are not up to par with the original manufacturers. But unless a consumer has physically purchased the product and tested the product, they cannot make that point. You cannot compare the iPod Mini to the i-Pocket because one is a hard drive based player and the other read off memory cards.

My statement is this, if Energizer/Sony/Apple (etc.) purchases the same components from China and manufacture X purchases the same components from China and each product they produce comes out with the same result, then why not have the competition? The only winner can be the consumer, with more products to choose from!

Posted by PWarehouse on June 3, 2005 at 2:27 PM (PDT)

15

That Mini knock off is funny, because i saw that same product on the taiwanese version of ebay…

Posted by mini_me2 on June 5, 2005 at 3:39 PM (PDT)

16

jinzo-ningen: an mp3 player with the same quality, let alone functionality, of the iPod would not be too difficult to reproduce. I would not be surprised if these knockoffs were well worth the price. Some can’t afford to shell out 200+ dollars for an iPod, and would sacrifice some of that quality for the lower price of the rip-off: much the same way that my mother’s rip-off Gucci bag looks almost exactly the same, and has the same functionality, but might be lacking the complicated inner stitching or the mark of authenticity. And to be honest, no one but an iPod elitist would consider it “criminal” to be unoriginal in the field of mp3 player manufacturing! As far as I can read, they’ve broken no laws.

Posted by Li, Supergenius on June 18, 2005 at 2:15 PM (PDT)

17

jinzo-ningen:

iPod is made by Taiwanese owned chinese factories as most other MP3 player and laptop PCs. Are they all craps?
I bet you don’t even have an iPod
or never read the label. For me iPod ‘s apperence look dull not attractive at all but it fuction well.

Posted by mark on May 26, 2007 at 10:23 AM (PDT)

18

The US of A certainly benefits from the economic disparity with China and all of Asia. Legitimacy matters very little when there are no means for enforcement. It’s just something people ##### a bout. And there is a reason why it can’t be enforced, the same reason that enables the US to pay ridiculously low for their labor. You can’t have one without the other. I say, let it be. At the end of the day, those products are far from stolen as a substantial amount of integration and design goes into them, and chinese computer engineering is surprisingly good.

A surprising number of western products are actually *designed* and manufactured in china and simply relabeled and marked up in price. How is this a legitimate practice? It is because they are so desperate for our benjamins over there they don’t care not to get credit. But it sounds a lot like when my friend in school copied my homework and put his name on it.

With that said, you get what you pay for, although you get a little bit more and pay a little bit less when it comes straight from china.

The fact is, both chinese manufactured goods designed in the west and chinese manufactured goods “ripped off” have increased in quality substantially in the last 10 years. So much that I say they are on par with products made in the US.

The only notable exception to that to my knowledge has been chinese made capacitors (which were based on a design stolen from Japan, that has been since revised). You might remember those caps swelling up inside Dell PC’s, Apple iMacs and some philips DVD players.

-arr

Posted by Aurelio R. Ramos on October 22, 2007 at 2:23 PM (PDT)

19

This company may have been originally approached by ASUS to make this product.  Obviously it didn’t make the cut so they have to sell it under a different name.

Most companies producing “clones” or “replicas”, especially in China were originally approached by Brand names to see if they can be potential manufacturing bases.  Instead of being paid, they negotiate to get rights to the original the design (albeit without propriety features). 

It is no surprise that some have purposely produced inferior products so that the Brand name doesn’t take them on and they can just function on their own.  Nokia, Apple, ASUS, Lego to name a few have been “replicated” by Chinese companies but then again - Where are the genuine ones made?  When an Apple iPod “clone” was released to the market a Techno mag editor sent countless messages to Apple to see what they thought of the issue.  They wouldn’t answer his call. 

Most Brand names won’t take action unless (as stated above) propriety features have been copied or the name is almost the same.  A lot of companies are afraid that if they were to take any action they would suffer a serious backlash from any potential future manufacturing bases in China.

Posted by Nick Micar on June 2, 2009 at 3:14 AM (PDT)

20

People who denigrate clones and knockoffs should know,(they’re too young to remember!), that big companies like Panasonic, JVC,(owned by RCA before the war), Realistic and a lot of Korean companies, all got their start as makers of cheap, often only “fair to middlin’” quality consumer electronics. When the markets were saturated and US manufacturers couldn’t keep up in the price wars, and were unable to build good , hand wired transistorized equipment, the Asian clone and knockoff makers took over the markets, making Japan one of the hottest makers of almost everything new in the 20th century.
The expression “made in Japan” was a one liner on late night TV and in all Western countries meaning anything that broke down after a week of use and was impossible to fix but was cheap and sold in huge numbers. The Japanese realized this and began a national movement to turn the expression on it’s head. So today, when someone says “made in Japan”, it generally means a superior item, made with care and using quality components. Far superior to almost everything still made by US manufacturers.
  Clones tend to be only a few months or a year behind those they are imitating.

Posted by meloop on December 7, 2011 at 9:43 AM (PDT)

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