Apple Watch Faces Attack of the Clones at CES - Official Apple Launch is Still Months Away......

January 8, 2015 4:07 am

Apple Watch faces attack of the clones at CES

By Tim Bradshaw and Sarah Mishkin in Las Vegas

Apple’s new smart watch is still months away from going on sale but it already faces an attack of the clones.

Near-identical copies of the $350 Apple Watch were on display at several Chinese manufacturers’ stalls at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, costing as little as $60 apiece.

The brazen forgery at the world’s largest technology fair shows the speed, boldness and uncanny accuracy with which China’s counterfeiters can mimic even pioneering products.

The Apple Watch fakes seen by the Financial Times — some just a short walk from the booths of well-known brands such as Oculus VR and Broadcom — were identical down to the distinctive “digital crown” controller on the side of the device and four sensors on the underside.

The devices were often switched off but representatives of the Shenzhen-based companies that made them said they ran a version of Google’s Android operating system, redesigned to look more like Apple’s iOS. All were lined up next to other wearable devices bearing an uncanny resemblance to Samsung’s Gear smart watches or fitness trackers such as Fitbit and the Misfit Shine.

When asked if the design of one of a range of ersatz smart watches on the front desk of her stand looked familiar, one employee of Shenzhen-based Zhuhai Liming Industries giggled and said: “Apple?” Asked whether Apple might be upset by the similarity to its forthcoming watch, she said: “They are different.”

The $350 Apple Watch wearable device©AFP

Apple Watch knock-off on display at CES©Tim Bradshaw

Another stall owner, after the Financial Times took a photograph of another Apple Watch copy, quietly removed the device from display while asking for the reporter’s contact details. Separately, a manufacturer showing watches at CES similar to Apple’s also had them up for sale on Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba’s wholesale site.
Ben Bajarin, tech analyst with Creative Strategies, who also spotted several fakes at CES, said the forgeries were no longer surprising. “China makes a lot of knock-off high-end watches,” he said.
Copies of its iPhones and iPads have made little difference to Apple’s sales, he added, because they appeal to different kinds of customers who know they are buying fakes.

Apple declined to comment.

“These products would never leave China,” Mr Bajarin said, other than to court potential business partners at a trade show. “But you’re going to see a flood of these low-cost Android smart watches in China. They are using the design as an entry point — it’s easier for them to copy.”

Yet Chinese companies displaying such obvious knock-offs were in the minority at CES.
Lenovo, now the world’s biggest PC maker by market share, launched new high-end tablets and showed off what it said was its 100 millionth ThinkPad laptop shipped.

Other major Chinese companies — among them Haier, TCL and Hisense — displayed new large-screen TVs, appliances, and other electronics aimed at building name recognition for themselves in the US market.

Dozens of small Chinese manufacturers were also clustered in small booths near the back of the Las Vegas convention centre, promoting everything from contract manufacturing services to cheap Android tablets, spare battery packs, and special poles for taking selfies.

“Selfie poles are very popular now,” said Lily He, sales director for Guangdong-based manufacturer Kingjoy, which also had on display a large drone she said the company is hoping to sell in the US under its own brand.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015.


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