Don’t be a victim: How to spot a fake Samsung Galaxy S4 (or any other name brand smartphone)

July 5, 2013
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Fake Samsung Galaxy S4
With Samsung still holding on to its place at the very top of the world smartphone market, there is no shortage of China-made clones of its most popular handsets — namely, the Galaxy S3 and its current flaship, the Galaxy S4. Unlike the imitation phones of many years ago, the ones that you can purchase now look very similar to the models that they are based on. And not only that, but in some cases, clones can even surpass the original in terms of features (which is quite confusing).

And so we have a bit of a problem: how do you spot — and avoid — imitation, clone, or downright fake Android smartphones? What steps can you take to ensure that you don’t become just another victim of a sort of scam involving phones like the Galaxy S4, or rather, fake ones? Recently, users on reddit posted about their unfortunate experiences in buying fake Samsung handsets.

These were phones sold online (one was specified to be from eBay), and had the general appearance of the real thing. However, they were revealed to be mere clones upon closer inspection. Buying a so-called China phone is generally not a bad idea. But in cases like these where there’s deception involved, well, that’s a different issue entirely.

So with that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some things you need to watch out for when trying to figure out whether the phone you’re about to buy is authentic or not. Throughout this post, we’ll be using the Galaxy S4 as an example, but these signs could be used for just about any other name brand phone as well. We’re going to start with the obvious.

Physical differences

Fake Samsung Galaxy S4 front
A Galaxy S4 clone may look similar to the real Galaxy S4, which it is based on, but it will hardly look identical. So if you are able to physically look at it (or even just see it through a photo), you should make it a point to study its physical attributes.

An authentic Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch touchscreen display that doesn’t have much of a bezel surrounding it. Clones (such as the one pictured here) often have larger spaces between the display and the actual edge of the phone, which is a sure sign that the display is either smaller than it’s supposed to be or the phone is not as compact as the designers intended.

Another thing to consider is the placement of hardware buttons, such as the prominent home button right below the screen. The real Galaxy S4 has a chrome-lined piece of plastic for its home button, and it is located right in the middle of the space below the display. Clone units have the home button placed a small distance lower, giving a slightly different appearance.

It has also been reported that clone units don’t have capacitive touch buttons flanking the home button. That’s pretty much a dead giveaway. In case you still need more pointers, also consider the appearance of the brand logo, the size and color of the built-in LED flash, the smoothness or overall feel of the phone’s surface, and the grippability along with the weight of the unit itself.

Once you’ve got all of the above things covered, your next move should be to examine the phone’s software.

Software quirks

Fake Samsung Galaxy S4 screens
In case you still can’t spot a fake by examining a unit’s hardware, you still have a chance by looking at the pre-installed software. In the case of the Samsung Galaxy S4, the pre-loaded version of Android should be version 4.2.2. It should also have TouchWiz, which is Samsung’s very own custom-made UI or skin for Android. How do you find out whether or not a phone is running the version of Android that it’s supposed to? Why, head to the Settings screen, of course.

However, that isn’t always foolproof. Above, you can see photos of a phone which, according to its Settings screen, is running Android 4.2.2. But the software actually looks nothing like Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2′s codename). And the truth is that it’s running Android 2.3 a.k.a. Gingerbread (as evidenced by the Build number specified in the same Settings screen).

This is not normal — for a phone to say it runs one version of Android and completely show that it actually runs another. You can easily look up screenshots of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean to see it for yourself, and to make sure that the phone you’re buying has that exact same software pre-installed and running right out of the box.

And speaking of software that runs right out of the box, all units of the Samsung Galaxy S4 come with exclusive software features. These simply cannot be found anywhere else. For clone units, of course, these features are all off-limits. So if you ever get a fake phone, you’ll find that some features are missing. Like user mhoffma on reddit, you may find that things like Air Scrolling don’t work. That would certainly get in the way of watching Monster’s University like a wizard, just as the commercial shows.

Final thoughts

Fake Samsung Galaxy S4 new
Buying an Android smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 should be a fairly straightforward endeavor. You look for a phone, you see the phone, you pay for the phone, and you get the phone. But the fact that there are fake handsets floating around makes things slightly more difficult.

Will we ever get rid of these so-called clones and imitation units? It’s hard to say. The differences between real and fakes ones seem to be getting fewer and fewer with each generation. But it should always be possible to avoid buying fake units if you know what to look for.

Another tell to look for is whether the device you bought includes the warranty card and Galaxy S4 manual. If it does not that is a good sign that you have purchased a fake.

As a final reminder, always be wary of a phone that’s being sold with a markedly lower price tag than its current market value. We’d like to think that clones and fakes will always be sold at much lower price points than the original models, because doing otherwise would be just plain evil.

Do you have any tips for spotting a fake Samsung (or any other brand) Android smartphone? What about tablets? Share these secrets in the comments.

Credit goes to users f****duphere and mhoffma on reddit for all photos used in this post

Comments

  • Jérémy Castellano

    I always get my phones from the easiest way on this planet: My favorite carrier. At least you don’t get a cheap replica.

    • Daniel DS

      But you pay 140% of the internet’s price :/

    • lil bit

      but you do get ripped off either way. Carrier locked phones are disgusting

  • Ahmad Mysterios Chmail

    if you want to buy a Device with such a high price , dont buy it online , get your lazy ass outside , examine the piece .. or buy from a trusted online dealer .. not thru eBay

    • Phila2121

      NOT everyone wants to buy NEW or higher price of used one at the dealer.
      Some ppl wants to buy on CL.

    • john

      i have a question i want to buy an galaxy s4, i will buy a low price or a high price

  • STRiKER

    i wonder why this piece of article was written in first place. tells me nothing concrete!

    • http://www.davidvgonzales.com/ David Gonzales

      What did you feel was missing from the article?

      • Jake

        I believed this was a good article. Thanks

        • Phila2121

          There is not ONE distinctive thing he points out that can be easily spotted the fake one.
          He talks about the Warranty Card and Manual, which is easily acquired and can still be fake S4. It doesnt help much to point out these 2 things for us to spot the real one.
          It is like Person A asking Person B, “have you eaten”, Person B answers “I just showered”. It is NOT really helping to tell us, the readers, about the Warranty Card and Manual, because these 2 things can be acquired from the real S4. He should be focusing on the phone itself, what separate the real and fake, not the freaking Manual and W.CArd. That’s redundant.

          • Karan Khurana

            As he mentioned no can tell that “one” thing which distinguishes the the fake from a genuine one. This is because there are hundreds of manufacturers in China manufacturing clones of high end devices. Each of them try to copy the device in their own way. So while one device may not have Jellybean but may have air gesture features and yet there may be another one which has Jellybean but no air gestures. With my personal experience I have found that there are 2 concrete ways to spot the clone:

            1. The pre installed live and normal wallpapers of Samsung. So pick up an original S4 of one of your friends and check out the preinstalled wallpaper list. Clones wont have many or all of those wallpapers. Or even if they have them they would be of a low resolution. You would easily know the difference.
            2. 1080p video playback. Clones always tend to lag when put through heavy tests like 1080p video play back or heavy gaming because these devices do not have powerful Octa core or Snapdragon 800 processor.

            of course there are other ways but these are primarily the one which I think that none of the clones have. Hope that helps

          • simona

            To spot the fake samsung galaxy s4 just go to camera options nd you will see that is only 2mp camera at the back,I know that because I bought one fake one today…

    • Phila2121

      I AGREE.

  • George Av

    If it has a apple logo it’s on it – it’s fake :P

    • Jeremy Decker

      That makes no sense. Nice try kid.

      • lil bit

        Makes sense to me. All fake phones was iPhone for a while, the Apple logo became synonymous with fake products.

      • George Av

        Then obviously your to dumb to understand English

        • grammar

          *you’re *too

          • George Av

            -_- Great. Another retarded nazi that thinks it’s cool to correct people.

          • Mini

            lol you are the one who is trying to make lame jokes. Then you make simple grammar mistakes. Now you call hime a retard nazi.
            Like seriously, how old you are kid?

          • My1

            would you please be so nice and refrain from calling grammar-strict people nazis, this is a serious insult and discrimination to german people, and by the way, yes I am German…

          • nishantsirohi123

            if you are wrong and someone corrects you , how does that makes him a nazi
            when you preach about english language, make sure you type it correctly at least that one instant

          • Sarah

            better than making fun of people who might not be english native speakers! Ha, and I wonder what the hell makes people be proud of speaking their mother tongue?!

    • mms

      idiot

      • Jake

        hahaha

      • George Av

        Weirdo.

        • Rehan

          hahaha.. I salute your persistence!

    • Wayne Britain

      TROLL of DICK HED

  • SContrerasMer

    once i saw a fake SII wich had a polycarbonate resistive touchscreen

  • SContrerasMer

    Buy from amazon or if you want a nexus buy from google play

  • Emmanuel

    I saw an S3 in a store and immediately noticed it was fake because the sensors and camera above the screen were larger and not placed on the same side as on my (original) S3.

  • Cheow

    Just run a geek bench benchmark test and see if it gets a score above 3000, and that the actual phone specs matches up…

  • jake

    Some kid in my school bought a fake s4 and though it was real. He was bragging and I said it was fake. He denied it and figured it out when I pulled out my galaxy s4 that actually had a home button. lol, freaking idiot.

  • Lil bit

    One of my ex gf didn’t talk to me for 2 months after I pointed out why her Galaxy Note was a fake. The lack of an s-pen, the 4 capacitive buttons and Go launcher kind of gave it away. Another girl I used to bang said iPhone had models with keypad, not all iPhones had touchscreen, her keypad iPhone was not a fake but maybe I was a fake who didn’t know that.

  • M2

    Theres a almost perfect clone with decent specs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIDKk79NwB8

  • Thomas

    Hi – nice sharing!

    Just wanna put in my bit of heads-up for “S4/S3 lookalikes clones” that are sold as USED units with somewhat attractive prices. As ‘used’ units aka 2nd hand unit, it is expected the price is lower but that’s where the bait is set.

    Another deception used by sellers is using an actual genuine unit to demonstrate as a ‘good condition used unit’ and then swapping it with a clone on the pretext of ‘preparing & installing free apps’-this may take a brief waiting time where the switch takes place.

    Sellers also indicate “S4, non-ori” instead of “Samsung S4″ in the receipt invoice with non-returnable or non-exchangeable condition clauses, to throw victims off. Legal action can still be initiated by the buyer for ‘misleading’ and ‘deceiving’ grounds.

    Buy from authorized dealers and buy NEW when possible.

    Cheers from Malaysia :)

    • Muhammad Nashriq

      Yes..ive been in that situation also…the place was at pertama complex..i was buying for my wife a secondhand galaxy s2..so im being an iphone user,i cant really tell the fake ones for galaxy models apart from their screen,buil number and ram..idk but i think its fake cause how many s2 you saw with the sd card slot lying underneath the sim slot as opposed to the common where it suppose to be beside the sim slot..and the performance is terrible..i mean,seriously,s2 showing only G status and its like so light..if its a fake iphone u wouldve tell it right that moment also..but for my case,the screen looks very identical to the original.,but again,idk..

  • Iamwhoiam

    I think they sell fakes.. http://www.kyndapresenta.com/

  • zach

    This article is outdated… you get clones that are 100% 1:1 and the problems addressed in this article are not existent any longer. the only way to find out is to run benchmark tests I guess. The specs are slightly different in clones usually however, still superb and out class most other phones.

    • Caker

      Thats incorrect.
      Most fake phones have bad SoCs that cant even outclass Tegra 3 devices. That says alot because 2012 flagsips are both cheap and powerful and there is a lightyear in performance and quality when comparing fake devices with originals.

  • Syed Salman Ahmed

    The most easy way to spot the fake model is that it wont have an app named ‘samsung apps”, instead it will have an app with the same icon named just ‘apps’. This is the deal breaker, as the fake models have no way to get access to samsung apps and they will hence have ‘apps’ icon instead- Im posting this from my personal experience with a fake samsung galaxy s3 mini.

    • mohammad

      I have fake Samsung with “Samsung apps” applicaton

      • npataya .

        r u using samsung s4?

  • Syed Salman Ahmed

    or else download standard quadrant and check the system info for total ram and also run a benchmark test with it. If score is very low compared to normal score then its fake, also total ram will be less than specified..for ex s3 mini should have 1gb ram..but the quadrant app was showing just around 300mb total.

  • Phila2121

    how about Multi windows (split screen?)

  • Phila2121

    You pointed out 4.2.2 then you said it is not foolproof.
    If it is not, then why tell us? Why can’t you just cut to the chase and tell us ONE or 2 things that can EASILY help us spot the REAL from the FAKE?
    Like the MULTI-WINDOWS feature that only S4 has. (note II too)

  • xtian

    i wonder if the clone s4 can access on samsung site

  • tim1

    but also the most fake ones had a yellow led flasher and the real one had a white led i know it say in the artical but wanna let you gusy know :)

  • VIS

    the BEST thing to do is Perform a FACTORY RESET! you will see that the samsung logo that was there before will be changed by a logo that now says that its a MOBILE; no more SAMSUNG LOGO will appear on boot up; damn clones ruined my day.. hope it will not have this ahpppen to you..

    • kelviv mush

      nyc. damn the clones! i did that and boom…the samsung startup logo disappears…on a measly “circle” logo

  • Shalinda

    Thanks buddy,that helps much :)

  • Gaming Gear

    Samsung product cheap on sales
    click more http://sungsamgalaxy.blogspot.com/

  • manjit

    can any one please help to ensure that photos we can see in the article are of original one gs4 or of fake

  • MadCowOnAStick

    “flaship”

  • Mike

    I just bought a china made s4..cause iam a phone retard..I was trying to surprise my wife,but not to realize the touch scream was not glass it was more like a plastic. And the camera takes horrible blurry pictures..wish I would of thought of looking at the Internet b4 purchasing the phone..lol

  • Caker

    The easiest way to spot fake Samsung devices , in thise case only amoled devices, is to look at the screen when it opens, then go into a black bacground.
    If its pure black, its probably not fake but if it has screen bleeding and a light coming out it, its fake. Its resolution is also a big sign.

    Fakers dont use AMOLED screens or FULL HD screens.
    That should be a dead giveaway. Another thing is battery, look at the batter. Most fake batteries have distinct text that makes it easily possible to spot that its fake.

  • Nikhil

    Will whatsapp wirk on the fake s4

  • Arnie Saknussen

    I find weighing the phone with battery included and comparing it to the weight of the real thing, is a great indicator. I saw two fake S4 i9505 yesterday, the real thing weighs 132g with battery, the fakes were 10g lighter. It is extremely unlikely a clone or fake would be identical in terms of weight. You can find the weight the phone is supposed to be by searching the net, if you don’t have an actual phone to weigh

  • http://www.brickellprincess.com/ Brickell Princess

    The only way to determine if your Samsung phone is really a genuine unit is to place it in the microwave. Samsung Galaxy S4 models i9505 come with built in MicroCharge technology which uses ambient microwave energy to charge the phone’s battery. This allows the phone to fully charge in 1 minute and 30 seconds using microwave energy. But do not turn the microwave on. If the phone fully charges while sitting in the microwave for1 minute and 30 seconds then you have a genuine phone. If it does not charge at all, then you bought a fake. Apple also copied this technology from Samsung except that the iPhone and iPad require that you actually turn on the microwave but only for 30 seconds and you’ll get a half charge; which Apple claims is enough. Go figure!

    • Tokopol

      That shit is hilarious. Did you come here from 4chan?

  • Tokopol

    S4 fakes aren’t that big of a deal. I mean, if you pay $300 or whatever for them, yeah, that sucks. But you can get them for like $15 if you know what you’re doing, and they’re pretty decent copies.

  • reed

    The safest way to know if your galaxy phone is fake or original is check it’s IMEI number on http://www.IMEI.info…Yes you can check it by verifying it’s hardware or system configuration, but some fake galaxy phones are pretty exactly the same as the original ones. They got the exact same hardware and system version, they are called master copy, carbon copy, premium copy, 1:1 copy and so on…
    check this out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AWxirDwApY
    Suppose you are verifying a galaxy s4, get it’s IMEI by dialing *#06# and place it at imei.info; if the phone is original, the next page should load up with a detail of galaxy s4, if NOT it will show some other phone’s detail….hope it helps

  • Ivan

    another thing, the led flash on a fake is a darker yellow and the real s4 is not it should be more lighter

  • Wayne Britain

    I am unable to run Google Play Store , i get unreadable text and out of memory errors. Also camera highest setting is only 2megapixel

  • some random guy

    I know a good way to spot a fake s4 by looking at the back of the phone. Take out the batery case and pay atention to the upper right corner (i guess its the right side) you can find some kind of a trapdor in that dor you should see a screw. If not, i’m sure its a fake. And the LCD is much brightier than the original.

  • clones hater

    under option there should be “add samsung account”

  • c3ars

    What about checking the battery compartment to see if it was made in Korea or China. Samsung is a Korean company that makes their own equipment.

  • HonestJ

    This article is very poorly written and only adds to the confusion of how to spot a fake S4

  • haryl

    How to spot fake? It so simple, fake and clone s4 uses mediatek chipset and original uses kraitz! Duh! Dats ol! B smart enough!!

    • gun

      Nice one kid tnx

  • Jay

    i have samsung s4 china it’s not start now only show logo

  • AdamRich

    I just bought one here in Manila a few minutes ago. Of course I knew it was a fake. Guy started off at $250. After trying it out I told him I would give him $100. I did come read this article between meeting the guy and the completion of the transaction. Dead giveaways: 1. As Wayne Britain said, really shitty cam and video. 2. It had Android 4.4 (according to the settings) KitKat already installed. 3. Some Random Guy said that on the original when you remove the back cover there is a screw in the upper right corner; that was not present on the fake. Other than that everything appeared good. The little motion sensor worked. Music sounded great, which is pretty much why I bought it. WATCH OUT: What fucked me is that the memory in the phone’s settings said 16GB, but when I hooked it up to my computer, My Computer said it was only 12MB!!!! LOL So much for trying to install more apps. I will probably end up giving it away to some chick.

  • Rimau

    Just look at the battery pin.. Original has 4 pin but clone only has 3

  • guest

    I bought that SAME exact phone, and of course, “when a deal seems to good to be true it probably is”. I noticed that the phone I bought was still unable to perform ANY of the motion sensing capabilities of the authentic Galaxy S4, not to mention is was pathetically slow, it would lag while unlocking the home screen. When you go to the settings section there is suppose to be a section where you can alter your “sensor setting”. In the phone I bought, which is identical to the one in these pictures, it had no such thing. I have realized it is better to buy it at a retail store where you know you will be purchasing an authentic phone.

    This is of course, if you have to pay full retail price, or you do not have an available upgrade, etc. Now, I would much rather pay an extra $150.00 to avoid the hassle, and know for a FACT I have received the “real thing”.

    EXCELLANT JOB on this article, to whomever had written it, at least. I wish I had found it a week ago.

  • Shaunak

    Go and see some chinese shopping sites

    There are S4 clones which use the exact same body as S4, and the software, although different, is quite a good clone, with air gestures and all.

    But these good clones with quad core MTK chipsets usually cost way more than these shoddy gingerbread fakes.

  • GS4

    perhaps it would be more informative if you could provide a photos, a clone and the genuine side by side…

  • Jack

    I was a victim yesterday..Wished I had read this article earlier..Anyway am trying to resell the cheap junk of plastic on OLX.

  • Marlon Bryson

    am locked out of my Fake Galaxy S4 GT-I9500 want to know to do a hard reset

  • http://google.com Marlon Bryson

    am locked out of my Fake Galaxy S4 GT-I9500 want to know to do a hard reset

  • Gamerboy

    On the S4. The Samsung sticker on the front starts to peel off.

  • want to help

    there a app that runs the bench mark and tell you if you have a real phone or fake. its on the app market

  • Thobani

    my dad bought me a “Samsung S4″ this weekend and i just got it. it cant even connect to the wifi. so disappointing. please watch out for these fake phones guys. why don’t cellphone companies tip us on these kind of things!!? i just feel like throwing this piece of shit on the wall! are there any legal steps one can take to put these people behind bars?

  • Abderrahman

    Sometimes the number of holes on the top front speaker is not equal to 17 as the genuine one! I’ve got one fake having only 15 holes!

  • Abderrahman

    Am talking about S4 mini..

  • Shashwat Black

    i actually have a fake s4 model that i got as a gift. can i install cyanogen mod on it to make it more usable?

  • Nitish Kumar Prajapati

    fake galaxy S4′s flash is Yellowish rather than White

  • Sambamurthy Raju

    Yesterday I went to buy S4 for very low price than market, the phone was so identitical that you cant belive it’s fake even after u know that its fake. IMEI info website shows as samsung and all correct info so imeinfo.com is usefull to identify the fake one. thank god I had the galaxy geninue apk with me, I installed and checkd,its showed the true info of the phone. So better you have the galaxy geninue apk, One thing I noticed is when I opened the file explorer it showed only 1.32GB availabel for internal phone memory which is wrong for a new phone.