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

Buying an phone like the Samsung Galaxy S4 should be fairly straightforward. But the fact that there are fake handsets floating around makes things slightly more difficult.

Published onJuly 5, 2013

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

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