In the 1970s, when I first became interested in computers, Apple impressed me. The company's products looked good and worked well. Steve Wozniak was a hero of mine because of the beautiful electronic designs which he produced. The Apple ][ offered much to an aspiring young teenage software enthusiast, and I wished my pocket money could afford one. In the 1980s, I got to use the original Lisa, which was very impressive at the time, as well as the much simplified first generation Mac which was impressive at a slightly more plausible price-point. These were innovative products and Apple was impressive at that time.
Sadly, it is now a long time since Apple as a company innovated technically. They rely on marketing hype and an over-eager legal department to try to win over their competition (often arguing over concepts which are either trivial or which existed long ago) rather than attracting customers by making a better product. Apple stopped innovating technically quite some years ago. This together with the walled garden for software has made Apple into a company that I'd rather not be connected with. I think that's a shame, but losing their technical edge and relying on marketing is a path taken by many businesses as they grow.
Enter the clone (short "iphone5" review)
The rear panel is removeable, battery replaceable, two SIM cards can be used and the memory can be expanded with an SD card. Why didn't Apple provide these features ?
A couple of years ago I was given an "iPhone". Not a real one, but the inexpensive Chinese clone shown on this page which from the outside looks quite remarkably like a real iPhone 3. No attempt is made to clone the inside and is actually a fairly standard Chinese Java phone with a touchscreen interface.
The resistive touch screen gives an interface which at first appearance is remarkably the same as a real iPhone, with slide to unlock as well as multiple pages of icons for apps.
Features include twin SIM card slots, a Micro SD card slot, two cameras (front and back with flash) and a replaceable battery. The real iPhone might have included some of these features if it had not been designed as a disposable product. That is was possible to include them in a low cost clone which is exactly the same size as the real thing proves that there is space within the real thing.
While the clone iPhone works well, I don't use it often. I wouldn't use it in public for fear that someone would think I'd bought an Apple product and I'd really not want to be thought to have bought into their marketing hype. My cheap Android tablet works very well for what I want such a device to do, and as a mobile phone I'm still quite happy with a Siemens from 2006. That still works and I feel no need to replace it because the world of mobile phones has moved on to fashionable jewellery items.
So what's the clone good for ?
Web browser displaying a photo of the EO, Granddaddy of the iPhone and its clone.
The phone works well. Both SIM cards can be used at once, wifi works well and the Opera web browser allows viewing of almost any web page. While the processor in the clone is not particularly fast, Opera is efficient, and the facebook java app running on this clone is faster than the dreadful facebook HTML5 Android app on any Android device (this is facebook's fault, not the devices).
You can watch videos or view photos stored in the internal memory or the SD card, headphones can be plugged in to the socket, and it has a connector on the base which fits any device which works with a genuine iPhone.
Under the battery, the device claims to be an iPhone 5G
The front and back cameras can both be used to take either stills or video, and the rear camera has a flash. However, the cameras are not of great quality but something more in fitting with a low price-point in 2010 when the product was made. See below for samples.
Physically, the device very strongly resembles a genuine iPhone 3 or 3G. Only by looking quite closely can the differences be seen, and these basically come down to the inevitably cheaper construction methods used to reach a much lower price point.
If you want an iPhone purely for its value as jewellery then the clone will likely work as well as the real thing as long as you don't let people get too close. If you want functionality, buy an Android phone. However, if you already own a mobile phone which still works, why not just continue to use it. The rate at which people replace these things has become quite ludicrous. Products need to be designed for long lives of reliable operation, not to be disposable.
On connecting to a computer with USB, the phone gives three choices. It can work as a USB mass storage device, as a webcam or as a "COM port". lsusb shows that the device identifies itself as being made by MediaTek. If connected as a webcam it's a MediaTek MT6227 and it works with the Linux UVC drivers.
Selecting the lower resolution seems almost completely pointless as you can store a lot of these photos on an SD card. However, this may actually be as good as it gets. I'm not sure that the sensor is really of greater than 320x240 resolution.
Video quality is quite poor even compared with the still photo of the same scene just above:
In conclusion, it's a working phone with some quite useful features that you won't find from a genuine Apple product. These include a replaceable battery pack and two SIM cards. Functionally, it works perfectly well as a telephone and has the ability to quickly take a (low quality) photo and send it through email. There is one drawback: if you use it then people might think that you're the sort of person who buys Apple products.
As I was saying...
A few days after I wrote this web page a video appeared on youtube which demonstates quite nicely how Apple products are sold as "must have" latest jewellery, and not on their merits:
My first experience of tablet computers with telephones attached was way back in 1991. Newer devices are better, but there are very few innovations since then which go beyond normal progressive improvements given the new technology which has emerged since that time.