Counterfeit mobile phones

May 9, 2019

Mobile phones have in many ways become a convenient tool for many consumers. The devices not only help people communicate but enable people to access many other functions like gaming, interacting with other people through the internet, listening to the radio, taking pictures – an all in one tool. 

Today many consumers struggle to tell the difference between a genuine and counterfeit phone. Counterfeit mobile phone manufacturers imitate all facets of a branded phone’s appearance to make their products appear genuine. 

While it is always preferable to buy a phone through a registered retailer or reseller who can vouch for a phone’s authenticity, the prevalence of internet shopping and auction websites mean this may not always be an option. Counterfeit phones are always sold for much cheaper prices when compared to genuine phones, hence influencing many consumers to opt for them. However if you are in the market for a legitimate brand of phone, you need to know how to spot counterfeits. 

Know the phone 

It is important to do a little research before buying a new phone. You should only buy a phone made by a trusted manufacturer. Before committing to a purchase you should know the phone’s specific model number, available colours, features, what software and hardware comes included and what warranty is offered with the product. 

Information about a specific model of phone can be found on the manufacturer’s website or through a registered retailer. This information will make the job of identifying a fake much easier. 


On first glance a counterfeit phone may appear identical to a genuine model. On closer comparison you may be able to identify some obvious differences between a genuine and a fake mobile product such as: the colour, location of buttons, size or spelling of the brand name. 

Some fakes have a very close resemblance to the original thing. Counterfeiters are able to mimic design details down to minute details making it difficult to tell if a phone is genuine. If you are able to view the product in person you may be able to notice a difference in weight, screen size, location of buttons and battery, quality of printing and paint finish, added or missing functions, quality control stickers and holograms and an overall lack of quality. 


Counterfeit phones can have differing features to genuine models. Check the model number and technical specifications of the genuine phone you wish to buy and ensure they match what is being offered. Counterfeit phones also often appear to offer features that are either not there or are not as they are said to be. Counterfeit phones may also differ from a genuine phone in colour availability, memory capacity, camera megapixels, screen quality and operating system. It is important to compare technical features to ensure the phone is genuine. 


Black market phones are made from sub-standard and cheap components and often run on second rate or pirated operating systems. 

Counterfeiters use cheap older generation chipsets, which may offer the same functionality as a genuine model but at far slower processing speeds. 

If you have unknowingly purchased a fake phone you will realise very quickly once you turn it on. Processing speeds are often much slower, operating systems have missing features and the phone may not be compatible with affiliated software and applications. 


Counterfeit mobile phones tend to pour on to the market when a genuine model is out of stock or unavailable. 

Often if manufacturers and registered sellers say a model is out of stock or unavailable, counterfeits begin to appear on auction websites and through unregistered sellers. This is also common when a phone is not available in certain colours. 

Beware, counterfeiters take this opportunity to deceive consumers when the genuine product is most in demand. 

IMEI number 

Every genuine mobile phone has a serial number to register it to a carrier network. This number is called the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. The IMEI number can be used to verify the legitimacy of a phone. Often counterfeit models won’t have an IMEI number or use a fake one. 

If you are viewing the phone in person then you can find the IMEI number on the product packaging, under the phone’s battery or by pressing *#06# on the phone. If you are not viewing the phone in person then you should ask the retailer for the phone’s IMEI number. 

Consumers are urged to contact the Council on 155 should they come across issues of counterfeit phones. Alternatively they can email