Say Hello to iClone


macrumors 601
Original poster
Jan 14, 2002
totally cool

The little gadget was bootleg gold, a secret treasure I'd spent months tracking down. The miniOne looked just like Apple's iPhone, down to the slick no-button interface. But it was more. It ran popular mobile software that the iPhone wouldn't. It worked with nearly every worldwide cellphone carrier, not just AT&T, and not only in the U.S. It promised to cost half as much as the iPhone and be available to 10 times as many consumers. The miniOne's first news teases—a forum posting, a few spy shots, a product announcement that vanished after a day—generated a frenzy of interest online. Was it real? When would it go on sale? And most intriguing, could it really be even better than the iPhone?

I made a hastily arranged flight to China to find out. Ella Wong, a marketing manager at Meizu, the Chinese company building the new phone, had invited me to come to the annual Hong Kong Electronics Fair only days before it began this April. We had been trading e-mails for weeks, negotiating access to the miniOne and the operation that produced it. Meizu cloned Apple's iPod Nano last year, establishing itself as a significant force in a music-player market far larger than Apple's: international consumers who had little access to either Macintosh computers or the iTunes music store. The miniOne was going to be on display at the fair, and Jack Wong, Meizu's CEO, would also be there. If I made a good impression, I would be invited to the company's headquarters and research facility on the mainland. "You'll be warmly welcome," Wong wrote me.

My journey was more than a pilgrimage born of techno-lust (though there was an element of that as well). Nearly every type of product can be—and is—cloned in China, sometimes so well that the ripped-off manufacturers inadvertently service the fakes when warranty claims come in. Cloners make air conditioners with the LG brand name in the country's remote west, along what was once the old Silk Road trading route. But cloners don't have to sell their wares under the same brand name: In Anhui province, near the Yangtze River, one of China's biggest auto manufacturers builds a part-for-part replica of a top-selling Chevrolet model, then slaps a new badge on the car. In the south, one cloning operation didn't just copy a technology company's product line—it duplicated the entire company, creating a shadow enterprise with corporate headquarters, factories, and sales and support staff.

But the miniOne represents the vanguard of this cloning revolution. Meizu isn't aspiring merely to copy the designs of a Western manufacturer on the cheap. The company plans to give the miniOne capabilities beyond the original. Does this signal the start of something bigger in China—the years of reverse engineering serving as a de facto education for the engineers who will soon transform China into a design and engineering powerhouse? Is China on the cusp of going legit?

Several hours after I arrived at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair, I finally found Meizu's (maddeningly unlisted) booth and asked for Ella Wong. She was sitting at a table, talking to a pair of potential customers. When she finished, I introduced myself. "Thanks for making this happen," I said. "Would this be a good time to start talking about the miniOne, or to make arrangements to meet Jack Wong?" I handed her a business card and a stack of magazines with stories I'd written. She thumbed through a few pages and smiled. "The phone? Mr. Wong? Oh, that may not be possible," she said. Silence. What about our e-mails, the conversations, the invitation? She was struggling to be polite. It isn't customary in China to be forced into an outright yes or no. "Come back," she said, "maybe in September."

Is this for real?


macrumors 604
Mar 17, 2004
So, it's a clone with more software features but lacking the killer app (the interface) and inferior hardware (no multitouch). A clone with which you'll smudge the screen if you don't use a stylus, and which you'll have to apply pressure to, not using your fingertips.

Kind of defeats the whole purpose of having an all-touch interface when it's pressure-based and smudgeable (meaning you have to use a stylus), doesn't it?


macrumors G3
Jan 11, 2002
Los Angeles
The pirating and counterfeiting ability in China seems to be more staggering each time I read about it. Not that I'm an expert or anything, but the author's thinking that China is right on the cusp of going legit and kicking out unique, top-of-the-line products seems a bit premature, IMO. There is a big difference between doing all the R&D to make a new, successful product and just ripping off that product. I mean, a local cover band might do a killer Stairway to Heaven, but that doesn't mean they can be the next Led Zeppelin.



macrumors P6
Jun 11, 2007
So, it's a clone with more software features but lacking the killer app (the interface) and inferior hardware (no multitouch). A clone with which you'll smudge the screen if you don't use a stylus, and which you'll have to apply pressure to, not using your fingertips.
u forgot to add that it wont run on macs. i hate companies that try to copy exactly companies products. there are so many ipod like devices tht look exactly the same. ggrrr