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Apple Watch, iPhone lookalikes litter the Chinese booths at MWC (pictures)

If there's anything that we've learned from Mobile World Congress, it's that Shenzhen manufacturers are ridiculously good at copying everyone -- and each other.

Aloysius Low
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
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BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress is the place for major smartphone makers such as Samsung to make their glamorous flagship announcements. But manufacturers based in Shenzhen, China also use the show to find buyers for their devices, which as you'll see look extremely familiar.

Sold in batches, usually above 1,000 units, these companies can easily customize the branding that will appear on their phones when they hit stores.

Seen here is an iPhone 4S clone, but running Android instead.

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Smartwatches appeared to also be a popular device for copying -- you can easily make out the Samsung Galaxy Gear designs, and on the bottom right, an Apple Watch looking device but sporting a circular home button instead.

Since the switch to the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5 onwards, Shenzhen manufacturers have been releasing phones that feature a circle for the home button instead.

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Even big Chinese manufacturers are not safe -- seen here is a copy of the Oppo N1, though this version sports only an 8-megapixel camera and lacks the motorized swivel camera of the newer N3.

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Here's another copy of an Oppo phone that I found at another booth -- this time it's a rip-off of the Oppo Find 7. I spotted a copy of the OnePlus One design as well.

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Sometimes, though, you'll find original devices, though not very good ones. This one shown here is a low-budget device and while the soft-touch plastic rear is good to hold, the LCD display isn't of a very good quality.

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This phone by Zues Palm technology comes with Transformer icons -- I'm not sure if the company has the license for it, but it's possible -- and a case accessory for gaming.

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Most of the phones are laid out on display to attract potential buyers. If you look Chinese (I do), they'll try speaking to you in Mandarin first. But when they find out you're from the press, the staff sometimes refuse to let you take pictures.

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Most of the phone designs are pretty generic, each model deviating very slightly from the next. Internally, they're much the same, with similarly minor hardware differences.

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Smartphones aren't the only thing that are on display -- there's still a market for feature phones, apparently.

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These two iPhone lookalikes were very similar to another "new" phone that was on display. I wasn't allowed to shoot that one, but given the similarities, I did wonder what was the point of hiding it.

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As you walk around the booths of these Shenzhen-based companies, you'll start having a feeling of déjà vu, like you're in the Matrix.

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One of the interesting phones that seemed to be getting a lot of attention from buyers from India and Eastern Europe was this Card Phone. It's a tiny 2G phone with its own SIM, and can be paired to your smartphone to make calls as well. According to the vendor, the phone will sell for just $10 (arond £6.50 or AU$13).

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I was quite enamoured with the Card Phone -- it's similar to the HTC Mini+, but a lot cheaper and slightly more functional.

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Rugged handsets were also on display. Nomu (which means to drink in Japanese) showed off its device in a water tank -- which helped it get some attention.

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These phones are also mil-spec rugged, but lack the presentation skills of the neighbouring booth.

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How many iPhone clones does one need? Some of these designs ape Xiaomi's budget Redmi range.

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And in case you're wondering, it's not just Apple that Shenzhen companies copy. On the far right, you'll spot a Samsung clone with a very familiar physical home button.

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