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Fake iPhone 5: 'HiPhone 5' Hits Chinese Market Before the Real Thing

Why wait several months and pay several hundreds of dollars for an iPhone 5 when you can get one now for only $31? That’s what copycat manufacturers in China are saying as they launch the HiPhone 5, which is designed according to what is known about Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone 5.

Taobao, China’s top online retail company, has been putting out fake iPhones for years now. However, this is the first time they put out their fake version before Apple was able to put out the real thing, CNet has reported today.

Chinese businesses copying Apple products and style is nothing new – last month, a firestorm was set off when a blogger discovered several fake Apple stores in the communist country. However, that obviously has not stopped companies like Taobao from using China’s lax copyright laws from using the Apple image to sell pirated products.

Despite the physical similarities to the iPhone, the HiPhone is not known for great quality. TechCrunch translated a “typical” buyer comment on Google regarding the hiPhone and Chinese consumers have complained about the poor call quality.

However, if you have a few more to spend, Taobao has a higher level knock-off which sells for about $140. Whether or not it will be up to the quality of the iPhone 5 is yet to be seen.

Although Taobao products are not widely available in the US, other countries are big-time consumers of pirated electronics from China. Emerging superpower Brazil is a growing consumer of China’s copycat merchandise, according to Forbes, where they are sold in abundance and growing in popularity.

Apple products can cost two to three times the normal retail rate in Brazil. Apple CEP Steve Jobs blames the eight-largest economies' heavy import tax for the inflated rate. “We cannot even export our products, with Brazil’s crazy policy of super-high taxation,” he told Brazilian newspaper, O Globo.

“This makes it very unattractive to invest in Brazil. Many high-tech companies feel this way.”

The heavy tax burden along with the lower wages of Brazilian consumers versus their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe make “almost-Apple” products an attractive alternative and might end up allowing the HiPhone 5 to make high profits in South America at Apple’s cost.

Despite the fact that Apple might be the world’s most sought-after brand, sometimes the price really is all that matters.

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