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The rise and fall of counterfeit phones

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By Prince Osuagwu
Until industry stakeholders  pull resources together late last year, to hit at counterfeit phones, the Nigerian mobile phone market was awash with sub standard phones allegedly imported illegally from Asian countries.

These phones popularly known as ‘china phones’ or ‘chinco’, a derogatory cliche to describe some of the sub standard products coming from China, have  unique selling points – cheap prize tag and dual SIM platform. When the original products which these counterfeits are adapted from are selling at about $400 to $500, the fakes are selling for far less than a $100 and can contain two sim cards.

However, what buyers of these products perhaps never put in perspective was the huge cost and pains that subsequently follows these cheap prized phones as against the original products that may cost a little higher.

Counterfeit phones: All flashy.....but truly fake,

Repeated experiences of loss of memory, data, virus attacks and other anomalies are common from users. As a matter of fact, a user revealed to this reporter that the most embarrassing experience she had using a substandard phone, was initiating a call to her husband from her phone book and while the phone was displaying the name of her husband, it was actually calling another person’s number.

Incidentally, four months after world mobile phone manufacturers, Nokia, gathered the stakeholders, including the Customs, Consumer protection Council, Ministry of Environment, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Standard Organisation of Nigeria and the media, on how to curb the menace, events have turned around and not only have phone lovers learnt to put the right perspectives in place before buying a phone, the grip that substandard phones have on the market is also gradually giving way. This is apparently the result of a gradual extinction of the desire for chinco phones among potential buyers.

The Nokia crusade followed other repeated attacks by other mobile phone manufacturers who alongside Nokia, had lost huge revenue to the chinco threat.

A recent visit into the Ikeja computer village popularly known as Otigba market, where the chinco market used to reign, surprisingly proved that the industry attack directed at ridding the economy of counterfeit phones, is yielding tremendous positive results.

While this reporter observed that the market for Chinco phones were greatly shrinking, Hi-Tech also discovered that the market was however shifting to the northern Nigeria, particularly where level of education and awareness were low.

Another revelation of our survey, was that manufacturers of most phones hitherto regarded as substandard, had readjusted and are repackaging their products to wear standard faces. Some of them are now providing service support centres as well as warranty to their products.

However, what we can not readily affirm is whether the duo of service support centres and warranty are enough to declare a product standardized.

Meanwhile, those who spoke to this reporter, believed that with a consistent campaign, the end was just a footstep away for chinco phones and the huge revenues the economy loses annually as a result, would only be recouped.

For instance, a Kano based phone dealer, Hamisu Abdullahi, who came to order goods in Lagos, said that  “Chinco phones are being demanded more than the original phones in the North. This is because they are mostly dual Sim phones and are more affordable. Being a place majority of the people are poor, they will have no alternative than to go for these brands.

Although these phones do not have some necessary applications many of the northerners do not bother their heads over such problems because they mainly make and receive calls only.

Millions of chinco phones are flooding the northern markets on daily basis and are so being bought.

“But for me, I prefer the original phones. At least for that name and durability advantage they have been enjoying over the  years.
Another potential mobile phone buyer, Mr Kelvin Ukpong, who was seen prizing phones in the market has this to say: “with what I know today, there is no alternative to original phones. Anything outside original phone, count me out because that is only where I can get value for my money.

I have no time for complains and returning of phones after purchase. I agree that prize has a major role to play in the decision to buy either standard or fake phones, but I also know that some people can afford to stay without a phone if the only option they have is the inferior brand”.

However, at the Slot Systems, a major dealer of branded mobile phones, Hi-Tech was meant to understand that not all less known phones and new brands are substandard.

According to the company, “the  phones on high demand now are the Nokia C8, Nokia 5330 and Tecno phones. However, Tecno phones are cheaper and should not be mistaken to be inferior. In any case, they can today boast of almost all the features Nokia phones have.

The fact that they are cheap does not mean that they are inferior. They are new entrants and needed time to gain ground. People who mistake some branded phones to be fake should know that fake phones do not come with names and warranty”

Other dealers of the phone also admitted that though there is a deficiency in the camera quality of the phone, which can actually be rectified, the batteries are becoming long lasting. They also hinted that as the Tecno phones are battling for a fair market share, the known brands should sit up or get knocked out fast.

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