How To Detect (And Avoid) Clone Android Devices

May 2, 2015 - Written By David Steele

Imitation in the mobile industry is arguably the sincerest form of flattery; just ask Apple, the experts. We’ve seen all manner of products imitated including most of the big name manufacturer smartphones and many of the smaller manufacturers, too. Sometimes, these clone devices are comparable to the real thing and at other times, they are inferior knock-off copies. The question is, then, how do we as consumers and potential customers tell? Worse, if we are ordering online from a business we have never dealt with, how do we know that the item is legitimate?

There are a few obvious safeguards that can seem too onerous in the heat of the moment. The first is to check the exact model of the device you are shopping for, using as many alternative websites as you can. This is no guarantee of course. Check for customer feedback on both the product and the business you are looking at buying from. Is anything suspicious? Does the price seem too cheap? If it is, there’s a strong case for walking away because if something seems too cheap to be true it usually is. If however the signs look good and you order, when the device arrives the first thing to check is the retail packaging. Does it look real? Are there the necessary barcodes and IMEIs on the packaging? Are there any spelling mistakes? Big name manufacturers do not misspell their name or model number. When you open the box, check the LED flash as cheap clones often have a very yellow flash unit.

When you power up the device, again check for spelling mistakes in boot up screens and similar. A copy device will often have a poorer screen than the real item, either with poor resolution (so it will be blurry) or color rendition. And check the software: look online for reviews of the device in question and make sure that your device looks similar. So far, so good but what if you might have a really good quality copy of the original? You can always try a software check of the device and there are two tools that I can recommend. One is the AnTuTu Officer, which requires access to another web browser (another Android device works, or a computer, or a Mac, it doesn’t matter so much) and the other is CPU-Z, which requires a little more leg work.

Let’s take a look at AnTuTu Officer, first. This proprietary application takes a look under the skin of the device being tested and reports the result using another browser. In order to use it, first you must install the application from the Google Play Store. Once you have it installed and running on your device, it directs you to the other web browser where you must navigate to Here, the website will provide you with a code and a QR image, whilst launching the camera application on the device to be tested. You can either tap in the code or scan the image. Once you’ve done this, it’ll take a few seconds for the AnTuTu Officer service to verify if your device is the real deal or if it’s a copy. I’ve tried this twice on my HTC One (M8) and the second time it came back as an unknown device, but the first it was the genuine item. My particular device was purchased from the UK carrier, O2, and is completely stock.

The CPU-Z way requires you again to download the application from the Google Play Store and run it. There are a number of different tabs showing on the device and the first one you find details the System-on-Chip statistics. This is interesting but now what we want to be looking at; instead switch to the second tab, System. You’ll see the image at the bottom of the screen shows the System tab first and the SoC second. Here, you should be looking at the model of your newly purchased device.

If either the AnTuTu Officer or CPU-Z report the wrong device, before you start jumping up and down at the retailer, I would recommend downloading and testing the result on the other application first! One other thing you may find is that when testing a non-stock device, that is, a rooted handset or one running a custom ROM, the results you receive from either of these services will be skewed by this. And as you’ve seen earlier, the AnTuTu Officer process is not completely bullet proof, either!