I’ve been seeing questions like – “How to check if an iPhone is original or fake before or upon purchasing it?” Or something like “I am going to buy a second hand or used iPhone, how do I check if the iPhone is fake or not? Or is the iPhone I am about to purchase stolen or not?” You will find these kinds of questions from forums, blogs, and even on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook. I am neither a guru nor an expert to provide you the exact or accurate ways to check if an iPhone is original or fake. However, I can give you some useful tips to quickly identify an authentic or real iPhone versus a stolen or fake iPhone.
Fake iPhone looks and feels real… at first but can lead you to regret in the end.
Believe it or not, nowadays, anyone can be easily fooled if you are not very careful when buying an iPhone. The replica or fake iPhone does really looks like the real iPhone. You can’t easily distinguish the real deal from a fake iPhone. What I can really say about those manufacturers in the black market is that they are really getting better and better. However, buying replica or fake iPhone can cause us consumers a lot than we can imagine – after a few months of using it. There are cases of malfunctioning iOS, unable to upgrade the firmware, loose or not working buttons, touch screen display issues, fake iPhone accessories, and worst class-A or low-standard iPhone batteries that might explode when overcharged. In the end, the most horrifying possible scenario is that you can’t ask an authorized Apple technician to fix your iPhone because it is not even an original mobile phone in the first place. You will end up going back to the black market and find someone who can fix your fake iPhone. So be wise and know how to check if an iPhone is original or fake.
Why, how, and where can you find fake iPhones?
In most cases, anyone can become a victim by stores or people selling counterfeited iPhones. Some of them even have online shops and offers free shipping of iPhone or Apple products. Before you know it, you now owned a fake iPhone! Sometimes it can’t be helped especially if you are aiming to get the coolest mobile phone with so little budget. You tend to look for it in places where stores are selling cheap iPhones – one good example is at Greenhills Shopping Center. This place is very popular here in the Philippines for cheap products. However, a large percentage of products here are counterfeited or the so-called Class A. And if you are not careful enough, you will end up getting the replica. Unless, you are fully aware and accept that they are not the real thing.
Another venue of people selling fake iPhones are social networking websites like Facebook. There are Facebook pages created where people can buy, sell or swap products. And mobile phones like iPhones are not exempted of course.
Also, online buy and sell websites are there like the new re-branded OLX.ph (previously known as sulit.com.ph). The owner of the website does not have the capability to screen each posts from the users. So if you are not careful, you wouldn’t be able to identify if an iPhone is original or fake. Or worst, you might be purchasing a stolen iPhone which can be blocked anytime.
Check if an iPhone is original or fake before or upon buying it
Here are some simple tips if you have doubts buying a new iPhone from someone or store where they are not authorized reseller. Although it can be quite troublesome but there are some things that you have to bring with you upon purchase. You will need to bring at least a pocket WIFI and if possible a laptop with the latest iTunes installed. I will explain why you will need these to check if an iPhone is original or fake.
If you are going to buy your new iPhone on a store (UN-Authorized Apple reseller) or you are going to meet-up with the seller. Here are some of the things you need to do before ending the transaction or deal.
1. iPhone box or Packaging – Although most of them will show you a sealed box, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s new, original or authentic. This is still not the best way to immediately conclude if an iPhone is original or fake. However, it will right there and then give you that suspicious feeling if you are not getting what you are expecting. Some important pointers that you need to check is when you look at the bottom part of the iPhone box are the following codes:
a. Model Number – example MC318LL/A, MD239PP
b. Description of the iPhone – example iPhone 4s, White, 16GB
c. Origin – You should see the text “Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China Model A1387” – this is for iPhone 4s (CDMA Model). You can refer to Apple Support page to identify iPhone models (http://support.apple.com/kb/ht3939)
d. Part No. – This should be the same as your Model Number.
e. Serial Number
For the last 2 pointers, take note of these numbers because this should NOT be the last time that you will see them. As you read on, you will know why you should not disregard them.
2. Inside the box – Don’t get too excited and overwhelmed when the box unveils the new iPhone you wanted. Check the goods first. The actual iPhone – check for scratches, dents, ensure that the front and back of the iPhone are still covered with plastic. It should also include the manual, SIM card ejector, Apple sticker, earphones, USB cable, and charger. Everything inside should be intact and you should notice that all of them are still covered (accessories). Also when checking the earphones and USB cable, there are few things that are consistent with Apple products, the cords do not have that plastic/low quality feeling. And also check the cuts from all edges because Apple products ensure that the cuts are all even. I believe for iPhone 5s you should expect ear buds instead of the regular iPhone earphones.
3. The buttons and switches should not be loose. They should still have that crisp feel when you switch them.
4. At the back of the iPhone, you should see the Apple metallic logo. Also at the lower part, it should also display the metallic engraves – “Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China”. Also the model number, etc. Here’s an example from iPhone 4s.
5. Before going to the next step, I mentioned earlier that you need to remember or at least take it into consideration to gather all the serial numbers because this is the first sure-fire way to check if an iPhone is original or fake. With the SIM ejector, eject the SIM tray. For the likes of iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM model), and iPhone 4s – the serial and IMEI is printed on the system tray. For other iOS devices, you can refer to Apple Support. The serial and IMEI number SHOULD match from the printed numbers at the bottom part of the box. If not, then the iPhone must be fake.
6. Here’s the first fun part, switching on the iPhone for the first time. I suggest that you bring your own SIM card and insist to the seller for you to use it before switching on the iPhone. Why? It is expected that on the first boot of your iPhone, activation of the iPhone unit comes next. By the way, this is the time that you are going to need that pocket WIFI. Imagine the activation process is like activating your fresh installed Windows operating system where it requires a stable internet connection for activation. Go with each of the steps from your iPhone screen to complete the registration and activation. ENSURE that once you have inserted your own SIM card, your network should be detected immediately with no issues. Also, make sure that it can detect if the available network is EDGE, 3G, etc.
7. The next thing you wanted to do upon switching on and activating your new iPhone is to check again the authenticity of the device. Come on guys, this is not entirely paranoia. Go to the iPhone’s Home screen -> Settings -> General -> About. Again, check if the Model, Serial, and IMEI numbers are the same as with the SIM tray and from the box. If these numbers matched then it’s good sign.
8. While you are in Settings menu, scroll down and look for iCloud. Ensure that it isn’t logged in. This will ensure you that the iPhone isn’t used or owned by someone else.
9. From your Home screen, you might want to check also the iTunes Store and App Store to ensure that no one has logged into it before.
10. Again, back to the buttons. Since you have booted your new iPhone then check if all the buttons are functional.
11. Accessories – check if your iPhone earphones/ear buds are working as well as the charger.
12. Check if WIFI is working. Also check if your data (if you are a post paid user) is working. Then check if you could access the Internet from your iPhone by trying to access iTunes and/or surfing the Internet using Safari.
13. Now, plug you new iPhone using the new USB connector into your laptop or computer and ensure that iTunes is not opened yet. Once you plugged the iPhone, let your computer detects it and your iTunes application should automatically open. Then look into your iTunes’ iPhone dashboard and you should some little information about your iPhone such as the memory capacity, battery status, your SIM mobile phone number, and serial number. Again, to check in an iPhone is original or fake, the serial number should match the one from your iPhone’s setting, SIM tray, back of the box.
14. This is the last but definitely not the least is to check the warranty. Of course a brand new iPhone should still be under warranty whether it is store or Apple warranty. First, you should ask the seller if the unit is still under warranty or if they provide store warranty. If they are hesitant to answer that then there might be something wrong. It’s either that that they don’t know or the Apple International warranty is expired. To check if an iPhone is original or fake and if the warranty is still valid then go to Apple Support page to check your Service and Support coverage. You just need to input your iPhone’s serial number. You should be able to know four (4) important things from this page.
a. iPhone unit
b. Serial Number
c. Valid Purchase date
d. Telephone Technical Support status
e. Repairs and Service Coverage status
If you are buying a new iPhone from a suspicious person or un-authorized Apple re-seller, better ask for the IMEI and check it with Apple’s Online Service and Support Coverage. A new iPhone should NOT have a warranty expiration date indicated yet. These will be filled only after the iPhone activation. That’s when you activate it on the first boot.
If the date is already there then it means that the iPhone have been previously unpacked and resealed.
15. iPhone Field Test Mode – To explain a little bit, this is one of the simplest test for iPhone but specific to check if an iPhone is original or fake. This was a built-in iPhone app to check network signal strength. Normally, you will see signal strength bar indicator on the phone. However the information or number of bars does not really say something specific. That is why most devices whether iPhone, Xperia, or Samsung phones has this app. It was observed that you can use this simple test to check if the iPhone you are now holding is original or fake. Simply open your iPhone Phone app, then switch to your keypad and dial this code (in bold)- *3001#12345#* then press call. If correctly executed, your iPhone now will proceed to the Field Test mode (like the image below). Also notice the upper left side of your iPhone screen display, what do you see? The bars or signal indicator you previously had is now changed to numerical value. If your iPhone does not have this or did not change the signal bars to numerical value then the iPhone is fake. By the way, if you want to have the old signal bar display just press you home button.
The steps above are just some of the basic tips to check if an iPhone is original or fake before you hand over your payment to the seller. And if you want to check further if iPhone is locked, stolen, or brand new then you may want to read my other article about it – Check iPhone Carrier Lock Status By Model or IMEI Numbers.
If the steps above are already outdated or if you have some more suggestions to help other consumers or users before buying their next iPhone, please feel free to provide us some feedback by adding comments below.