It at least looks like an iPhone.
Apple is expected to showcase a new iPhone at its special press event on March 21. But is it already on sale in China?
A company named Beeep on Monday published a YouTube video claiming to show the “iPhone SE” on sale in China. The two-minute video shows a woman, named April, walking to a kiosk in China and getting her hands on what she says, is Apple’s （AAPL 1.41% ）next smartphone. Just a few seconds later, the man behind the counter hands her what appears to be an iPhone with a design similar to that of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. However, the new handset comes with a smaller screen, following rumors that the device, which could be known as the iPhone 5SE or the iPhone 6c, will look nearly identical to the handsets Apple launched last year but boast a smaller, 4-inch display.
The smartphone in the video appears to be Apple’s Rose Gold variety with a white faceplate and horizontal antenna lines similar to those on the company’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The handset is also notably thinner than the iPhone 5S it’s expected to replace.
That said, whether it’s the real thing is decidedly in doubt. For one, April says that while she tried to turn on the smartphone, the device did not turn on. It’s unknown whether it was a battery issue or just an inoperable device.
There’s also the issue of history.
Since the iPhone launched nearly a decade ago, Chinese marketplaces have been selling copycat devices that look nearly identical to the real thing. Often times, those smartphones are put on sale before Apple announces them, which boosts their prices. Indeed, many people over the years have been duped into believing they were buying a smartphone ahead of Apple’s launch, and have been willing to pay more for it.
In 2011, China attempted to crack down on companies that were selling near-perfect replicas of Apple’s iPhones by arresting those alleged to be involved in the sales. The move came after customers on Taobao, one of China’s largest e-commerce sites, were buying a device called the “HiPhone 5,” a device that claimed to have the same features as Apple’s iPhone 5.
Other reports out of China have claimed that some folks in the country have gone so far as to open fake Apple stores, in hopes of getting customers to buy their replicas. Once home, however, those customers discover their devices are actually fakes.
China has a long reputation of counterfeiting goods. Last year, Chinese police again cracked down on counterfeiting, targeting a ring that allegedly made and exported 41,000 fake iPhones worth nearly $20 million. The alleged counterfeit ring were said to have made that sum in 2015, alone.
What makes determining whether smartphones are real so difficult is that they’re often sold in China around locations where Apple’s manufacturing partners build its devices. To make matters worse, those who build replicas are often quite good at it, and can include similar components to those found in Apple’s handsets.
Therefore, it’s unknown whether the devices on sale in China are the real thing, so the latest “leak” should be taken with the proverbial grain of sale until Apple officially unveils its new iPhone at a special press event on March 21.