You can get an unlocked iPhone 5s that runs Android for just $230 (169 Euros). Well, sort of. A Chinese-made iPhone clone delivers the same premium build and an almost-identical iOS interface for less than half of Apple’s $649 unlocked price. You won’t be able to use iOS apps on this imitation though, since it really runs a heavily skinned version of Android.
We just did a hands-on comparison of the Thunderbird I5S and the real iPhone 5s at the offices of our colleagues at Mobile Geeks and were impressed by how similar the two are.
Our jaws dropped when we saw the iPhone clone; we were expecting something much cheaper-looking, not the impressive, almost identical device we saw. Available in the same gold as the champagne-hued 5s, the imitation was gorgeous and featured the same chamfered edges and ports, buttons and speaker grills along the sides. Placed beside our silver iPhone 5s, we almost couldn’t tell the two apart (other than the color difference).
We only noticed subtle differences when they were pointed out, such as the Apple logo on the back being a sticker instead of embossed as on the original, and the slightly protruding home button compared to the genuine’s flat one. Both phones felt equally solid and sleek, which is jarring given the significant price difference.
Even when you turn the phone on, the differences are subtle. You’ll see an Apple start screen with a black logo on a white background as the phone boots. The impostor did take several seconds longer to start up than an Apple original. Once loaded, you’ll see an Apple-style lock screen with the words “Slide to Unlock” at the bottom, and the home screen looks identical to iOS 7, with the same rounded square app icons in a grid layout. Even the Settings app looked exactly the same, with the same fonts, color scheme and layout.
The biggest clue that you’re using an Android device instead of iOS is when you tap on the App Store icon. Doing so takes you to Google Play store. Opening the browser, which has the same icon as on the iPhone 5s, opens the Android stock browser rather than Safari.
Other differences were minor, such as wording in the Camera app (“Picture” instead of “Photo” above the shutter button) and some app names (“Browser” rather than “Safari”). Instead of pulling down to search the phone as you would on an iOS 7 device, you’ll have to swipe right to pull up the search – an iOS 6 relic. In fact, iOS 6 touches appear all over the interface, such as the keyboard (in the pop-up iOS 6 style rather than the flat iOS 7 one). Interestingly, the keyboard supports haptic feedback, a feature the iPhone lacks.
Apple’s fingerprint sensor is also absent from the clone, which is to be expected given the low price. Another trade-off is the MediaTek processor, which a far cry from Apple’s 64-bit A7 CPU. The imitation device suffered from some lag.
We can’t be sure if this device is legal to use, but distributors in Europe don’t appear to have any trouble importing and selling them. If you’re in the market for a device with the iPhone 5s’ good looks and don’t care for iOS apps, this clone could be a good option for you. You can see a full review of this iPhone 5s clone with benchmarks and more photos at Mobilegeeks.com