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Is China Losing Its Taste for Counterfeit Phones?

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In a country that figured out how to manufacture fake prunes, counterfeit cellphones are "becoming passe" among Chinese consumers.

Reporting from Beijing, David Pierson of the Los Angeles Times, writes:

For years, copycat cellphones have thrived in a country famed for counterfeiting many things, such as Gucci handbags, Hollywood DVDs and, most recently, Apple retail stores. It's a market fed by shadowy factories turning out low-cost models bearing names such as BlockBerry and HiPhone 4.

But Chinese bootleggers are now losing ground to the iPhones and other high-end gadgets they once copied.

"People want the real thing," said Guo Feilong, a vendor at a massive electronics market in northwest Beijing where hundreds of closet-size stalls sell genuine and pirated phones. "Prices have gone down so much, why would anyone need to buy a fake?"

Other factors hastening the end of the shanzhai cellphone market are new features found on the real article that buyers don't think will be available on a copycat device and, naturally, "upwardly mobile city dwellers wouldn't dare risk losing face by carrying a knockoff phone."

"Could it be? Are shanzhai phones really on the way out?!" asks Shanghaiist's Benjamin Cost.demand for shanzhai phones remains strong in rural areas and among migrant workers earning only a few hundred dollars a month."

"People in China are practical," research analyst CK Lu tells him. "It's not shameful to use fake phones any more than it is to carry a fake Louis Vuitton bag."

You'll still be able to pick up your favorite knockoff handset at your local Wu Mart...

...right next to the toothpaste aisle:

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