Taobao vendors cash in on iPhone 'consumer vanity' market

Vendors on Taobao sell fake iPhone 'signatures' to QQ users who can't afford one

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2013, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2013, 10:12pm

If the bizarre case of Kunming city’s fake Apple store last year was not evident enough of China’s increasing obsession with the brand, a news report from China National Radio (CNR) news on Wednesday will probably do the job.

According to CNR, wily vendors on e-commerce site Taobao, have been having a field day selling fake iPhone “signatures” to users of Tencent QQ, a popular instant messaging program used by nearly 780 million users in China.

For just five yuan (HK$6.20) a month, non-iPhone QQ users can now buy a fake “QQ has logged in via iPhone” status which appears everytime the user logs in – instantly giving them the appearance of owning an iPhone and the much sought prestige that comes with it in China.

CNR said the “consumer vanity business” has been so good, some top vendors have allegedly sold more than 3,000 of these signatures. Thirty days of work will make an ambitous entrepreneur a cool 30,000 yuan (HK$37,300), much higher than what the average worker would make in a year.

A simple search for “QQ iPhone online” on Taobao generates no less than 218 different vendors.

Issues of personal privacy have been raised due to the fact QQ users would have to give vendors unrestricted access to their entire account, but this doesn't seem to bother users, given the degree of China's Apple fanaticism.

The notion of the iPhone as the quintessential “status symbol” for successful urban Chinese youth permeates across China.

That’s why even the company that manufactures the iPhone, Foxconn International, awards their “outstanding worker of the year” with a 3,000-5,000 yuan cash prize, trophy, certificate and – you guessed it – brand new iPhone 5. The very same product they work on, day-in and day-out.