It's no great secret or news that you can get a knockoff version of just about anything in China with just a little bit of haggling involved. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit one of Shanghai's technology markets when I was there last week — and in doing so, come face to face with the "iPad 3". The market I ended up at — and there's plenty of them — was beneath the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Its Wikipedia page suggests that it attracts two to three million visitors per year. Perhaps last Friday was an abberation; it seemed more of a 68,000 square meter ghost town… except downstairs, where the market is. Those who like reality TV trivia might like to note that the Museum was a pit stop for The Amazing Race a couple of years back. I'm guessing they didn't stop off for knockoff designer handbags, however.
There's an obvious challenge to shooting any footage in a technology market with plenty of no-doubt-honest-sir-genuine-handbags-and-gadgets, and that's to do with it being not quite the most legitimate of places. So I wandered around taking mental notes, from the fact that you can buy anything with an Angry Birds logo on it — right down to your jocks — and that the counterfeit object of the minute would appear to either be language software or Beats Audio headphones.
Also rather surprising in a world awash with torrents; Movie piracy is still a thing. Take your pick of Tintin, Hunger Games or The Avengers for only 10RMB each! Guaranteed 3D Blu-Ray with additional extras! Also listed as DVD-9 on the back! Yeah, I'm sure those are genuine. But I was a little surprised to see them at all, given the ease of Internet based downloading. Perhaps that's why the prices were so low.
And then I spotted the most over-hyped, over-rumoured product of 2012; the iPad 3. Not a third generation "New" "Resolutionary" iPad, mind you, but a product that proudly proclaimed itself as an iPad 3. That I had to get a quick-but-poor snap of, and managed to do so.
OK, it's only the back of it. There were a number of rather heavy set blokes wandering around keeping an eye on the tourists — and offering to sell us watches every two metres or so — so I wasn't feeling that brave.
Anyway, wandering around with a couple of other journalists, we chanced upon a store — and they're all mixed offering stores, which is why I can say I've been in a handbag, AutoCAD and wig store, for example — that also had an iPad 3 on proud display.
The only thing there was that it was entirely bereft of staff. So seizing the chance, I seized the iPad 3 for some more photos and an experimental flick of the power switch. I mean, it's not like it's actually going to switch on, right?
Except it did. Naturally enough, it was an Android tablet; an Android 2.2 tablet to be specific. Getting to the device specifications revealed it to be a member of the Wondermedia WM8650 family; there's no shortage of reviews of those online, but to save you the research time — they're rubbish. Really appalling stuff, and my quick hands-on didn't disabuse me of that notion.
Although if for some insane reason you still might have thought it was legitimate, there were subtle clues… like the presence of Android on the back…
Or the MicroSD card slot. That'd be a great addition to the next iPad if anyone at Apple is listening, but I'm not holding my breath.
The only remaining thing to do was to find out how much the "iPad 3" was worth. It's not like there's a sticker price on anything in a market like this; everything is a matter of negotiating downwards for products that are mostly terrible anyway. Yeah, that's a value judgement, because the value proposition here isn't great. Anyway, negotiated prices for an iPad 3 ranged from 600RMB — that's around $95 — all the way up to 4800RMB, or a hefty $758. Checking along the way also revealed what precisely made this the "iPad 3"; it's a size thing. The 9.7 inch model is the iPad 3, the 7 inch model is the iPad 2 and the 5 inch model is the iPad. It's also feasible — if you were very foolish — to pay 4800RMB for a 5 inch "iPad". I wouldn't.
Naturally, no money leapt out of my wallet for an "iPad". Although, emboldened, I did snap a picture of the Angry Birds jocks. If only because I'm curious. What happens when the bird explodes?
Alex Kidman travelled to Shanghai as a guest of HP, albeit probably not to take pictures of underpants.