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Geekender Gallery: Mutant Clones from China

Here are some of the bizarre and thought-provoking consumer phones that have emerged from the Shenzhen workshops of the shanzhai.

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1 of 7 www.bunniestudios.com

One of the most interesting groups of technologists in China are the shanzhai — a word with connotations similar to Robin Hood's Merry Men. They form small companies which cluster together in larger groups, trying to produce new gizmos so fast that nobody can quite catch up with them. They have a very libertarian attitude towards intellectual property, which is essential to the enterprise. Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang, the silicon hacker on the open-source Chumby project, has written a marvellous explanation of their work. Here are some of the rather bizarre and thought-provoking consumer phones that have emerged from the Shenzhen workshops.

 

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2 of 7 www.bunniestudios.com

Panda Brand Cigarette Phone
Nothing conveys the swagger of someone who just doesn't care as walking along the road apparently talking to a packet of fags. Devilishly combining the real health risks of smoking with the idiotic panic about radiation frying your lobes, this neatly disguised phone supports tabbed browsing, filtered search and Snoutlook.

 

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3 of 7 www.bunniestudios.com

Ferrari Phone
Take a standard Chinese toy sports car and put a mobile phone in it. Why? If you have to ask, you're not in the market. But as that market would seem to depend on the official blessing of Ferrari itself, and as they're unlikely to see the brand much enhanced by such peculiarities, the chances of you being able to buy one of these in the UK are probably not much greater than of being able to afford the real thing.

 

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4 of 7 www.bunniestudios.com

Sound and vision extreme
There's a certain logic in taking a successful invention and adding more of what made it a good idea in the first place. And then there's taking things too far. Such as adding eight-channel surround sound — with eight separate speakers embedded in the back of the phone — and then, if that wasn't enough, plugging in a telephoto lens to the camera. Less is more? Not in Shenzhen.

 

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5 of 7 www.bunniestudios.com

Windows wireless webcam phone
Genuinely useful if a little far over on the spectrum of creepiness, this combo of a self-contained wireless webcam and a decently screened mobile phone suggests many possibilities — good, bad and just plain evil. It's up to you to decide which of those may apply to the one seriously quirky part of the deal: calling the phone 'Windows'.

 

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6 of 7 www.bunniestudios.com

HiPhone
Little is certain in this life. However, the seas will boil dry, the Beatles will reform and Gary McKinnon will get a job in the US State Department before Apple's lawyers allow this little beauty within ten parsecs of American soil. Which is a shame. It looks quite nice.

 

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7 of 7 www.bunniestudios.com

Game for a laugh
If you're feeling a little game, boy, and fancy telling someone about it, you might fancy this peculiar concoction. Bored with waiting for Sony to add telephony to the PlayStation Portable, the designers decided to stop playing around and do it themselves. It doesn't actually run any PSP software, but is probably similar enough to annoy those who are paid to be professionally upset.

 

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