eBay: a cesspool of fake vintage Euro mobile phones

The image shows an eBay listing for a Nokia 8850 Unlocked Original Silver 2G GSM 900/1800 Java Slide Mobile Phone. The listing includes two images of the phone, one showing the back and the other showing the front with the screen displaying "Insert SIM card." The phone is silver in color. The condition is listed as "New other (see details)" with a note stating "Refurbished to New Condition, fully tested before shipped!" The price is $56.99 with options to "Buy It Now" or "Add to cart." Additional options include a 2-year protection plan for $20.99 and a 30-day unlimited wireless plan from Red Pocket for $29.00. The listing offers free shipping and mentions 30-day returns and 20 watchers. The item ships from Hong Kong with free ePacket delivery.

Those of us who were connected in the 90’s and 00’s will undoubtedly have some memories of European phones from companies like Nokia, Ericsson (before it was SonyEricsson), Siemens and more. Some of us might even have some good memories of those phones, especially the 8 day battery life found on some models.

Every now and then I’ll spend a quiet evening browsing eBay for wacky products or the odd vintage phone that I still have warm and fuzzy feelings for. In most cases, those phones are in pretty lousy shape, especially after being used for a few years, followed by 22 years in the bottom of a drawer.

What took me by surprise though, is the massive amount of brand new versions of at least 50 models from those years. This of course doesn’t make any sense, since the original manufacturer stopped making them, and in some cases, models are being sold from manufacturers that don’t even exist anymore. I don’t buy the excuse that the items are “old stock”, as nobody holds on to phones for that long. What most likely happened is that factories were shut down, and handy people managed to take the molds, designs and parts out the back of the plant.

I took the plunge and ordered a couple of these, and can report that the results are not too good. What you’ll end up getting for your money (after around 5-8 weeks shipping) is something that sort of looks like the original, but the signs of fake are visible from the start.

The image shows six old model Nokia mobile phones arranged in a row. The phones are of different colors, including silver, blue, yellow, green, white, and black. Each phone has a small screen and a keypad with buttons for numbers and basic functions. The phones are placed on a tiled surface.

The box was indeed branded Nokia, but the colors were washed out, and the cardboard was about half the thickness you’d expect from a premium branded phone. Inside, things were not much better. If there is one bright spot, it is that the phone does indeed look like the model it is supposed to resemble, and if you spotted it from a distance, you’d probably not be able to pick out the fake from a lineup. Once you pick the phone up and start looking closer, you’ll instantly see that what you have is not what is supposed to be. Crooked stickers, lightweight batteries and fake accreditation and standards approval labels all scream fake.

Turning the phone on shows a mishmash of Chinese software and spotty attempts to make the phone look as real as possible, but features you used to have are missing and random stuff has been added with what I assume is the goal of making you a bit happier. For example, one of the models I purchased came with dual sim support and a MicroSD slot. Keep in mind, this was on a phone that was originally made before MicroSD and MP3 existed.

So, for those of us still looking for that retro feel, be careful what you buy, or settle for the good looks of a known counterfeit phone that may or may not do what you actually want. Sticklers for details may claim that a phone made using the old molds and designs are technically still originals. Either way, I’m always impressed by anyone who still has romantic feelings for the retro tech we used to travel with…




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