Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Genuine, Fake, and In-between: A Visit to Electronics Markets at Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei

an alley near Huangqiangbei

Several days ago I spent part of one afternoon in Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei (also known as Huaqiang North) commercial area. According to ShenzhenShopper:
Theres over 20 shopping malls located in the Huaqiangbei area which provides about 70 million square meters of business area. Annual sales reaching over 20 billion, and there’s something like 130,000 people employed in the area. Yep, it’s large.
Huaqiangbei is most known for being one of the biggest electronics markets in the world. For many first time visitors, especially those already familiar with typical consumer electronics chain stores in China, I would agree with the suggestion on PIXEL to:
Skip [the consumer electronics shops] and spend your time in the buildings dedicated to Android tablets, “Shanzhai” phones (copies), phone accessories, components, LEDs, various gadgets, etc.
Just one of the shopping centers on its own can be overwhelming to those not accustomed with their scale, density, and intensity. Charles Arthur shared a gallery of photos on The Guardian. As prelude to another gallery of photos on Tech in Asia, Paul Bischoff wrote:
Within lies stall after stall after stall of nearly every gadget, component, and tool imaginable. Over half a dozen city blocks are filled to the brim with crowded marketplaces, each ranging from four to 10 floors high. Photos hardly do it justice. The place is immense.
For a variety of reasons, I kept my photo-taking activities to a minimum this time. The photo above is of an alley on the outskirts of Huaqiangbei. On both sides are huge electronics markets which aren't labeled even on Seeed Studio's detailed Shenzhen Map for Makers (free PDF download). The several markets I visited on this block mostly focused on mobile phone products — from components to complete phones to accessories. Here is just a small taste of what I saw in these markets where the line between genuine and fake can be blurry:
  • Thousands of mobile phones with cracked screens, some showing clear signs they were from the U.S.
  • Screens for various brand name phones for sale.
  • Workers fixing and cleaning phones.
  • Workers affixing brand name labels to unmarked batteries.
  • Workers packaging iPhones to appear as new.
  • Foreigners making purchases, reminding me of what I learned at a fake stuffed toy wholesale store in Guangzhou.
There is much more to say about Huaqiangbei, but I will leave it this for now. It can be a fascinating place to visit, even if you don't need to change an iPhone 5c into an iPhone 5s.

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