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Smartphones – Buy The Top Cell Phones

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What is the difference between a gray and official phone: what to choose, how to distinguish

Margarita Shilo

journalist

Smartphones are always in use.

Most often, mobile devices are changed due to⁠-⁠breakdowns or due to the release of new models. Soon you will also go for a new smartphone and will inevitably face the question: buy an expensive certified device or find it cheaper on the gray market.

We tell you whether it is possible to distinguish an official phone from a gray one by eye, whether it is worth overpaying for certification and whether it provides a guarantee of quality.

In addition, we will tell you how the warranty and support of the manufacturer is affected by the import of phones by parallel import.

What is Rostest and why is it needed

All goods that enter the shelves of Russian stores must be certified. It checks almost everything – from products and children’s toys to complex household appliances and car services – the Rostest test center. It is also associated with checking phones.

In fact, the phones tested by Rostest no longer exist. This center has not been certifying mobile devices since the beginning of 2015. And despite the fact that manufacturers continue to draw the Rostest badge on packages, in 2023 this action does not make sense. Rostest smartphones are no more.

What is EAC and what regions do smartphones have? All electronics that are officially imported into the territory of the customs union are marked with it. These are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The EAC mark on the phone means that the phone can be officially sold on the territory of the union.

In addition to growth test devices, other variations of regions can be found in stores and marketplaces.

Global. International version without regional differences and restrictions, exported to all countries. The power plug is different each time, mostly suitable for Russian sockets.

EU, Eurotest. Telephones for European countries with a socket familiar to Russia.

China, CN. There are hieroglyphs on the box, inside it is a plug, which requires an adapter. In some cases, the Chinese interface language is pre-installed.

Smartphone certification

General check. Before importing a batch of phones into Russia, the supplier is obliged to notify the FSB that the devices contain encryption elements. In parallel, he must pay customs duty – a tax for importing goods. Only after that mobile phones cross the border.

All phones imported into Russia must obtain a certificate of conformity with the technical regulations of the Customs Union. It is needed to make sure: the device entered the country legally, it is safe to use and meets the declared characteristics. This means that the software is Russified, there is an instruction in Russian, and service centers across the country are ready to repair the device.

Obtain such a certificate for each new model and for each software update. If the supplier received a certificate for an iPhone 13 with iOS 15, and then was going to import the same iPhone 13, but with iOS 16, the certification will have to be completed again.

To obtain such a certificate, the manufacturer or supplier must submit an application and samples of phones and chargers to one of the certification centers. Formally, they must be tested in a special laboratory, but in fact they simply compare the technical characteristics on the packaging with those stated by the manufacturer. If they are the same and everything is in order with the documents, a certificate is issued.

Parallel import. In mid-2022, due to sanctions, parallel imports came into use. From the point of view of legislation, this is still the official import of equipment, but without the knowledge of manufacturers, through other countries.

These units meet legal requirements and are in theory covered by a two-year warranty. But inside the box there may be no Russian instructions, and after the purchase all questions will have to be resolved only with the store, but not with the manufacturer.

In practice, it is still unclear how exactly parallel imports work. When iPhones imported through parallel imports began to be sold in the country, the Russian Association of Trade Companies and Manufacturers of Electrical Household and Computer Equipment, RATEK, stated that not a single domestic retailer had yet received permission to sell new iPhones. Although the sale was official.

What is a gray phone? It’s like a phone brought to you by a friend from another country.

That is, they did not go through customs, the distributors did not report to the FSB and did not submit the devices for examination. In fact, it is smuggling. All documents and receipts are there, but in Russia you can’t fix this under the manufacturer’s warranty.

Physically, the gadget may not differ in any way from the certified one. At least they are made in the same factory by the same people.

The gray phone is not necessarily counterfeit or of poor quality.

The following scheme often works: the seller buys iPhones in the official Apple store in New⁠-⁠York, puts them in a suitcase and imports them into Russia under the guise of personal belongings. He does not pay customs duty and due to this he can sell the phone cheaper.

On average, in Russia, such phones are 10⁠—⁠20% cheaper than official ones. For example, a 512 GB iPhone 14 costs 102,000 rubles in retail, and 94,000 rubles in gray stores.

How the warranty works for gray and “parallel” devices

For EAC-certified devices imported into the country before spring 2022, the warranty lasts for two years – it may still be valid. The same is true for devices with the PCT sign, although it has not meant anything for a long time.

“Parallel” devices are more difficult. They are not completely white, so they do not have a guarantee from the manufacturer. However, the store is still obliged to provide it – by law.

The same with gray devices – can be repaired in a store, but not in an authorized center.

But “parallel” devices are more expensive. First of all, because the store takes on the functions of a supplier, seller and service center. You have to pay extra for all this.

If the goods are delivered to Russia from adjacent countries like Kazakhstan, the store will send broken devices to where the manufacturer will accept them for repair.

But this will not work with devices from distant countries, so large networks have to purchase parts and leave some of the new devices in warehouses in order to later use them as donors for exchange or repair under warranty.

What is wrong with the gray phone

There are a lot of gray phones on the market – many times more than those officially imported. And for the buyer, if you choose a reliable store, the risk seems to be minimal. But the pitfalls still remain.

Phone may not be new. There is a risk of stumbling upon a flashed device. For example, you will be sold a smartphone that was once blocked by the operator and was sold under a contract, that is, in installments.

Or the phone was restored from used parts, but the seller kept silent about this. The consequences can be unpredictable – the chances of encountering a marriage in this case are much higher than with new or “parallel” devices.

Warranty issue. Stores typically offer a 14-day to a year “from store” warranty. But there is a risk that the store will spontaneously change its legal entity and formally cancel all obligations to old customers. With large networks like M⁠-⁠video, this will not work.

Other country specific restrictions. FaceTime video calling doesn’t work on iPhones in UAE, and camera shutter sound doesn’t turn off in Japan and South Korea.

PCT marking guaranteed that the smartphone is fully optimized for work in Russia. After the sanctions, it makes the most sense to take EU-standard phones, because the regulations regarding phones in Europe are similar to Russian ones. At least there are no unusual requirements of the southern and eastern regions.

Cash only. Most small online electronics stores do not accept cards. This is not safe: cash payment is harder to prove in the event of a dispute with the seller, and before buying, you will have to withdraw a large patty of money from an ATM. Also walk around the radio market with her.

In addition, you cannot pay for the phone with a credit card with a long grace period or take it in installments.

How to distinguish a gray phone from an official one

By phone. It is almost impossible to visually identify a gray smartphone. Previously, the main sign of a fake was the lack of a keyboard in Russian. Now the Russian language is in the phone settings, and both gray and official devices look the same.

But you can check the contents. A phone officially imported into Russia must have an instruction in Russian. And vice versa, if there are logos of foreign telecom operators on the package, you have a gray phone in front of you.

If the phone loads Korean or Chinese when you turn it on for the first time, it is most likely a phone in the Chinese region. If the phone is set up for international sales, it will first prompt you to select a language.

Try to find the language setting in Korean HTC One

It is believed that you can check if the phone is original by IMEI – International Mobile Equipment Identity. However, Samsung experts warn that checking the IMEI cannot determine if a device is fake, as the unique code can be copied from the original device.

You can check the authenticity of a smartphone using the Benchmark and Antutu applications: they will indicate the characteristics of the phone, which will include the region of sale.

Shopping. General advice to find out the legality of the imported phone and information about the guarantees: look at the conditions of the store and ask him for the accompanying documents for the product. They tell where and how the goods were imported, whether they are intended for sale and where.

Priced. Finally, a gray phone can be identified by its price. If an official supplier sells a 32 GB Galaxy S7 for 50,000 rubles, and in an unknown online store it is offered for 38,000 rubles, this is a reason to be wary. On the other hand, nothing prevents an unknown online store from selling a gray phone for 50 thousand.

What to choose: gray or official phone

In 2022, the line between gray and official devices has almost completely disappeared: there are new ways to import phones into the country, and retailers are still arguing about what legal status gadgets have.

Thus, a phone bought now in Russia will most likely be imported from another country illegally, whether specifically for sale or not. The only exceptions are brands that have not officially left the market: Xiaomi, Realme, Huawei, and so on.

Therefore, it makes sense to pay attention to the store where you buy equipment. “M⁠-⁠video” or DNS is much more likely to repair or replace a device than an unnamed seller from a marketplace with a pick-up point in the Savelovsky shopping center.

Phone certification – remember

Official import. All phones that are officially imported into Russia for sale undergo a thorough check – on its basis, phones are given the EAC, the mark of the Customs Union. Phones with this sign accurately support the Russian language and have instructions on it.

Parallel import. Such devices are imported into the country bypassing the manufacturer, but receive all certificates at customs. And the store is obliged to give a guarantee for them no less than that which it must by law.

Gray sale. There is nothing wrong with gray phones – they are assembled at the same factories and by the same specialists as white ones. Nevertheless, due to the lack of certification, marriage and used phones under the guise of new ones are more common among them.

It is almost impossible to distinguish a gray model from a white one. A phone imported from China not for sale may be indicated by a different shape of the charger plug and instructions with hieroglyphs. Phones for the European region are almost identical in packaging to Russian ones.

When buying a gray device, pay attention to the reputation of the store or seller: it is easier for big players in the market to fix your phone than to refuse and get involved in litigation. It is much easier for small shops without a reputation to change their IP and refuse warranty repairs in case of breakdowns.

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