São Paulo, Brazil – The arrival of the much-awaited Brazilian iPad may be in doubt – although our trip to the Foxconn factory showed that an local iPhone is in the works – one thing is certain: there’s a huge market for gadgets here.
Brazilians pay some of the highest prices in the world for their iDevices, but many of them buy alternatives – black or gray market goods and fakes.
Commerce hub São Paulo has a whole neighborhood dedicated to selling these off-market electronic items called Santa Ifigênia, where I paid a visit with Alessandro Salvatori of Blog do iPhone.
Coming from the Sao Bento metro station, you cross the charming Santa Ifigênia pedestrian bridge, where you know you’re in the right place when someone pulls out cell phones from a coat jacket muttering “dois chip, dois chip” (dual chip cell phones, in other words. We spotted models in nearby stores with four).
The main stretch, which runs alongside the church of the same name (Our Lady of the Deep Discount?), reminds me of Shanghai: small storefronts stretching back into a warren of individual vendor booths selling everything from electric shavers and cameras to baby monitors.
Some of the wares sold here are Chinese knock-offs, like the faux iPhone pictured above sporting an Android logo.
The rest? Some of the vendors told me they are the real deal but last year’s models, sold without any guarantees. The local merchant’s association maintains that the products are legit but prices are low because vendors buy directly from manufacturers in large quantities.
Bargains depend on what you’re looking for – there also seemed to be little room for haggling. A 13-inch MacBook Air, which looked legit but was probably the 2010 model, had an asking price of 2,100 reals, or US$1,157 (Compare that to the price of the current model in the Brazilian Apple store of 3,000 reals plus tax and it looks a little better).
Smaller gadgets like the knockoff Shuffles with the Apple logo clickwheel were cheap enough, going for 45 reals (about US$25), and came with some interesting features like a speaker (the demo song was “Say You, Say Me”), recording capabilities and radio.
Other products were curious hybrids – like the strange case of the Apple-inspired 7-inch tablet above. Is it a giant iPod Touch or an iPad Mini?
The phony iPhones, in black or white, were also loaded with features and cost around 360 reals (US$200). Should you want a phone that looks like an iPhone but runs on Android, comes equipped with dual chips and digital TV, you know where to go.