ZTE

ZTE's smartphones and tablets. Source: Bloomberg

With all the ruckus over fake Apple stores in China, you would think no one is going down that path any more. Not so.

For enterprising businesses in China and India, the philosophy seems to be: make stuff just like Apple, only a lot cheaper.

So China's ZTE Corp is custom making tablet computers for India's Reliance Communications that will cost about a third of the iPad. The seven-inch tablet will run on Google's Android operating system and be sold under the Reliance brand name. It will come equipped with dual 2-megapixel cameras and features such as MS Documents, voice calling, GPS and video recording, as well as e-mail on the go. It would weigh less than 400gm and be priced at 12,999 rupees ($288).

Reliance Communications, part of the ADA Group, is India's No. 2 mobile operator with more than 140m mobile customers. It has always competed on price, offering its CDMA and GSM services through cheaper Chinese handsets. It has a big rural reach and one of the widest distribution networks in the country. Some tech blogs in India are hailing this tablet as a "game changer" if Reliance delivers on everything it promises.

ZTE, which has the 3G equipment contract for Reliance Communications, is China's No. 2 telecom equipment maker, and aims to sell about 12m smartphones and tablet computers this year, betting on the growing popularity of the Android platform.

Meanwhile, it is not clear how many the Chinese maker of hiPhone 5 expects to sell. But it is a lot cheaper than the expected price tag of Apple's iPhone 5. The hiPhone 5, based on leaked images of the yet-to-be-launched iPhone 5, is selling for about $30 on China's top e-commerce platform Taobao, Reuters reported.

So while Apple is busy blocking Samsung from selling its Galaxy tablet -- which it claims "slavishly" copies the iPad --and cracks down on shops in Chinatown selling fake accessories, the $288 tablet and the hiPhone 5 are winning a growing fan base. Albeit one that is different from Apple's.

See also:
Full coverage of mobile telecoms in India - FT Tilt
Full coverage of ZTE Corp - FT Tilt