Zetta: The Spanish answer to the iPhone that was really made in China

Extremadura men suspected of passing off Asian phones as homegrown handsets

Manuel Viejo
Zetta handsets were allegedly relabeled Xiaomi phones.
Zetta handsets were allegedly relabeled Xiaomi phones.Web de Zetta
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How Spain’s Zetta passed off Chinese smartphones as its own

In April 2014, three men in their early thirties – two Spaniards and a Chinese national – got together and decided to create “the first cellphone from Extremadura.”

The new product was named Zetta, after Zafra, a city in the sparsely populated western region of Spain where the company is headquartered.

The first units were rolled out in mid-2015, and Zetta shifted 1,200 phones in just a few weeks. The secret of their success was in the price: Zetta phones were high-end mobiles that cost just €145 in stores and €155 on the company website.

In November 2015, company founders met with the regional premier of Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara. By October 2016, there were seven stores in Extremadura and more than 80 sales points across Spain.

If you’ve bought a Zetta cellphone, they have to give you a refund

Facua consumer association

The phone, which bore the image of an acorn with a bite taken out of it (a nod to the oak forests of Extremadura, and a deliberate imitation of Apple’s famous logo), was being marketed as the region’s answer to the iPhone.

But this weekend, after an interview with one of the founders in Spanish daily El Español went viral, two websites – Forocoches and Thegeekhammer – broke the news: the mobiles are really made by the Chinese brand Xiaomi. Zetta founders were allegedly buying them cheap, altering their look, and then reselling them for a much higher price.

A tweet from the Extremadura regional government in which regional premier Guillermo Fernández Vara is pictured with representatives from Zetta.

Erik Cui, Antonio Ribera and Juan José Cortés, the brand developers, offered their Zetta Smartphones on their website zettaeuropa.es. In an interview just a few months ago on the regional Canal Extremadura Televisión, Zetta representatives said that “this phone is innovative because there is nothing like it on the market.

“We have pampered this phone like it was our child,” they added.

In their two-year adventure, the partners launched three separate models with high-end features. The first handset came out in early 2015 with a 5.5-inch display, eight-megapixel camera and one gigabyte of RAM, all for under €200.

Zetta founders boasted about their latest models in recent interviews, even comparing it to the iPhone 7, which is priced at over €700.

The phone bore the image of an acorn with a bite taken out of it, a nod to the region’s oak trees

“It has a very similar interface and does not cost €900, but three times less,” said one of the creators as recently as last Saturday.

But since the fraud claims came to light, Zetta’s website and social media accounts have been shut down.

“Our website is being attacked and is unavailable at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience,” was the latest available message on Facebook from the company. Neither one of the founders could be reached for comment.

But a salesperson for Zetta who works in Plasencia (Cáceres) spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We’ve sold around 200 handsets across northern Extremadura,” said this source. “Nobody has been by to complain yet. It’s an Extremaduran handset with a guarantee, there’s no problem.”

But the Spanish consumer association Facua has issued a message on its Twitter account: “If you’ve bought a Zetta cellphone, they have to give you a refund. They’ve shut down their website. Let’s hope that prosecutors and the government of Extremadura will take action.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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