Field guide to spotting fake Android mini collectibles!

* Update 10/18/10: Looks like they finally got around to bootlegging some of the other designs in the first series. I’ve seen some photos and the paint jobs are pretty lousy. These bootlegs are untested, badly painted and of dubious quality. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. *

Flattering as it may be, some suppliers in China have taken to counterfeiting the Android mini collectibles and passing them off as the real thing to unwitting collectors, a few shops have even picked up the fakes and are redistributing them. But isn’t the Android creative commons you may ask? The original 2D character design is, but the toy designs and packaging that I spent months and thousands of dollars developing, not so much. Also the actual ANDROID logo text that appears on the box and back of the figure is trademarked property of Google, Inc and is not supposed to be used without permission.

Here is a quick guide to spotting some of the fakes that may pop up on eBay or other sites ( also know as a guide to making better fake Androids, but let’s hope that it does more good than harm! ).

First up, almost all the fakes are either “Standard Green” or “Albino”, simply because these are the two simplest versions to copy. It takes some time/money/effort/skill to replicate the complex paint applications found in Series 1 designs, so the fake factories don’t bother.

The packaging on the fakes varies from simple to pretty close to the original. All of the fakes I’ve seen are based off of the smaller boxes from the first run of Series 1, so if yours came inone of the newer, taller boxes you’re probably good!

The fake box above is mostly accurate, except that the colors are all too dark and there is this glaring error, the real Hi-Voltage edition has no green in it.

Ironically some of the fake Androids come with “authenticity seals”, this one even has my URL on it and a unique number! There are no such seals on the authentic boxes.

Another obvious tell is that the fakes are usually packed with the “Android” logo facing front. On the real figures, the Android logo is on the back. Here we also see white foam used to protect the antennae on the fake edition.The real first editions of the figures are in plain foil bags with no foam, while the updated second shipment are in printed foil bags with a black foam square on top.

The real Android minis are painted green, it has a nice solid rich matte finish. Most of the fakes I’ve seen are molded directly in green plastic. The logo on the back is also much less pronounced.

While the real Android figures also have a seam along the arm, it is much more obvious on the fake ones. The arms on the fake ones are also often glossy, not matching the rest of the body. The fake antenna are also longer and more fragile than the real ones.

Here is a product shot from a US company that is re-selling fake editions. You can see the fake box, forward facing logo, shiny arms and overly-long antenna. I’ve gotten a few e-mails from customers who were quite annoyed with the shoddy fakes and unable to secure refunds.

You can see in the above photo of more recent fakes. The hi-voltage is right but the “Worker” is yellowed on one and missing dots next to the word “Worker” on another, there should be four rows of each like the others. Also, the shadows under the icons are black, where they should be grey.

I realize some of you may not care because you just have to have your Android fix, this article obviously isn’t for you. However I know there are a lot of great people out there would rather support a small business and independent artist; people who don’t want to throw money away on an inferior knock-off product. Thanks for your support and hopefully this will help you avoid getting scammed. Remember that more Androids are coming to more stores near you!

Thanks again for your support,

– Andrew

Android mini back in stock!

I‘ll have part 6 of the Production blog up eventually, but for now I thought you might be interested to know that the mini collectibles will be back in stock in our new shop!

Starting tomorrow, August 11th 2010, we’ll be adding stock of random, cases, 4-packs, standard green and new blank do-it-yourself Androids to the shop every couple of hours ALL WEEK! Thanks to our new system, they won’t all be gone in 5 minutes (we hope!).

Note that orders are being limited to 20 total pieces and one order per household for the first week, this is to ensure that more people have a fair chance of picking up a little robot love.

A few insider tips. They will still move pretty quickly, Credit Card is the fastest way to pay and ensure that no one ‘cart-jacks’ you before you finish payment (although that can still happen, it’s not “yours” until payment is processed). Make sure your billing and shipping addresses are on file with your bank/credit card company, and have that CCV code handy!

Good luck!

Android mini production – Part 5: A fresh coat of paint

Long time no update! Sorry about that, things have been very busy over here. For those looking to buy some more figures, you’ll be happy to know that they have arrived and will be available for sale soon! The first few cases will be accompanying me to San Diego for the International Comic-Con (Booth 1335/1337), with the rest going on sale online upon my return. We’re setting up a new shop and doing smaller timed ‘drops’ to ensure that more people than last time have a chance to get some figures!

Back to the progress! This is what a finished, cooled off, assembled and completely naked Android looks like. Please try not to stare.

That is much better. The standard green Android is a pretty straight-forward matter of spray-painting the correct colors in the correct areas. The more interesting part here is that little strip of color swatches on the right.

All you non-designers out there may not be familiar with how hard it is to match ‘on-screen’ colors to ‘real world’ colors. Those color swatches are part of an industry-wide color reference system from PANTONE. Basically the factory has a copy of that book, I have a copy of the same book, and we can all agree on what the final color should look like without having to worry about anyone properly color-calibrating monitors or printers between offices (and countries). In every design file for each Android variation I make note of which specific color codes to reference (by the way, Android green is PANTONE code 376!).

For designs that go beyond basic painting we turn to the mighty machine for assistance. This one is called a “pad printer”, because it uses rubber pads to transfer paint onto curved and irregular surfaces. The artwork is etched onto the pad much like a traditional rubber stamp, but this pad is much softer. When the pad is pulled down onto the Android it deforms over the shape, depositing the paint in all the right places (hopefully).

Despite all the metal, this is still a mostly manual operation. The operator has to be quite skilled in order to line up all of the tiny details on the more complex designs. Some of the Androids use dozens of different pads in conjunction with complicated spray paint masks.

Next Time: Shape up, ship out and party down!

Android mini production – Part 4: Molds and Pulls

Hello again everyone! The behind the scenes look continues, and now we’re getting to the messy bits!

Multiple copies of the a metal molds are created from the original master mold.

These molds are then attached to a frame built specifically for a roto-casting (aka rotational casting) machine. These particular frames pictured hold 12 android body molds. Hot liquid vinyl is poured into each form on the frame.

The molds are then capped off and inserted into a large roto-casting machine. This machine is essentially a large oven that spins the molds around in different directions while they bake. By spinning the molds we can ensure that the liquid vinyl coats all of the inside surfaces of the molds evenly and fully. Rotocasting also requires far less material than solid molding, and results in a lighter and more flexible product.

After a quick cool-down, the raw forms are still warm and soft enough to easily be pulled out of their molds. The excess material around the seams is trimmed off.

Sometimes the figures will become somewhat warped when they are pulled out of the molds. A quick trip to a heating rack makes them pop back into their original heat-formed shape.

Arms and antennae are too small and precise to be rotationally molded, those are created by a process called injection molding. Here the material is injected under extreme heat and pressure into a two part mold made from a solid aluminum block. Here you can see half the antennae on the left and half an arm on the right. That “gunk” you see helps lubricate the mold and ensure a good solid seal between the two parts.

Next Time: Painting pretty colors!

Android mini production – Part 3: Sculpting and Packaging

Time to move on to the physical production stage! With the reference design finalized, we start on a sculpt. Sometimes I’ll work out a rough in clay myself, but given the precise and geometric nature of this project I decided to leave it to an expert! Prototypes are typically 5-8% larger than the target production size to compensate for the shrinking that occurs due to mold production and material cooling.

A few revisions later and we’re getting pretty close. I went back and forth with the sculptor a few times annotating photos of the prototype in order to get the arms, legs and antennae just right.

Once the sculpt is finalized, a copy of the prototype body is cast in wax for final clean-up and mold creation. The body will be made of rotational-cast vinyl and the wax will be melted out when the mold is formed (molds pics in next update!).

Work on the packaging starts during figure production so that everything can be ready to go at once! Here is an individual box layout, nothing too exciting to see here but it is kind of neat to see it all flat.

A separate layer in the artwork file denotes areas that are to get a hit of glossy clear coating. This makes the boxes eye catching and also gives them a nice physical texture when you hold them.

Each figure is wrapped in an individual foil bag. This helps protect the figure from scuffing, but it also helps prevent tampering with blind-boxes. Originally the Androids had this neat printed pattern on their foil bags. Unfortunately the bag printer had just switched ink suppliers and hadn’t fully tested the new inks with the foil. Opening a few boxes led to little flakes of black paint all over your fingers, table and clothing, not good! At the last minute I had to ditch the printed bags and go back to plain old “ooohh shiny!”.  I think a few of these printed bags may have slipped through into the final production cases, consider yourself lucky if you found one, and go wash your hands.

Next Installment: Molds, hot vinyl!

Android mini production – Part 2: design layout

Hello again everyone! Last time we were laying the groundwork for the project to move forward, now the real fun begins as a final figure is fleshed out.

Once we had settled on the basic design, I created this line art “turnaround” reference. This layout includes basic scale measurements and detail notations for the sculptor as well as joint notations for the factory. It was also the first time I was able to show the rest of the guys working on the project exactly what I had in mind from all angles… which meant this was the first time that they had seen their mascot with my “fat” legs design.

This naturally lead to a discussion on the best way to create a compelling figure while staying as true to form as possible. Using brand-accurate rounded cylindrical legs would pose a problem, our little Android wouldn’t be able to stand up on his own! Being an avid collector myself, figures flopping over and taking Olympic caliber Shelf Dives is one of my pet peeves. The collector in me also knew that a stand is usually just an extraneous piece of plastic bound to be lost or broken. So I presented the team with a number of options including the above “fat” leg, which is brand-accurate from the front and at an angle, but not from the side; a short-round leg which was cylindrical, but had to be comically short to maintain a low center of gravity; and thin semi-rounded legs that could be longer, but would need to be angled to create a more stable triangular base.

Here is the final template, you can see which legs won in the end! I am still confident that this was the best balance of brand accuracy and real-world practicality. You can see on the lower right an area marked “Pantone reference”. For those unfamiliar with design in general, Pantone is an industry standard color reference guide. On-screen colors are often quite different from physical paint colors, so it is important to have an agreed-upon color goal. Typically a designer will have a book of color swatches and a factory will have the same book along with a formula guide to reproduce that exact color in paint.

Ok, maybe NOW the real fun has started. Designs are roughed out, refined and placed into the standard layout template. Here’s an edition of Creature Android that was a little too busy, we dropped the cityscape and the flames, but most of the design remained intact through the final round. Some other designs weren’t so lucky…

This guy never made it past revision 1. With plenty of design ideas around and a limited number we could produce, it was important to balance variety, novelty and fun. There were some good designs that hit the Series 1 cutting room floor, but hopefully we’ll be able to revisit a few of those in the future!

Next Installment: Sculpting, packaging.

Android mini collectibles in shops

Android toys are finally hitting a few select toy retailers. Here is a short list to get you started on your quest:

rotofugi *

rivet *

New York
my plastic heart *
toytokyo *
frozen empire

3d retro

cardboard spaceship
Neon Monster *

United Kingdom

playlounge *
Tokyo Toy Store

*denoted that store also has a physical location.

Some shops have already gone through their stock, but others haven’t put them online yet. Some shops keep a few sets for their retail storefronts. Hint: newsletter subscribers got this information first!

More coming this summer if you miss out on these, including at the 2010 International Comic-Con!

Meet the Androids: Albino and APK 2008

Reminder: Do not go wasting your cash on eBay resellers with jacked-up prices, there will be more Androids in the future if you are patient!

People are starting to get their Androids! If you have some good photos why not drop them into our Flickr Pool?

One last “regular” Android to show off, followed by one of the rarer chase editions.. so don’t scroll down if you don’t want spoilers!

Name: Albino
ID: 09
Ratio: 1/16

High gloss white finish with red eyes.

— Yarr, below there be spoilers! —

Name: APK 2008
ID: 11
Ratio: ?/??

Someone had requested an explaination of this guy. Most Android devs and quite a few users will be familiar with APK, the file format for Android install packages. 2008 is the year Android debuted. The whole thing? An pretty blatant homage to one of my favorite classic Sci-Fi movies!

Release the Robots! *SOLD OUT*

What a crazy rush! Unfortunately we are now super extra sold out of our online stock. We had hoped to offer more this evening, but a software issue caused some over-sales.

If you missed out today, check back here in a week or two for a list of stores that will have some! If you miss those, there should be more available in a few months when our second shipment comes in! FEAR NOT, Androids shall be yours!

Meet the Androids: Worker & Octopoid

A two-for Tuesday! Excited about tomorrow? I know the one lady who will be shipping all of these orders is! Perhaps I am confusing “excited” with “terrified”.

In case you’re wondering when the figures will be available tomorrow, it will be a random time, and I will be adding stock throughout the day to give people in different time zones a chance! Don’t forget that a few cases of these will also be hitting select retailers in a couple of weeks. So if you miss out here, all hope is not lost.

Name: Worker
ID: 07
Ratio: 1/16

Will work for recharge.

Name: Octopoid
ID: 08
Ratio: 1/16

He’s all legs and suckers.

Meet the Androids: CopperBot & Reactor

Two for one mega-size Friday update! This is perhaps the most anticipated of the Androids teased so far. Say hello to my little friend, CopperBot.

Name: CopperBot
ID: 04
Ratio: 2/16

Metallic copper finish with mechanical detailing and an overwhelming desire to be loved.

Name: Reactor
ID: 06
Ratio: 1/16

You could even say it glows! (it does, in the dark)

Finally on another note, I will be at myplasticheart in NYC for a bit tonight to attend the opening reception for New Moon 2010! If you enjoy toys and art and are in the New York area, why not stop in?

Have a great weekend everyone!

Meet the Androids: Darknet

We continue our introduction to the designs! Half-way through working on this post the power went out in my building. Coincidence? Most definitely. This guy is named “Darknet”, not “Blackout”. He features black on black artwork and a crazy look in his red eyes.

ID: 05
Name: Darknet
Ratio: 2/16

Meet the Androids: Hi-Voltage

I’ll be taking the opportunity over the next few days to introduce some of the designs and share some more information!

As some of you have figured out, these guys will be available February 10th. The first batch will hit right here online (yes we ship internationally), followed in a week or two by a limited release in toy and collectible shops both online and in the real world! After that I’m afraid you’ll be waiting a few months while our replication pods recharge, so good luck! Price? About $7.25 per box, with discounts on cases of 16.

We’ve already seen standard Android, so today we start up with this electrifying Android.

ID: 02
Name: Hi-Voltage
Ratio: 2/16

Warning: Do not attempt to plug in.

Android mini collectibles

New from artist Andrew Bell and Google’s Android™ platform comes Android mini collectibles series 01!

Andrew, an avid Android user himself, teamed up with some friends at Google to bring their little green mascot to life. Series 1 features 12 different designs in blind-boxed cases of 16. Pick up a few and try your luck, or grab a whole case to secure a nearly-full set. Be on the lookout for some super rare chase editions. Each vinyl figure stands 3” tall and features a rotating head and arms.

Check back throughout the next few weeks for more photos and info!

Series 1 will be available later this month right here in an online Android collectibles shop and in specialty retailers. For wholesale inquiries contact DKE distribution.

Android™, related logo and character design are trademark Google Inc. and are used under license.