Apple’s AirPods are among the most popular wireless headphones on the market, and per a new report, it seems that counterfeit versions of them are on a massive rise for 2021. Since the first AirPods came out in 2016, Apple’s wireless earbuds have been an enormous hit. They’re immediately recognizable, work seamlessly with other Apple devices, and have spawned multiple successors — including a second-gen version, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. If someone has an iPhone or other Apple gadget, there’s a good chance they’re also going to have some form of AirPods.
As one might expect, this has resulted in a lot of counterfeits of the earbuds. Counterfeit goods are seen in every niche and market, but this tends to be especially true with Apple products. Thanks to Apple’s brand notoriety and traditionally high prices, it’s appealing for some people to create clones of its products. People buy these counterfeits thinking they got a great deal on an Apple device, the people selling the clones make off with the money, and the buyer is left with a cheap gadget that isn’t what they expected.
The Information recently published a report with data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Looking at the data that has been shared, counterfeit numbers for wireless headphones have jumped significantly in 2021 compared to 2020. Per the report, “Roughly 360,000 counterfeit wireless headphones with a retail value of $62.2 million were confiscated in the first nine months of the U.S. government’s fiscal year.” That fiscal year begins in October, meaning there are still a few months to go for those numbers to grow even larger. By comparison, the entirety of 2020 saw 295,000 pairs of headphones being confiscated with a retail value of $61.7 million. While there aren’t numbers in the report for AirPods specifically, there’s evidence to suggest AirPods have been the main driving force behind this increase. The Information says that counterfeit headphone seizures have gone up by 50 percent since 2017, with the retail value of them also spiking significantly. Retail value didn’t even break $10 million in 2017, 2018, or 2019 — compared to the $60 million+ numbers for this year and last. That’s likely thanks to AirPods Pro, which launched in late 2019 and have spawned countless fakes since then.
The Problem With Buying Counterfeit AirPods
Even with so many counterfeit headphones being seized at the border, a lot of them still make their way into the country. Take one quick look on Facebook Marketplace, and it doesn’t take long to find people selling ‘brand new AirPods’ for $50. As tempting as these counterfeits can be, it’s best to avoid them. They might be dirt cheap and look like the real things, but the quality of them is often noticeably worse — whether that be audio performance, battery life, etc. There’s also the fact that many counterfeit products are made created with cheap and toxic materials, possibly posing a health risk to people trying to save a few bucks.
For anyone that really wants AirPods but can’t afford them, there are plenty of affordable, legitimate earbuds available in 2021. The Skullcandy Dime are $25 wireless earbuds that sound good, have a durable design, and are from a reliable, U.S.-based company. The TOZO T6 are another great pair of earbuds found on Amazon, offering powerful bass and an IPX8 water-resistance rating for as little as $36. There are countless options for cheap earbuds that aren’t counterfeits, so there’s no reason to support them. Counterfeit AirPods aren’t going anywhere any time soon, but the more people ignore them, the better chance there is of them dying down (even just a little bit).