We can go on and on about how great Apple AirPods ($159) are and how they’re arguably Apple’s best first-generation product ever. (Are they better than the first iPod or the first iPhone? Possibly.) Even though Apple released new AirPods in early 2019, the update wasn’t crazy — just iterative — and the new crop of AirPods are essentially indistinguishable from the ones that were released in 2016. Nevertheless, AirPods will remain the most popular true wireless earbuds by a long shot: they command 75 percent of the global market share.
Still, AirPods aren’t cheap. You can buy a pair for $159 or $200, depending on whether you want a wireless charging case. If you really want AirPods but don’t want to pay that much, there are other options out there. You’ve probably seen them while scrolling through the product purgatory that is amazon.com: AirPods selling for a fraction of their normal price. Only they’re not AirPods at all. They’re knockoffs. Fake AirPods.
Many of these fake AirPods are made by companies you’ve likely never heard of. But because they’re super cheap — some start at just over $10 — you might be tempted to pull the trigger. One thing with these AirPod knockoffs, or so I realized after researching them, is that they disappear from Amazon. Vanish. You can save a product page and then come back to it a day later, sometimes even less, and you’ll be greeted by a “404 error” page. Is it sketchy? Absolutely. Is it cheap? Hell yes. Should you buy them? Here’s what you should know.
AirPods vs Knockoff AirPods: The Big Differences
• Size. Each knockoff AirPod is roughly twice the size of an AirPod. In other words, nobody is going mistake these knockoffs for real AirPods. In fact, you might even get some more awkward gazes; people looking at you and thinking, “That doesn’t look right.”
• Lights. Most knockoff AirPods actually have lights built into them. These lights will flicker blue and red every few seconds when you’re wearing them. It’s not super noticeable in the daylight, but people will know something is up when they see your AirPods light up at night. Regular AirPods don’t do that.
• No quick pairing. Knockoff AirPods don’t have Apple’s H1 chip (nor the W1 chip of the original AirPods) so they won’t be able to instantly pair with your iPhone. You’ll have to go the old school route through Bluetooth settings.
• Physical buttons. No knockoff AirPods will have optical sensors, meaning they don’t automatically turn on and off when you put them in. To turn an individual earbud on or off, you’ll have to manually press and hold the “multifunction” button.
• Less charge. Expect a battery life of around 1.5 hours, which is about half as good as what you’ll get with Apple’s AirPods.
• Zero bass. As for sound quality, they won’t sound quite as good as Apple’s AirPods. It’ll be passable, but there will be a notable lack of bass.
• No Lightning port. The charging case that comes with the knockoff AirPods will require a micro-USB connection — no Lightning cable. And they will definitely not “MFi-certified” by Apple.
Editor’s Note: As stated before, the Amazon links to many of the below knockoff AirPods won’t be live — they might direct to “404 error” pages. This underlines the sketchy nature of even shopping for fake AirPods. We’ve also highlighted some Amazon reviews talking about people who’ve bought each pair of knockoff AirPods. As you’ll see, some of the reviews are helpful, but a whole chunk of them are clearly fake comments, taken from other products, and actually pretty hilarious.
AirPod Knockoffs #1: Gledo Wireless Earbuds
What reviews are saying:
• “These are a very good piece of kit. Great Bluetooth earbuds. Sound quality is superb and worth paying a high price for. Awesome Bluetooth Earphones. However you will have to try the different ear plugs that come with the product to get the right fit for your ears, once you get this right they’re spot on. The earphones work off the right earphone, so take the right one to far away, and the left one will turn off, something to bear in mind if you want to lie down and just have one earphone in, it will have to be the right one. Set up is easy and you can play around with the sound on the b&o app. Works great with my phone 7. Expensive but very good and they look alright too. The case for them is nice, hinge Is a bit plastic-y but that’s being picky. They snap nicely into position when you put them in the case which starts to charge them back up.” – Georgia Terry, Rating: 5/5
• “Really like the egg cooker. Makes perfect eggs for breakfast on the go. Have used the red trivet every day. The glove is used by my kids who love it.” – LJ Wilson, Rating: 4/5 (Example of a fake Amazon review)
Our verdict: These earbuds are rather large, so if you want to “look” like somebody wearing AirPods, you’ll want to pass. But if you’re looking for affordable true wireless earbuds, these will fit the bill cheaply.
AirPod Knockoffs #2: Gknight Wireless Earbuds
What reviews are saying:
• “Excellent headphones! I bought a set for my husband. It seems that there are occasional syntax errors on the directions page, but maybe we have received an old version of paperwork. They work perfectly! Beautiful headphones. Even in the gym conditions of the seats, these headphones work well and sound great. I hope that their music range will be improved. Easy to open and close; stay in place.” – Jay Blume, Rating: 5/5
• “The Blue microphone is top notch and a great product well worth the money. The rest of the stuff in this package is crap. The JVC headphones that came with the mic only worked out of one side. I only bought this for the mic though so still 4 stars.” – Scott Dedenbach, Rating: 4/5 (Example of a fake Amazon review)
Our verdict: These are very similar to the first true wireless earbuds on this list. The fact that they are a little more expensive makes me trust them even more. They also seem to have more reliable and honest comments from actual reviewers.
AirPod Knockoffs #3: CH-electonic Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Earbuds
What reviews are saying:
• “The price is great for the quality of the product. I’ve been using them all day while I clean the house. It comes with a micro-USB to charge, I was really impressed with the quality and sturdiness of the product. Comes in a nice case with easy to read the instructional pamphlet.” – DaYDreaMz, Rating: 5/5
• “So I’ve been seeing a lot of these Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds or AirPod replicas and I tested out another pair that looks identical to this, just different color. The sound quality is great, the best I’ve heard on any pair of air-pod or fully wireless earbuds so far in this cost bracket. The problem is that these tend to fall off just like the other air-pod replicas, so they’re not good for the gym, unlike what some other reviews might say. For non-exercise these are good like in school if you’re going to your next class you can put these on and go or while you’re doing homework. For the gym, I’m sure you can find other options on Amazon that can actually turn on automatically when you take it out from the case!” – Underground Tech, Rating 3/5
Our verdict: You can get these earbuds in either black or white, which is rare compared to other fake AirPods on the list. They are still huge, however, and don’t look like actual AirPods. If you’re willing to spend over $40 for true wireless earbuds, there are much better options by Anker that aren’t that much more expensive.