How popular are Apple’s AirPods?

U.S. Customs officials are seizing fakes in record numbers.

From Wayne Ma’s “AirPods Are a Huge Hit With Consumers—and Counterfeiters” ($) posted Friday on The Information:

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, which starts in October, according to previously unreported data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That has surpassed both the quantity and the retail value of counterfeit wireless headphones seized in all of fiscal 2020, when 295,000 pairs worth $61.7 million were seized.

The numbers are up dramatically from 2019, when the agency nabbed $3.3 million worth of headphones…

The consumer electronics giant likely sold at least $16 billion worth of AirPods in 2020, based on estimates of AirPods shipments at 97 million last year, according to research firm Canalys. Apple shipped 29.5 million in 2018, Canalys said.

“What customs agencies seize are the tip of the iceberg,” said Paolo Beconcini, head of the intellectual property and anti-counterfeiting team for China and Asia-Pacific at law firm Squire Patton Boggs.

My take: An Apple spokesperson said the fakes deliver an inferior experience and can “often be dangerous.” But the biggest danger for Apple may be that most of the counterfeits, according to Customs, easily paired with iPhones.

10 Comments

  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    Individuals who purchase knock-offs usually do so due to lack of discretionary money to purchase the original manufactured product. They desire to be seen as having the original. It’s aspirational only because they do not have the original & consequently, don’t access the premium experience that come with owning the original. All of this is good for Apple, though, in that the counterfeits promote Apple’s wireless headphones and when these imitators do get the discretionary monies to afford the originals, they will buy the originals.

    Counterfeiters only are cheating themselves. It’s the same as the student cheating in the classroom. The student is missing out on learning and only is hurting himself.

    1
    July 16, 2021
  2. Robert Stack said:
    @Jerry: That assumes the consumer knowingly purchased the counterfeit item(s). If they don’t know and believe them to be authentic AirPods, they could be left thinking Apple products are not as great as everyone seems to think and thus it could reflect poorly on the company…

    5
    July 16, 2021
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Robert Stack: Good observation. My bad! 🙂

      0
      July 16, 2021
    • Kirk DeBernardi said:
      @ Robert Stack —

      My take:

      If you’re “aware” of Apple’s products to lay down the money, you’d most likely be capable of “discerning” a knock-off of them.

      2
      July 16, 2021
  3. If consumers personally order counterfeit Airpod Pros, Apple Watches, iPads , etc. directly shipped from a retailer based overseas (any nation) they may be charged with multiple violations of the Lanham Act. Your $$ fine is 2 x cost of highest product retail price plus court costs, for each item. Those fines are imposed, not simply theoretical. I’m no lawyer, just a tech instructor trained to teach US State and Commerce Dept import/export regs. Oh, the stuff stuck in me head!!
    FYI: Amazon retailers are often based overseas but AMZN uses AI to root out fakes. Many of these counterfeit ads are pitched to support conspiracy theory websites.

    5
    July 16, 2021
  4. Michael Goldfeder said:
    Nobody is counterfeiting Sony or Samsung ear buds. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. To me that says it all.

    5
    July 16, 2021
  5. John Konopka said:
    I didn’t read the original article as I didn’t want to sign up. MacRumors has a similar article.

    https://www.macrumors.com/2021/07/16/airpods-drive-surge-in-counterfeit-headphones/

    They point out that Customs didn’t break out the fraction of counterfeits were AirPod knockoffs.

    MacRumors also has a video comparing real and fake headphones.

    I’m curious, how many of these are simply knockoffs that look exactly like AirPods but have a different name and how many actually copy the Apple name and packaging?

    This can be a problem simply due to tons of advertising confusing people about supplier names and prices.

    I’m sure many of you have seen the ads for a $50 Apple Watch knockoff. Same problem.

    0
    July 16, 2021
  6. Bart Yee said:
    It is always amusing to me when so many US based consumers complain about Apple products as being “too expensive”, “overpriced”, “ugly” (specifically the AirPods design and to a lesser extent, Watch), and the ever present “it’s made in China”, “I’d rather buy American” and / or “I’d pay extra to keep Americans employed”.

    And then we see hundreds if not thousands of cheap, lookalike Apple AirPods, Watch, and other products knock offs, fakes, and blatant direct copies being brought in and sold because of a huge demand for them. Some are marketed as genuine, most as “as good as”, always based on close copy appearance, and of course made of inferior chips, parts, materials, design, use ability, Android related OS, and of course, support. Hundreds on Amazon now and elsewhere, most with poor grammar adverts and instructions, and vastly inferior and regretful reviews. And of course, most copies made in China or another Far Eastern country, origin conveniently forgotten in the name of “saving a few (my) bucks” and “it’s not my job to support those greedy Americans working at Apple, they already have too much”.

    I don’t begrudge anyone on a budget trying to stretch their dollars to have some nice things. And maybe the most vocal opponents wouldn’t be caught dead with even an Apple counterfeit or copy lest they be thought of as Apple “sheeple” instead of the far larger Android herd. But there’s plenty of Asian and Americans on both ends trying to profit, as usual, off of any association they can create with Apple, it’s designs, products, platform, ecosystem, operating systems, and services / support, even physical stores.

    1
    July 16, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      Does anyone know of any kind of watch made in the USA?

      0
      July 16, 2021
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Bart Yee: Good comments & observation, Bart. Hopefully, Apple’s strategic efforts to tweak its financial offerings through no interest loans and through interest free installments will embrace consumers aspiring to own Apple products, but who otherwise lack the initial discretionary funds up-front to do so.

      2
      July 16, 2021

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