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Expert Shopper Electronics

Are AirPods really any better than their cheaper knockoffs?

Since Apple popularized the iPod, their signature white earbuds have been everywhere. Now, the emergence of their truly wireless earbuds — the AirPods — have removed the dangling cord, but increased the look’s prominence in public.

AirPods aren't cheap. They generally sell for around $150. And for some, just having the look of wearing this trendy accessory is enough — understanding that they'll have to compromise in terms of overall quality to achieve that. 

Accordingly, a market has emerged for products that look just like the name brand and can at least give the impression you own the real deal – but how do they measure up in terms of performance?

(If you want the real thing, right now, they’re marked down to $144 on Amazon.)

We decided to test how different these lookalikes are from the real thing by comparing these knockoff earbuds with actual AirPods. We used the Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Earbuds, which cost $27.95 and have earned a considerable number of five-star reviews on Amazon.

The product page received an F grade from Fakespot, meaning it was found to have several deceptive reviews to inflate its rating. Also, in the process of researching for this article, its original URL was taken down from Amazon. 

Red flags considered, these knockoffs seem like the best bargain version of real AirPods, in terms of looking the most similar.

Here's what we found: If you care about the quality — in particular the durability and functionality — of your electronics at all, you are going to have to go with the real thing. 

Upon opening the box of the knockoffs, it’s apparent what the manufacturer spent all of their time on when they were developing the product: appearance. In that, they really do look like AirPods. 

The similarities end there. 

Picking them up, they feel like chintzy plastic. The charging case is much lighter than the real deal. In testing, we've dropped AirPods boxes dozens of times and the product still works. This box withstood only a few drops before the earbuds stopped charging properly.

Actually using the product also presents some key differences. The sound in the knockoffs are hollow and inconsistent — sometimes the left bud didn't work at all until it would reawaken at an extremely high volume. 

Listening to music was frustrating due to the shoddy sound quality. Listening to podcasts was as difficult because of the inadequate pairing capabilities with an iPhone. The connection came and went so frequently, it made it difficult to follow the narrative.

Finally, we took the fakepods out on the road and tested them in the areas that make AirPods worthwhile — commuting on public transit and at the gym.

In those loud environments, it was preferable to sit in silence than to expect any kind of respite – the music just added to the noise, and you'd have to relisten to any podcast or book you were trying to consume to actually hear what they were saying.

Are AirPods worth it: Yes, they are worth it unless you only care about looking like you have AirPods. 

If you don’t have an iPhone or you don’t care about how your headphones look — you can always get these headphones from Bose, which are at the top of the line and work great with non-iOS systems.

But, if you want the Apple look and prefer to spend your money on something you will actually want to use, invest in AirPods.

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