Apple's AirPods have become one of the most ubiquitous pieces of in-ear tech, so it's no surprise that there's a huge market for counterfeit models. And while it can be hard to tell these apart from legitimate imitations by other brands, it seems US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been a little overzealous in its search for fake Apple goods.
CBP tweeted last night (below) that it had seized 2,000 "counterfeit Apple AirPods from Hong Kong", along with a photo of – wait for it – a pair of OnePlus Buds. That's right, it seems the border force has mistaken a rival brand's legitimate (albeit similarly designed) earphone's for knock-off versions of Apple's own. If you're looking to kit out some actual AirPods (and potentially further confuse the feds), check out our best fun AirPods cases (opens in new tab).
THAT'S NOT AN 🍎 —CBP officers at JFK Airport recently seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods from Hong Kong, valued at $398K had they been genuine.Details via @CBPNewYorkCity: https://t.co/XMgjkfT56i pic.twitter.com/Ofn9REJ9ZBSeptember 14, 2020
Sure, it's probably no accident that OnePlus Buds' design closely resembles those of Apple's AirPods – without the packaging, perhaps we could forgive CBP for the mistake. But as the agency's own photo shows, the earphones are fully packaged in a box that quire clearly reads 'OnePlus Buds'. Not only that, but the charging case CBP has removed from the box clearly features OnePlus's curved design as opposed to Apple's more rectangular shape.
CBP says the "AirPods" would be worth almost $400k if genuine. But as Twitter has been quick to let the agency know (below), these are neither genuine nor non-genuine AirPods – they aren't AirPods, full stop.
Hey, give those back! 🙃September 14, 2020
Holy hell you are dumb. Those don't claim to be Apple, they are clearly branded OnePlus Buds. https://t.co/mCtQpQtrkWSeptember 14, 2020
it is my understanding that you have just seized some earbuds for being a different brand than the one you’re used to?? seems like I’d be embarrassed, if that was me, instead of bragging about it on the internetSeptember 14, 2020
Great job! 👍Please be on the lookout for some counterfeit iPhones. Here's a picture to show you what they look like. pic.twitter.com/wWMm9UrYSrSeptember 14, 2020
In a press release (opens in new tab) about the seizure, CBP claims that "the interception of these counterfeit earbuds is a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP officers daily." Over-commitment, one might argue.
But while CBP might be feeling a little red-faced this morning, the amusing mix-up does highlight influence of Apple design on its rivals. Imitation is supposedly the sincerest form of flattery, and competitors are clearly eager to ape Apple design – to a point where it seems customs can't even tell the difference. Still, that's not to say that Apple always gets it right – five years later, fans are still fuming about one of Apple's worst design decisions ever.