We tried a pair of fake AirPods so you don't have to
You may have noticed that there are a ton of knockoff AirPods-like earphones out there. They come in the same, soft-shaped, white charging case, the buds look the same, and the product's name might even try to throw you off. But are they actually... at least decent?
Well, curiosity got the better of us, so we went out and got ourselves a model that's called "i14" — these are the most common ones you see floating about on online stores. And here's our experience with them.
The unboxing experience was rather straightforward — there isn't much in there besides the case with the earbuds and a small Lightning cable. Yes, these actually come with what appears to be an Apple-licensed Lightning port and cable. Though, spoiler — the cable isn't really Apple-compliant. It will not charge your iPhone or iPad. The buds' case, however, can be charged with an original Apple cable.
On to the case — it doesn't look too bad. It is only slightly larger than an original AirPods case, and does follow its shapes. However, if you look closer, you will notice the cheaper look of the plastic and the imperfections left by the moulding process.
Once you actually hold the i14's case in your hands, the jig is up. As a whole, it's lighter than an AirPods case, but it is weirdly top-heavy. That weight comes from its lid, which is so heavy that it has trouble staying open while you are trying to pull the buds out. And yes, the lid is flimsy, shaky, and doesn't inspire much confidence.
When you do pull the i14 buds out, you will find that they can flash with red and blue lights — they inform you that they are ready for Bluetooth pairing. Yes, that's useful information, no, it does not look good.
OK, so the build is not ideal. But how's the experience?
Unlike some other knockoffs out there, the i14 gets the pairing process surprisingly well. For one, you don't need to pair each earphone individually — once you connect to the i14, the phone treats them as a set.
But what really got us by surprise was the fact that the i14 somehow manages to "cheat" an iPhone into thinking that it's an actual set of AirPods.
So, to begin the pairing process, you need to press the button on the buds' case once. This turns them on. Once you take them out of the case, they will initiate the pairing process. If you have an iPhone, you will actually see the prompt to connect to a new pair of AirPods, no joke. Apparently, the Apple garden wall has a couple of bricks loose.
And now it's time to check how they...
OK, here's the bread and butter, the actual reason you'd buy earbuds in the first place. How do these common AirPods knockoffs sound?
Terrible. With absolutely no bass, honky mids, and harsh highs, they can very quickly make you hate even your favorite songs. Admittedly, we just couldn't bring ourselves to spend too much time listening to those, for the pain was too great.
These specific earbuds have touch controls on them, just like you'd find on other modern wireless headphones. A single tap is play / pause, double-tap is skip forward or back, and multiple taps will control the volume up or down. Tap and hold to call up your voice assistant. The gestures are not customizable, but are pretty uniform.
We had trouble hitting the touch area consistently, but a bit of practice and muscle memory should help with that.
As can be expected, these buds don't have any sort of proximity sensor, which would pause or play your media as you take them out and put them in.
Now, this is just one of many different knockoffs of the Apple AirPods out there. But we tested them more to prove a point than anything.
If you are on a budget, that's perfectly fine. But we suggest you try to get a cheap pair of headphones from a brand that actually tries to make a product that'd be worth your money and time. Not one that invested all of its resources just to make its product look like the AirPods.
In fact, if you are shopping for something below $50, we'd suggest you don't go for "truly wireless". A set of Bluetooth buds that are hooked with a cable between them will probably offer better quality on a budget.