How to spot counterfeit Apple AirPods

Apple AirPods are expensive. If you want some, it’s in your best interest to find an interesting offer. But beware, counterfeiting reigns. How to make the difference ?

The AirPods are fashionable, you see them everywhere, but they are expensive. If you have the opportunity to buy it at a lower price, you will most certainly be very interested. That being said, this enthusiasm is also fueling the counterfeit market, so much so that Apple has integrated an AirPods verification system into iOS 16. But how can you get caught and buy counterfeit AirPods?

remain skeptical

Looking for the best deal on AirPods is a good strategy. But if you see a price that seems too good to be true, maybe it really is. You don’t have to worry too much if you’re ordering from Amazon – even from a third-party seller – or from a major retailer.

But if you see a really good deal on Facebook Marketplace, eBay or whatever, look out. Not buying fake AirPods is the only way to avoid a scam. Real AirPods are being sold constantly on these platforms, finding a good deal is not impossible, but to be sure, here are some things to check.

Look closely at the box

Doubtful packaging should put you on your toes. Take the time to take a good look at it. It’s easier to do on the spot, but you can also ask for close-up photos. Apple, like other tech companies, take great care with their presentation. There are no spelling mistakes on a legitimate AirPods box, as there are no visual imperfections.

Make sure everything is in the box

Again, Apple’s packaging is uniform. Each product has the same packaging from box to box. Look at the model you are interested in on the Apple site and see what should be present in the box. For example, the AirPods 3 have, in addition to the headphones, a MagSafe charging case, a Lightning to USB-C cable and documentation. If you have a USB-A cable, for example, watch out.

Check serial number

If you have the device, checking the serial number is a quick way to tell if the product is legit. On AirPods or AirPods Pro, the serial number is right under the case lid. On the AirPods Max, it’s under the cushion of the left earcup.

A scammer can have a legitimate serial number printed on the box to trick a potential buyer. But if you find that the serial number is indeed on the AirPods themselves, that’s a good point. To ensure that the advertised serial number matches, the headphones must be paired. Then in Settings, select the AirPods and check the number.

When you have the number in question, enter it on the dedicated Apple site. If they are real AirPods, you will have the information. Otherwise, you know they are fake.

Try AirPods (especially on iOS 16)

Apple has a great system for setting up AirPods for the very first time. Just open the charging case next to your iPhone and a window will appear to guide you.

For counterfeit AirPods, the experience is much less easy. If the AirPods ask you to go through the Bluetooth settings menu, and in particular if they ask you to pair them one by one, they are fake. Apple never pairs AirPods individually.

Some scammers have managed to trick iOS into triggering the genuine setup. With iOS 16, Apple is responding to these scammers. If you attempt to set up a pair of counterfeit AirPods with an iPhone running iOS 16, a window will appear stating “Unable to verify AirPods. These headphones could not be authenticated as real AirPods and may not work as expected.” You can then choose not to connect them or proceed anyway in the Bluetooth settings.


Look at the tech specs of AirPods you’ve purchased, like the AirPods 3, and compare them with those of the AirPods you have. Do the dimensions match? Is the charging case the same size? Does it have a Lightning port instead of a USB-C port? Does wireless charging work and, if present, MagSafe too?

The same goes for unique features depending on the models. Removing an AirPod from your ear should stop the music. Long pressing on the tail of an AirPods Pro earbud toggles between noise canceling mode and transparency mode. A double tap skips to the next song. So many features that can be customized later, but upon unboxing, they should be there and work like that.

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