How to Tell if AirPods Are Fake: 7 Tested & Proven Methods

Original AirPods vs fake AirPods
Original AirPods vs fake AirPods

We bought counterfeit AirPods to determine what differentiates them from the authentic pair. Here’s the ultimate guide on how to tell if your AirPods or AirPods Pro are fake.

Apple hates fake AirPods. Some reports estimate that fake AirPods cost the company an astounding $3.2 billion a year.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t the only entity harmed by counterfeit AirPods and AirPods Pro. You, the customer, could also be affected, and the damages go way beyond the financial.

One style of counterfeit AirPods reportedly goes 10 dB over standard, possibly causing serious hearing damage.

But differentiating counterfeit AirPods from originals can be a tedious process. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be counterfeits to begin with. Read on to settle the mystery as we explore the seven best ways to determine if your AirPods are real or fake.

How to Identify Counterfeit AirPods Using iOS Devices

With the launch of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, you can now quickly tell if your AirPods are original or fake through your iOS devices. No need to go to great lengths to verify your AirPods’ legitimacy!

This update now shows a prompt message on your iOS device when the AirPods you’re pairing with your are not a genuine pair.

AirPods don't connect
AirPods don’t connect

Simply connect your AirPods by opening the lid and placing it close to your iOS device (with Bluetooth turned on) to test this prompt.

However, this new feature does not stop you from pairing a fake pair of AirPods with your iOS devices. It simply informs users of the authenticity of their AirPods and highlights that the fake pair of AirPods might not work as well as a genuine pair.

AirPods Pro 2 Memoji check

If you’re holding the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), there’s another way to verify its genuineness.

The 2nd generation AirPods Pro allows users to customize their charging case with Memoji engraved.

When pairing your AirPods Pro with your iOS devices, and if your pair is genuine, you will be able to see your engraved Memoji on the pairing status screen.

Engraved Memoji showing on the pairing status screen of iOS device
Engraved Memoji showing on the pairing status screen of iOS device

How to Tell if AirPods Are Fake via the Serial Number

If you don’t have an iOS device or your device can’t update to iOS 16, there are alternative ways to verify your AirPods. One of which is through the AirPods’ serial number.

The serial number is the fingerprint of a product. It is a combination of numbers and letters assigned only to a specific unit produced.

This allows Apple to track specific units during inventory. Aside from that, Apple also uses serial numbers to identify defective batches. For users, the serial number is proof that the product actually came from Apple and not any other manufacturer.

You can also use the serial number to identify stolen or lost AirPods. Every pair of AirPods has a one-of-a-kind serial number so you can verify whether a unit is yours or not. For example, if you suspect another person is using your lost AirPods, you can check the serial number.

Here’s where to find your AirPods’ serial number:

  • Bluetooth Settings: If you are using iOS or iPadOS you can tap your AirPods’ More Info button and find the serial number.
  • AirPods Case: If you own AirPods or AirPods Pro and are using the original case, it will have the same serial number as your AirPods. Locate it on the underside of the flip-open lid.
  • AirPods Max Ear Cushion: For AirPods Max, remove the left ear cushion. Underneath, you’ll find the serial number next to an Apple logo near the speaker holes.
  • Box: If you have the authentic box for your AirPods, the serial number will be on the barcode at the back. Make sure this matches the serial number on the inside of the charging case’s lid.

Speaking from personal experience, here’s a tip we have for you: If you’re using AirPods 2nd, 3rd, or AirPods Pro, you’ll notice that each earbud also has its serial number printed under the speaker’s head. Refer to the serial number on your case of the Bluetooth Settings instead.

How to check the serial number authenticity of AirPods

Once you have your AirPods’ or AirPods Pro’s serial number, check if it is real or fake by simply heading to the Apple Coverage Check page. If your AirPods are original, you’ll see this:

Service coverage of Authentic AirPods
Service coverage of Authentic AirPods
Checking the serial numbers to identify fakes used to be a foolproof method. Unfortunately, that’s not the case nowadays. Some manufacturers of fake AirPods have been taking serial numbers from real AirPods to use in batches of fakes.

Price Difference Between Real vs. Fake AirPods

The price difference between fake and real AirPods is the most significant source of temptation for counterfeit buyers. After all, why spend more than a hundred bucks on authentic AirPods if you can buy a pair that looks like them for a third of the price?

As of the time of writing, AirPods Gen 3 cost a little below $200, AirPods Pro cost over $170 and AirPods Pro Gen at $249. Even renewed AirPods Gen 3 and renewed AirPods Pro will cost over $100.

If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

However, this isn’t a guarantee, as some sellers may also raise the prices of their counterfeit AirPods to make it seem like they’re the real deal.

The best way to ensure that you’re buying originals is to buy from Apple Stores of Apple Authorized Resellers. You can check Apple’s ‘Locate’ page to find the nearest legit sellers near you.

If you’re buying through online platforms such as Amazon, make sure that you’re buying from their official Apple Store.

How to Spot Fake AirPods via the Packaging

Minimalist, intelligent, and clean — these are the perfect words to describe the boxes that come with Apple products. Anyone who knows a thing or two about tech brands also knows how much Apple pays attention to the details, even when it comes to the packaging.

Because of this, counterfeit manufacturers seem to have a harder time producing high-quality packaging than the earbuds themselves.

Here’s how to spot fake AirPods and AirPods Pro packaging:

Different counterfeit AirPods come from different manufacturers. This means some manufacturers could have gotten parts of packaging right that other manufacturers haven’t.

Check for misspellings and wrong information

A company like Apple would not have typographical errors on the box itself or even in the manuals. These materials go through multiple rounds of proofreaders and copywriters before printing.

If you spot any errors on your AirPods’ packaging, you’re probably holding a counterfeit one.

The difference between the packaging labels of fake AirPods and original ones
The difference between the packaging labels of fake AirPods and original ones
You’ll also notice that the labels for the original boxes are separated, whereas fake ones simply have one whole strip of paper attached.

You should also know how to spot fake AirPods and AirPods Pro by checking what’s inside the box. Oftentimes, counterfeit AirPods will only have the manual. However, authentic AirPods would have two more documents, aside from the manual — the safety sheet and the warranty card.

Original AirPods containing more documents than fake AirPods
Original AirPods containing more documents than fake AirPods

Apart from that, the logo is also one of the first things people check out in the AirPods’ box. The original one has a sharper and more defined edge along the bite area. The counterfeit one, however, might have rounded edges.

Logo checking is a technique that is famously used in authenticating shoes. Experts can discern whether a pair of shoes is authentic just by checking the angle of a Nike or Jordan logo.

Font and color consistency

Font differences can be hard to spot, especially if you don’t have the real thing as a reference.

Apple currently uses a font called San Francisco. If you don’t have another pair of AirPods to compare, you can try downloading this online and printing some texts with it to check for consistency.

Based on our experience, common counterfeit AirPods have a thinner and taller font with lesser space in between the letters.

Font and color difference of fake and original AirPods
Font and color difference of fake and original AirPods

You could also use the colors of the text to determine authenticity. Although subtly, you would notice that the fake ones seem to use a darker shade of gray for the texts.

Snug fit

Who knew that even the suction you feel when opening an Apple product’s box was intentionally put there?

Apple boxes are composed of two parts — an inner box that houses the box contents and an outer box with the image of the product. To open the box, you need to raise the outer box and wait for the inner packaging to release itself naturally. This is something that most counterfeit products cannot fabricate.

To check this, get yourself another box from an authentic Apple product. Familiarize yourself with the drag and suction from that box and compare it to your AirPods’ box. If the sensation isn’t the same, then you probably have counterfeit AirPods.

Demonstration of suction on authentic Apple box (right) vs fake (left)
Demonstration of suction on authentic Apple box (right) vs fake (left)
According to Adam Lashinsky’s book, Inside Apple, one packaging designer in Apple’s team had the sole task of designing how the boxes were opened. The result of these painstaking efforts is the slow and dramatic experience you get when opening the package.

Physical Checks to Help Identify Real vs. Fake AirPods

The AirPods may simply look like a wireless version of the classic EarPods, but they are so much more than that. Apple truly showed its detail-oriented side with the AirPods, so most counterfeit manufacturers are prone to missing out on the little things.

Unlike the packaging, though, the physical differences between real and fake AirPods are a lot more subtle. To an untrained eye, high-quality counterfeits can easily pass as originals. So, below are the key areas you can use to authenticate.

Different manufacturers make counterfeit AirPods differently. Some manufacturers can get some areas of the AirPods right, so it’s essential to check out your earbuds from all angles and spot the mishaps.

Check the diffuser

The sound diffuser is the elongated rounded line you see on your AirPods beside the circular IR sensor. The sound diffuser has to be aligned with the black circle beside it.

For fake AirPods, the sound diffuser would have visible grills, which isn’t the case for authentic ones.

Also, the grills are likely not to be that polished, usually having random flat surfaces mixed up with the grills.

Sound diffuser of original AirPods vs fake ones
Sound diffuser of original AirPods vs fake ones

Check the bottom of the AirPods

The bottom part of the AirPods is where the charging contacts are. This part of the AirPods magnetically connects to their charging case.

For authentic AirPods, this part will have an oval shape that takes up around half of the whole space. Fake AirPods could have larger and more circular ovals. Also, the grills on the fake AirPods might not be as refined as the authentic ones.

Difference between the bottom of original and fake AirPods
Difference between the bottom of original and fake AirPods

Check the speaker grills and IR sensors

The transparency of the speaker grills is also a critical difference between authentic and fake AirPods. You’ll see the silhouette of two circular speakers with authentic ones, which might not be visible if you have fakes.

Speaker grill differences of fake vs original AirPods
Speaker grill differences of fake vs original AirPods
Check out Reddit user volcom440’s post on what AirPod Pro IR sensors look like under an infrared camera in this popular r/airpods thread.

Check the charging case

Lastly, the charging case is also home to some key areas where you can determine whether the AirPods are original or not. For this, you need to basically look for any build defects that Apple probably won’t commit.

The key areas include the multifunction button, charging port, and the text below the hinge.

Other obvious signs of fake AirPods: blue light on the charging case or any light in the earbuds. AirPods status light can’t produce blue light, and the earbuds don’t have LED inside them.

Multifunction button and text

Check whether the button is secured and level with the case. Often, fake AirPods would have buttons that are either loose or raised.

The text above the button should say “Designed by Apple in California” and “Assembled in China.”

For this, watch out for spacing errors, wrong font use, and the use of a darker shade for the text.

Button and text differences between original and fake AirPods
Button and text differences between original and fake AirPods

Charging port

The charging port is lined with metal. Authentic AirPods are lined thinly while the fake ones would have slightly thicker ones.

Other examples of clear fakes are anything that doesn’t have a lightning port or AirPods Pro cases that don’t work with Apple-approved wireless chargers.

Lightning port of fake vs original AirPods
Lightning port of fake vs original AirPods
Are you a new entrant to the Apple universe and still trying to understand how to use AirPods better? Here are two helpful guides on what it means when your AirPods flash orange and what you can do to properly reset them.

For AirPods Pro: How to Know if Your AirPods Pro Are Fake

While a lot of the factors we’ve discussed so far work with both the standard AirPods and AirPods Pro, there are some distinguishing marks that exclusively indicate if your AirPods Pro are fake.

This is because AirPods Pro have unique tech and a different design than standard AirPods. For instance, AirPods 1, 2, & 3 are earbuds, while AirPods Pro are in-ear monitors.

We discuss the differences between earbuds and IEMs in our extensive guide on the different types of headphones.

You can learn how to spot fake AirPods Pro by checking the force sensor and shape:

AirPods Pro force sensor

AirPods Pro force sensor.
AirPods Pro force sensor.

The force sensor is one of the highlights of the AirPods Pro controls and can be found along the flat part of the stem of each AirPods Pro earbud. Instead of being a proper button, the force sensor detects pressure from users squeezing the stem of their AirPods.

On the other hand, fake AirPods Pros will likely have a standard button or tap controls along the side, if they have any.

The most recent AirPods, the AirPods Gen 3, also have force sensors.

Design differences of fake vs. authentic AirPods Pro

Apple highly protects the design and shape of its AirPods and AirPods Pro products, effectively claiming trademark infringement on products with a similar shape. This protective stance is so strong that similar-looking earbuds have even been seized by US Customs.

As a result, looking at them is a great way to tell if the AirPods you have are real or fake.

According to the team at Verified, a publication dedicated to uncovering scams, frauds, and fake products, counterfeit AirPods are often different at the ear pieces, which go in your ears.

Real AirPods Pro have ear pieces that are oval-shaped. In contrast, it is common to see fakes with circular ear pieces.

AirPods Pro with ear tips removed
AirPods Pro with ear tips removed

Exclusive Features You Won’t Find on Fake AirPods

If the physical part of your AirPods appears real, but you’re still wondering, “Are my AirPods real?” you should also consider checking the software.

AirPods are packed with game-changing features that only Apple’s software could do. These exclusive Apple-only features can be a great way to tell whether your AirPods are fake or not.

While you can pair AirPods with an Android device, the following features can only be tested on an iOS device.

Here’s how to check if your AirPods are original or fake via the software:

Easy pairing

AirPods battery and pairing prompt on iPhone
AirPods battery and pairing prompt on iPhone

Easy pairing allows users to connect their AirPods to their Apple devices instantly. All you have to do is open up the charging case with the AirPods inside and hold it near the device you want to pair it with.

If you’re pairing for the first time, you would need to press the Connect button on your device. On the other hand, if you’ve paired the AirPods with the same device before, you shouldn’t have to do anything else.

If the AirPods are suddenly not connecting, ensure you’ve gone through our troubleshooting guide first before calling the earbuds a counterfeit.

For lookalike fakes (be it a single replacement AirPod or case), the syncing/pairing will likely not be as smooth. Sadly, you will not be able to seek Apple’s replacement services for the same.

Try the ‘Find My’ app

Features of the Find My app for original AirPods
Features of the Find My app for original AirPods

Find My is a platform created by Apple that allows users to track the location of their lost or misplaced devices. This platform can be accessed through its mobile app or the iCloud website.

You can’t avoid feeling awful about losing a pair of AirPods — authentic or not. The difference is that you actually have the chance to find your AirPods again through the Find My app while your counterfeit AirPods are probably lost forever.

Original AirPods will automatically be added to your Find My account the moment you pair your devices together. Original AirPods can also utilize all functions of the Find My platform, including Play Sound and Directions.

In fact, if you’ve lost your charging case but have one AirPod inside the lost case, you can still hope to get the case back using Find My. Provided your AirPods or AirPods Pro are authentic.

Now, to ensure the authenticity of your AirPods, you can follow our guide, use the Find My app on your device and see whether all the features are working properly. If they’re not, then you might have counterfeit AirPods with you.

The ‘i’ icon check

The More Info, or ‘i’, button next to your devices can tell you whether they are legitimate Apple products or third-party Bluetooth devices.

To access the More Info screen on your iOS device:

  • Go to Settings

    Click settings.
    Click settings.
  • Tap Bluetooth.

    Going to Bluetooth
    Going to Bluetooth
  • Tap the blue circle with an ‘i’ in it next to your AirPods or AirPods Pro.

    Select i next to your AirPods or AirPods Pro.
    Select “i” next to your AirPods or AirPods Pro.

Real AirPods’ More Info button will have the model number, serial number, firmware version, and ‘More’ displayed on the screen. However, fake AirPods’ More Info screen will appear like other Bluetooth products: displaying the name, limited device info, and ‘Forget this Device.’

The model number is the identifier Apple assigned for each AirPod variant. Consequently, this helps you identify which AirPod version you have. The firmware version, on the other hand, changes over time as Apple also releases regular firmware updates.

It’s a good idea to double-check the AirPods’ model number and firmware version to ensure their authenticity. Here’s a quick reference:

VariantLatest firmware versionModel number
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)5A377A2931, A2699, A2698
AirPods Pro (1st generation)4E71A2084 (Right AirPod), A2083 (Left AirPod)
AirPods (3rd generation)4E71A2565 (Right AirPod), A2564 (Left AirPod)
AirPods (2nd generation)4E71A2032 (Right AirPod), A2031(Left AirPod)
AirPods (1st generation)6.8.8A1523 (Right AirPod), A1722 (Left AirPod)
AirPods Max4E71A2096

Don’t worry if you have an outdated firmware. For instance, if you’re holding on to a pair of AirPods Pro (1st generation) and see that your firmware version is 3A283, you simply need to update them.

AirPods’ firmware updates are delivered automatically, so there’s no need for you to update your AirPods manually.

Battery drainage

While it’s possible for AirPods’ battery health to decline over the years, there are a few mishaps that could happen if you have a fake pair on. It’s the same if you have a phony charging case too.

These include excessive battery drainage (even with limited use), incorrect battery levels being displayed, and the battery percentage of the case or the earbuds not showing up at all in the battery widget.

If you encounter any of the above situations, know that you will not able to place a request for replacement AirPods or AirPods Pro batteries from Apple. Should you see any other defects in your fakes, you will also not be able to use any of the third-party replacement options available to owners of genuine AirPods.

Bonus: Try the Magnet Trick

There’s one more nifty trick to check whether your AirPods are fake. Though very subtle, trying out this hack can easily confirm whether you have authentic AirPods or not.

Original AirPods contain magnetized parts. If you bring the two earbuds together, they should repel each other if they are authentic. Fake AirPods wouldn’t attract or repel each other when brought closer to each other.

Performing the magnet test of AirPods (From: Youtube/Life Entertainments)
Performing the magnet test of AirPods (From: Youtube/Life Entertainments)
AirPods are premium products and require a consistent and high degree of maintenance. Here’s our checklist on the top AirPods tips and tricks to make using them a hassle-free experience!

Conclusion

Authenticating a pair of AirPods is as tricky as ever. Even with the strictest checks in place, you might find yourself saddled with a fake pair of AirPods. With the things we discussed above, though, you should be properly armed to take on the challenge.

Hopefully, you now won’t be easily fooled by those who want to take advantage of your desire to possess these high-end products at enviably “discounted prices.”

The only thing left for you to do is to go get those AirPods now!

What inspections worked for you? Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

16 comments

    1. Yea it could mean it’s authentic (original) as you worded it. But it could possibly mean that the fake company that sold it to you put in magnetic parts in the air pod. But I’m

  1. I purchased AirPods 3 as original, with guarantees but when used them their bass was not like Apple soft bass but hart with hiss sound, All functions were working. Even Apple showed their warranty date. I checked find applications of Apple they rang sound but couldn’t give directions. I returned them to seller, with discount price loss of 5000 pkr. Very sad about hacking of Apple chip. I am old user of Apple but now first time its security has hacked on long scale. Apple has not given official response, so I amp sad about my Costly IPad is that fake or real

  2. My AirPods case has an android charging USB, the AirPods have no grill, on the top portion of it, and they aren’t repelling nor connecting with magnet.

  3. I have real air pods but my freind has knockoffs because his case is red and the AirPods them self are red and the case is super light so he is a phonie

  4. could fakes also have ANC and functioning force sensor on stems?
    I recently bought a pair that had all those features,valid serial number too but they they kept unpairing showing “not your Airpods Pro” message.and imo the sound quality was worse than Airpods 2 and had poor ANC, the problem is I never tried the real ones so had no idea what should I expect from sound quality and ANC of Airpods Pro.
    so I returned them suspecting they were fakes.

  5. Great article, someone just swap mine and his… using my find I can see where the real ones are…

  6. I have a fake pair. But it has most of the features that identify it as real. It even works with the “find my” app. The magnets don’t repel though, and they came with only the manual. Also they’d sound better if they were real but they’re good enough for now. You get what you pay for.

  7. Do not trust the serial numbers anymore!!!!

    I bought a pair of fake Airpods pro on ebay and the serial number turned out legit on the Apple website.
    The box had an authentic serial number. The case also had a different authentic serial number but they were clearly fake no doubt about that.

  8. In iOs 16 and above it will show below message for fake airpods.

    important message
    these headphones could not be verified as genuine AirPods and may not behave as expected.

  9. i honestly thought mine were real, but they aren’t. my parents bought it as my bday gift last year but obviously i am still grateful for it because they spent a lot of money for it

  10. My AirPods with the magnetic trick they make each other shake but not fully move. Does this mean they are fake or authentic?

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