How to tell if your AirPods are fake. Yes, counterfeits are out there

Apple AirPods are incredibly popular, whether you’re the proud owner of the latest AirPods Pro 2, AirPods (3rd generation), or AirPods Max, or even some of the ubiquitous brand’s older models. Unfortunately, there are many counterfeit AirPods circulating. Fortunately, you can do a few things to ensure you have genuine AirPods before or after purchase.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C and MagSafe review

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Check the serial number

Every pair of AirPods comes with a unique serial number, which can be checked for validation using Apple’s coverage checking tool. Here’s how.

Step 1: The serial number can be found either on the original box or on your paired device, such as your iPhone. To see it on your iPhone, put the AirPods in your ears and go to the Settings app.

Step 2: Select your AirPods listing and scroll down to find the Serial number.

Step 3: With this number, visit Apple’s coverage checking tool. Add the serial number and CAPTCHA on that page, then click Continue.

A screenshot showing the Apple coverage page for AirPods.

Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

Step 4: If your AirPods are genuine, the following page will display warranty information. If Apple does not have a valid purchase date, you may need to provide this information before the site shows the warranty information.

screenshots showing AirPods information on iPhone.

Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

Use your iPhone or iPad

If you want to verify the authenticity of your AirPods, there’s another way to do it with one of your iOS devices.

Step 1: Place your AirPods next to a compatible device, such as an iPhone or iPad, and ensure Bluetooth is activated.

Step 2: If the AirPods are already paired with your device, you should see a message on the screen displaying the battery information for your AirPods. If they are not yet paired, the message will ask if you wish to pair them to your device.

Step 3: For this to work, your AirPods must be charged and in the case with the AirPods case open. Fake AirPods will not activate either of these pop-up screens.

An iPhone 14 displaying the Amazon Music app with a Dolby Atmos Music playlist, next to a set of Apple AirPods Max headphones.

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Buyer beware

For a safe and secure purchase, it is recommended that you buy directly from reputable sources like Apple or trusted third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. Purchasing new products through companies like Swappa and eBay is fine, assuming the person selling the item has a good reputation on the site.

Apple products are rarely discounted, so if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Apple seldom offers discounts directly, and third-party retailers typically offer modest discounts. If you see a pair of “new” AirPods for 50% off, walk away quickly. It’s probably somebody selling a fake pair.

It’s important to pay attention to the packaging when buying new AirPods. The box should have plastic shrink wrap around it, which indicates that it has not been opened before. If you’re purchasing from a third-party retailer, be aware that the wrap may be missing if the item has been returned to the store. However, the retailer should have clearly labeled the item as new but returned or “open box” in a situation like that.

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