Over the years, living and working in Hong Kong and China, I have run across my fair share of “knockoff” products. These range from Rolex watches for $20, to DVD’s for $3, to expensive computer software for $10. Seems that it’s a fact of life in China these days that the cheap knockoffs are ever-present, and not going away anytime soon despite efforts to curtail the practice. I guess so long as there are willing buyers, there will always be people willing to make a quick buck by making a cheap copy.
Now, I’m not going to go into the business aspects of these practices. Surely companies like Rolex and Breitling as well as film production companies and software companies are hurt by these knockoff products and they do what they can to combat these practices. Instead, I’m going to comment on the people who buy these units…specifically, people who are buying them without knowing that they are knockoffs.
There will always be people who are interested in buying a copy or knockoff product. Just about every person I know that has visited Hong Kong, has come back with a $20 Rolex. They know and understand that it’s a copy, that it’s illegal, but the novelty of it outweighs any risk and they buy them. I’m not the moral police, and I don’t have a problem with this per-se, as they all know and understand that they’ll be lucky if that knockoff Rolex lasts more than 6 months.
What I DO have a problem with is the very high number of knockoff products sold to people who do not know that they are buying a knockoff. Do a search on eBay for “Bluetooth Headsets” and you will quickly see what I mean. A search today yielded a little over 12,000 results, with the vast majority of them Motorola Headsets. One of the most popular bluetooth headsets on eBay today is the H700. This is a very nice, stylish, headset with a flip out mic boom. These retail for about $99 ($99.99 on Best Buy’s website as of today). So how can they be on eBay for as little as $7, with the average price around $20 for a “Brand New in Box” unit?? The answer is they can’t be. Most retailers will double their cost to determine the retail price. Some of the larger guys can live with a little less margin, but not by much. If a Motorola H700 Bluetooth Headset is retailing at Best Buy for $99.99, then the cost to Best Buy would be in the $40-$45 range, give or take.
So again, how can someone on eBay sell the same Motorola H700 Bluetooth Headset for $7-$20, that a larger retailer is selling for $99? They can’t. What they’re selling is a knockoff headset. Granted some of those eBay sellers don’t even know that they’re counterfeit, though most just turn a blind eye.
As I was preparing to launch my website, WickedGoodTech.com, I was receiving and evaluating headsets from many factories in China. I found that most of the lowest cost factories offered the same bluetooth headsets. They all seemed to have a Motorola H700, H350, H500 and some others. I’m a reasonably smart guy and experienced enough in buying electronics in Asia to know that Motorola is not working with these fairly small Bluetooth Electronics factories. They have their own facilities and will subcontract some work out to larger outfits…not these little guys. So, these were clearly knockoffs. When confronted with that fact, most of the factories would acknowledge that they were not authentic units, but would insist that they were the most popular selling units. Most of these same factories had their own line of Bluetooth Headsets, but there just isn’t the market for “Company X Bluetooth Headset” out there. The larger brands are what sell, so they are forced to copy the big guys to try to get some sales.
Now again, I’m not the moral police and I’m not out to change the world. Motorola is big enough to chase these guys down if they wanted to. But what I am concerned with is the average guy who sees a Motorola H700 on eBay for $20 and thinks he is getting a good deal. I’ve evaluated these copy units and you really do get what you pay for. The units are very poor quality. A factory that is willing to bend the ethical rules enough to make a knockoff product isn’t going to worry too much about Quality Control for the products coming off the line. The units that I evaluated here had very poor range (most did not work when the phone was obstructed by even the fabric of my pants as the phone was in my pocket), very poor signal strength, and very poor battery life.
Unfortunately, there are just too many people out there that want to make a quick buck by passing some fake units off as the real thing. I’ve discussed this with a few people that I suspected were buying and reselling fake units and the response typically is, “well I have no proof that they are not authentic”. I guess if that let’s them sleep better at night. But the truth is when it comes to Bluetooth Headsets, Buyer Beware. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are some good quality, low price Bluetooth Headsets out there, but use common sense. You can’t buy a real Rolex for $20, and you can’t buy a Motorola H700 Headset for $7 either.
Jeremy Shepard is the owner of Wicked Good Tech [http://www.wickedgoodtech.com], an online resource and store for many modern and tech gadgets. Wicked Good Tech offers several models of Bluetooth Headsets, Car Kits, Digital Photo Frames, Rechargable Candelas, and more.
Wicked Good Tech [http://www.wickedgoodtech.com] also hosts a blog at Wicked Good Blog [http://blog.wickedgoodtech.com]. Here we post reviews and articles relating to our products.