Counterfeit Apple A1299 Charger Review
What started out as a plan to simply buy a spare Apple iPhone charger has turned into a bit of a story! Apple want £26 for the original device in the UK and we thought this was a bit excessive for a simple plug-in PSU. We noticed that there were many websites offering cheaper versions of this charger on the Internet and many selling items as 'genuine Apple chargers'. We were not naive enough to think there no counterfeit items out there but with so many established retailers selling cheaper versions (typically between £7 and £12), we assumed they were getting a more realistic wholesale price and were selling at a very low margin. The actual component cost of the official Apple chargers must be less than $2US.
In the end we bought one from a seller on eBay with an eBay rating well over 110,000 and a high percentage feedback rating (>98%). This seller is also a major UK mobile phone store with a separate website and shop. What they advertised was described as a 'genuine Apple' charger, so we assumed it would be a genuine Apple device. The device arrived in a jiffy bag with no Apple branded packaging at all. The only thing covering it were the standard Apple style plastic wraps that are used to protect items from scratches.
We are not sure how the A1299 charger differs from the Apple MB706B charger. The designation difference may just be a UK specific thing. The A1299 device is rated at 5Vdc with 1A output. The iPad version of this charger is bigger and comes in two parts. They are rated at 2.5A/10W and have part numbers of BS 5733/A and A1357. There are probably similar counterfeits of these parts as well.
The first difference you notice with the counterfeit item, when compared to the original (on the left) is that there is a colour difference in the plastics. The counterfeit item is slightly 'off-white' in colour. It also feels as though it has a thinner cover and this is reflected in the flaws on the surface finish. The other give away is that it feels lighter. We weighed the original at 46g and the counterfeit version at 34g.
The next obvious difference is in the finish of the metal pins. The official device has a smooth, satin finish to the metal and simply looks better quality. The counterfeit item has cheaper looking metal pins that are obvious cast or stamped and are thus more shiny.
If you look closely at the end of the metal pins on the counterfeit item, you can see a groove where it was cast or stamped. It should have a perfectly smooth finish that matches the side edges of the pins.
On the counterfeit item, there is also some over-run on the plastic shroud, where the plastic ends and the metal finishes. On the original item this is a smooth, clean transition.
There is very little difference in the printed information on the underside of the chargers but the print on the official Apple charger is more feint. From this picture you can also see that the join around the bottom plate is much better on the official Apple item.
When the item arrived we noticed a slight imperfection on the surface of the case. With only a couple hours use, the device was getting very hot and this bulge increased in size.
If you look inside the official charger, you can see a serial number printed on the inside of the USB socket. Also note the orientation of the socket and the accuracy of its location in the plastic case.
Compared to the picture above, you can see that the quality of the socket is much lower and it is also mounted up-side down. The metal surround is mis-shapen and alignment with the hole in the plastic is very poor. The edges of the hole in the plastic are also much sharper.
The Apple USB sockets has a square notch cut out on the inside of the socket side wall.
The counterfeit item uses a more standard socket with two pins in the socket side wall, pointing outwards from the socket.
We checked the output voltage under no load and the Apple item provided an accurate 5Vdc output. The voltage output on the counterfeit item was 5.2Vdc.
In use, we noticed a number of things about the counterfeit item when used to charge an iPhone 4. After 10 minutes use it gets very hot, almost to the point where you can't hold it. We didn't feel confident leaving it plugged in any longer then this. With the iPhone plugged in and on, the touch screen would misbehave. It would move randomly and interpret swipes as touches, resulting in uncontrollable behaviour and random opening of apps.
Our advice is to not buy or use chargers like this. Firstly they can damage you iPod, iPhone or iPad. Secondly they are very dangerous. They will eventually over-heat and there have been many reports of them exploding and catching fire. Not only could they injure someone, they could also burn your house down!
We are amazed that Apple isn't doing more to protect people and it's brand, as many people have bought these and had problems with them, assuming they are official Apple items. You only have to look at the reviews for the official Apple charger on their website to confirm this.
We are also amazed that so many major retailers are openly selling these chargers on the Amazon marketplace and via their eBay shops. We reported our experiences to eBay but have heard anything back and there are just so many sellers on sites like Amazon and eBay selling them, that we can't see them taking any action. The eBay seller we bought from has asked us to return our item for a replacement but would give us no guarantees that the replacement would be any different and in original Apple packaging.
Update - 16th Feb 2011
We also just bought another charger from a seller on Amazon (which cost £14.99 including P&P) and was sold as '100% Genuine Apple iPod Mini Mains Charger Adapter A1299 + USB Data Cable Dock Conector'. There is was no ambiguity in that description of the product as far as we could see. We are pleased to report that this arrived and is a genuine Apple charger. This confirms our thinking that you can buy the official product at a price lower than Apple's retail cost.