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Note: In this article, Earphones will be used as a general term for what are also commonly referred to as earbuds/earpieces/earsets/in-ear headphones.
Everyone uses earphones these days. They are an essential component of modern day life, especially with the rise of smartphones. With earphones, one can listen to music privately without your next door neighbor Sam having to come knocking at your door complaining about the infernal racket you create whenever you play music out loud.
If you have ever been in any marketplace in Malawi, chances are you have come across some vendors selling earphones at very low prices. They are quite cheap, with prices ranging from as low as K500 (you read that right – K500) to about K2500 or K3000. Prices rarely go above this K3000 price point. These earphones come in all manner of colors (basically all colors of the rainbow and then some) and they come in different lengths and sizes.
In asmuch, as these headphones are cheap, there is one obvious caveat – quality. You see, in order to make certain products as cheap as possible, the manufacturers have to skimp on certain add-ons and procedures that would have ensured a quality product, all in order to keep the price low. As a result, the sound quality is not as good as you would get on original earphones.
These fake earphones also don’t last as long as their original counterparts. I have had knock-off earphones stop working a matter of days after I just got them. I have also heard from friends who have had them stop working a few hours after just purchasing them.
Some of them are blatant rip-offs of companies that do not even make earphones. (Imagine seeing a pair of earphones with the puma logo on them- true story). These low quality earphones have some indirect health issues. Now there is not much medical research into if fake earphones are bad for your health. But it is quite obvious that loud sounds are.
Fake earphones, because of their low quality force you to crank up the volume in order to get anything close to a good listening experience. At low volumes, they sound terrible and the user is forced to turn them all the way up. On the other hand, original headphones tend to sound better even at low volumes so the user isn’t forced to turn up the volume all the way up.
The fake earphones will likely lead to hearing damage in the long run due to this. Granted, I am no health professional, but in my short use of these knock-off headsets, I can assure you of one thing – you are better off with the original headphones, as the listening experience is far superior.
Now, I know what most of you are thinking- man, I cannot afford to buy original headphones. Here is my argument for them. Picture this, you spend roughly K1, 500 replacing your headphones once every 3 weeks – or 4 if you are extremely careful with them. In my use of counterfeit headphones, I have never got above a month of use out of them – I have tried. Now you have 52 weeks in a year. If you do the math, you spend about K25, 500 a year replacing your earphones. 25 grand! That is a lot to pay for a low-quality product. You can get 2 pairs of decent high-quality earphones that will give you better quality sound and last you for months- even a full year. Provided you don’t lose them.
So how do you tell the difference between good quality earphones and the fake ones? There are some very obvious hints. Packaging is a dead giveaway. Even if it says apple or Samsung on the earphone, but it does not come in any packaging or if the packaging just consists of a plastic bag, then you know it definitely ain’t real. Price as well. If they tell you its original and yet the price is too good to be true, that’s because it is simply just that- too good to be true.
Finally, let’s just face it – these are counterfeit, knock-off products and as a country, I feel if we are to develop we should get rid of any counterfeit products in our shops and markets. People spend more on replacing cheap, counterfeit products than they would if they bought original products. This is the reality. This is why local manufacturers are reluctant to enter the technology market – simply because they would not survive with the abundance of counterfeit products on the market.
So while other countries are busy protecting their infant industries… Maybe it’s time that changed. Let’s take a moment to think about that, a future where all products in Malawi fit quality standards. It can start from a small product such as the earphones you use every day.