In a truly bizarre situation that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, US Customs and Border Protection tonight tweeted that its officers had “recently seized 2,000 counterfeit Apple AirPods from Hong Kong, valued at $398K had they been genuine.” There’s also a press release: “CBP officers are protecting the American public from various dangers on a daily basis,” said Troy Miller, director of CBP’s New York field operations, in the release. “The interception of these counterfeit earbuds is a direct reflection of the vigilance and commitment to mission success by our CBP Officers daily.” These units originated from Hong Kong and were seized at JFK on August 31st; they were headed to Nevada, according to the press release.
The only problem is, based on the agency’s own photos, the seized products appear to be legitimate OnePlus Buds — in a box that plainly says as much. But CBP proudly tweeted “THAT’S NOT AN APPLE,” as if its people had astutely detected a forged piece of 18th-century art. It’s not clear if all 2,000 units were OnePlus Buds, though the CBP images are unmistakable.
I have no idea what led CBP to stop these units in their tracks beyond their general AirPods-like aesthetic. Yes, the form factor that Apple created is now shared by many models of true wireless earbuds on the market. But you don’t see all of those getting headed off at the airport. Nowhere in the press release is OnePlus even mentioned, and there’s no clarity on whether officers knew what they were looking at. Again, the boxes in these photos say OnePlus Buds. It’s not some knockoff AirPods box that uses the wrong font or something. There’s seemingly no trickery at play, at least with the seized product. If AirPods were supposed to be in that shipment, that’s another story.
The Verge has reached out to both OnePlus and CBP for more details on the action at JFK. Was it an embarrassing gaffe by border officers, or a wake-up call that earbud makers need to be a little more original? Maybe both. You’ve gotta figure the blue OnePlus Buds probably would’ve gotten through.