Realme Buds Air earbuds sliding out - airpods clone

Realme Buds Air in white

Opinion post by
Dhruv Bhutani
You’ve heard the argument: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Android phone manufacturers have long been accused of copying Apple products, and for good reason too. From specific elements like the notch to straight-up entire designs, countless phones have been “inspired” by Apple’s direction.

While copycat phone designs might not be the norm anymore, I have a bone to pick with accessories, and in particular, earphones. It’s almost 2020 and we need to stop with the AirPods clones.

True wireless is the future

While Apple wasn’t the first to introduce true wireless earbuds — the Bragi Dash can lay claim to that — they certainly popularised and perfected the concept. Cut to 2019, and true wireless earbuds are starting to get commonplace.

Realme Buds Air earbuds in hand

Last week Realme announced a pair of true wireless earphones. They’re priced well, sound alright, have a whole lot of features and yet, they are the perfect Apple AirPods clones. For a brand that has built a reputation on delivering more interesting designs and new colorways, this was quite the departure.

Realme Buds Air buds in cover - airpods clone

To the layman, the Realme Buds Air Pro are nearly indistinguishable from Apple’s AirPods. Between the design and the “R1 Bluetooth chip” that sounds suspiciously close to Apple’s W1 chip,  I’m inclined to believe this is less of an accident and more of a deliberate decision. And this is not okay.

Credibility is hard earned and easy to lose.

Credibility is hard earned and easy to lose. For a young brand that has managed to rapidly grow its market share on the back of differentiated designs, copycat hardware is the easiest way to diminish brand credibility. Look at Xiaomi and how it took the company years to shed the image of being an Apple imitator, for the most part. Between its early hardware designs, the highly derivative iconography in MIUI, and then Mimoji, it has taken a while for Xiaomi to break the stereotype of being a copycat brand, and yet it still falters from time to time.

Falling short of excellence

I might be picking on Realme for being the most obvious — and recent — imposter, but it is hardly the only one to be blamed. Be it the Huawei Freebuds 3 or even the Mobvoi TicPods, the design inspiration is easy to see. It’s not that the products are bad. No, for the most part, they do the job just fine. Some even sound great, but the Apple-inspired design always ticks me off as taking away from the excellence of the product.

It isn’t that hard to create an excellent product that is original in its design either. Look at the Sony WF-1000XM3, an excellent sounding product that integrates noise cancellation, and manages to stand out without coming across as an AirPods clone.

AirPods Pro and Freebuds 3 earbuds in hand with lights in the background

The Freebuds 3 have a slightly longer stem than the AirPods Pro since they were designed to look like the original AirPods, not the newer model.

It’s almost 2020, and we’re finally at a point where Android smartphones are experimenting with unique designs that not just match up to the aesthetics of their Apple counterparts, but often exceed them as well. I’d like to see this continue with accessories as well. Especially in the increasingly hot earbuds space. With headphone jacks going the way of the dodo, it is the perfect time for OEMs to try out unique designs and innovative features, the likes of which have made the Android phone landscape so enticing.

From the Zippo-esque design of the Klipsch T5 to the 15-hour battery life of Audio-Technica’s latest, there’s a lot of room for experimentation and it is high time that brands put some faith in their own prowess, rather than simply copy Apple’s lead.

What is your favourite feature of a true-wireless earbud? Let us know in the comments section.

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