First released in late 2016—Apple was slow to ramp up production—they’ve become an internet meme, generally signifying wealth in the US and elsewhere as more people picked up a pair around the 2018 holiday season. And now at this year’s Mobile World Congress, competitors big and small have been showing off their answers to the AirPods—in some cases just blatant knock-offs.
Samsung, which actually launched its first attempt at wireless earbuds a few months before Apple, unveiled a slimmed-down set right before Mobile World Congress. And although they don’t particularly look much like AirPods (although functionally they’re very similar), that didn’t stop anyone from immediately comparing the two:
Other companies, many in the farther-flung halls of the Fira Gran Via dedicated to fast-followers of emerging trends, realized there is almost certainly a market for people who wanted to look like they have AirPods, but didn’t have the cash for them:
There were others, which even lean on the Apple product’s name—like MyKronoz’s “ZePods:”
And it’s not just industry insiders at a technology convention who want to join the AirPods cabal. Outside the convention halls, knockoffs were even being sold on the Barcelona metro:
Much like the iPhone itself, and the white headphones of the iPod before them, AirPods have become a cultural touchstone, and a small sign of conspicuous consumption. Great news for a company that has slowly morphed into one of the world’s largest luxury companies over the last decade.