Beware free earbuds that look like iPod earpieces

The Baltimore Sun

The other day I saw something that caught my attention: a 16-pack of Duracell AA batteries with a free set of white earbuds.

That may not seem particularly unusual, but the earbuds appear to be replicas of those issued with Apple's iPods. The earbuds are shaped exactly the same and have the same gray-shaded plastic around the earpieces. Each earpiece also has six small vent holes on the outer shell.

But a closer inspection reveals minor discrepancies. The small circular "L" and "R" labels are gray on the iPod earbuds, black on the Duracell pair. Where the two strands join into the one cord that connects to the music device, the iPod cord is solid where the Duracell cord has a ridge down the center. The jack covers have different shapes, and the jacks themselves have different colored rings: white for the iPod, black for the Duracells.

The ultimate test, of course, is whether these freebie Duracell earbuds sound anything like those that come with an iPod. Despite the superficial similarities, the sound quality of the Duracell earbuds most closely resembles that of a cheap AM radio from the 1970s. We're talking about an aural experience so dreadful as to make these giveaways essentially useless. The Duracell package notes that the earbuds will "work with all portable music devices," but I can't imagine wanting to use them with any product by any manufacturer, and certainly not an iPod.

I suppose that's about what you'd expect from something included with a pack of AA batteries, but it irks me that these earbuds appear to be designed to mimic the iPod's. I wonder how many battery packs Duracell sold to people who believed they were getting free iPod-quality earbuds? It's easy to imagine people being fooled by the look-alikes.

The Duracell package directs purchasers to a Web site for more information, but the page contains only a statement that the promotion has ended. With luck that means the earbuds soon will vanish from stores.

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