Manufacturers of counterfeit Apple products often go to great lengths to make their knock-offs look genuine, which brings the added risk of concealing potentially dangerous flaws in substituted electrical components.
In the past we've covered the efforts manufacturers go to when counterfeiting iPhone and iPad chargers, courtesy of product teardowns on Ken Shirrif's technology blog. Now, a new post on Shirrif's site offers a detailed teardown and analysis of the differences between a counterfeit MacBook charger and a genuine unit, providing a great example of how cosmetic similarities can hide major safety defects.
Shirrif notes that counterfeit chargers he's examined in the past have usually had external flaws that give them away, but that this latest MacBook charger knock-off almost had him fooled, too.
The exterior text on this charger was correct, no "Designed by Abble" or "Designed by California". It had a metal ground pin, which fakes often exclude. It had the embossed Apple logo on the case. The charger isn't suspiciously lightweight. Since I've written about these errors in fake chargers before, I half wonder if the builders learned from my previous articles.
Only when Shirrif cracks open the charger are the differences laid bare. A real Apple charger is packed full of complex circuitry, but the counterfeit contains a fairly low density board that uses a simpler power supply with a dangerously small isolation gap between the AC input and the low-voltage output.
Shirrif also identifies a distinct lack of insulation tape between the two voltages on the circuit board, a metal grounding pin not connected to anything, and a fluctuating power output. See his post for the full comparison.
Three years ago, a Chinese woman was electrocuted by a counterfeit charger while charging her iPhone, highlighting the significant dangers these products pose to consumers. Users who suspect they have a counterfeit charger can take part in Apple's third-party charger takeback program to safely dispose of the adapters.