Today at long last I received the little $3.25 (including shipping) mouse from China. Why does that warrant a whole article? Because it works – and it’s exactly the sort of thing you wouldn’t typically consider purchasing.
Cheap electronics are nothing new. In fact, year after year more consumer electronics companies surface and with them come imitations, knock offs, and downright impostors.
Impostors aren’t limited to any specific brand necessarily, however Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and similar companies are the most often targeted by direct imitation.
This does several things to the market that nobody would expect:
- Drives holiday online sales downward
- Creates false impressions among brands
- Lowers customer brand appreciation
- Lowers brand pricing*
- Redirects marketing flow
- Opens new markets
- Encourages competition
- Shifts vendor focus
- Relieves market demand in some rare cases
So are impostor products always inferior?
In some cases a knock off of any given product may be quite preferable to the customer, an impostor version of a Microsoft Surface Tablet might offer features that the trademarked device may not, but generally this isn’t the case. That doesn’t mean that every product that is an alternative to real deal should be considered an impostor either – there are countless products that have similar enough features to a mainstream product be competitive without really being impostors.
So what qualifies as an impostor?
In the case of fake ipads for example – you might receive a product with no logo, a non apple operating system, a variety of missing features and certainly not the same warranty. In the case of an impostor Samsung it’s much trickier to spot:
Microsoft probably considers certain tablets impostors as well, though I’ve seen such a wide variety of these I’m starting to wonder where to draw the line myself…
Of course any device that does what you like should be your choice if the features are exactly what you want. But in the case of impostors it isn’t so simple, many of these make claims that they are the specific product, rather than an imitation or a related product and that’s where the consumer suffers.
A $3.25 mouse with no name – is an “honest mouse” – it isn’t pretending to be a $35.00 mouse or heaven forbid, a much more expensive mouse with a name brand logo added to lull me into a sense of high expectation.
Companies like irulu have the right idea. On their website they make no claims of affiliation, they name their products in identifiable ways, their prices are on par with Chromebooks, and nobody is fooling anyone. However on ebay and amazon a crafty vendor might try to pass these items off as surface tablets – and the features might be close enough for an unsuspecting shopper to be misled. This would be a minor inconvenience as the products are probably good enough – based on their specs – to provide an affordable and enjoyable alternative to the mainstream product.
Are these alternatives ultimately good or bad?
Both – There are wonderful product alternatives that propel the market along and open up consumers to new expectations. Similarly there are bottom end bargain tech garbage knock offs that can ruin holidays for unsuspecting consumers.
Also really expensive mice…
Of my own online purchases so far I have no complaints – yet. My curiosity as to the quality of a $3.25 mouse was well rewarded, and I suspect that someday I’ll see something similar in a vending machine alongside a $10.00 tablet – hopefully one as honest as this mouse.