You Get What You Pay For – Buying Cheap Accessories on eBay Review

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I use my iPad 2 a lot.  I recharge it almost everyday because I’ve run the battery from 100% to less than 10%.  It’s not unknown for me to recharge it twice per day or continue using it after it’s been plugged in.  Most of the time I’m using it, I have my Smart Cover contorted into the shape you see in the top picture; I do that because it helps spread out the weight of the iPad 2 when I have it sitting on some part of my body.  You can imagine that all that use is taking a toll on my Smart Cover.  There’s really nothing wrong with it, but the molded-in folds are starting to get a little ruffled on the edges, and there are dirty places on the microfiber interior.  I like my gadgets and accessories to look perfect, so I starting thinking about getting a new cover.  And I wanted a red one.  I didn’t want to pay twice as much for a red leather Smart Cover and get it dirty in only 3-4 months like I did the polyurethane cover.  I had noticed a lot of “Smart Covers” on eBay that were half the price of the PU Apple covers.  When I saw they had a red PU cover, I decided I’d buy one.  But I learned once again – you get what you pay for.

Some of the pictures in this review can be clicked for an enlarged view.

I’m not mentioning the eBay vendor, because he probably wasn’t associated with the manufacturer.  There seemed to be several vendors selling the same cases.  The knock-off cover cost $18.95 with free shipping – about half the cost of the $39 Apple polyurethane Smart Cover and considerably less than a third the cost of the red leather Smart Cover.  The package looked very much like the Apple Smart Cover package, but the back was covered with alarming stickers warning that I should “observe precautions for handling electrostatic sensitive devices.”  I quickly realized that these stickers seemed to cover up any mention of the word “Apple”.  They probably could have used cartoon character stickers if they had them, because the warning wasn’t important – the coverage was.

Anyway, the red was a nice rich color, but the cover didn’t feel like a Smart Cover.  The exterior seemed harder to the touch than the exterior of my blue Smart Cover.  It had the molded-in folds, but they weren’t as flexible as the ones on my official cover.  And the interior surface didn’t have the soft, velvety microfiber fabric; instead it was a barely textured plastic.  The interior of the knock-off cover won’t be offering any screen cleaning like the Smart Cover does.

I put the red cover on and immediately took it off and started to the trashcan to toss it out, but I stopped because I realized I should write this up and hopefully save someone else from wasting their money.  What could possibly be so wrong with the cover, you ask?  Plenty.

Real Smart Cover lies flat, but the red eBay cover doesn't

First off, the cover doesn’t lie flat at the open side.  The package claims the cover has the sleep/wake function, but it’s not going to do anything as the cover floats in the air.  I ended up spending quite some time to see if I could bend and re-bend that case so it would lay flat, but it never did.  Strike one.

Smart Cover - magnets on open side
eBay cover - magnets on open side
Blue Smart Cover on top, red eBay cover on the bottom

Next, I decided to check the position and strength of the magnets.  It does have them, but you can see from the pictures (above) that the open side of official Smart Cover (top) has a wider magnetized area than the faux cover has.  I can hold the iPad 2 with the screen toward the floor and the magnets can hold the Smart Cover closed.  The red cover just flops open.

Since the magnets on the open edge are what hold the official Smart Cover folded into the triangular stand, I worried that the red cover wouldn’t work as a stand. You can see that the knock-off cover does roll up, but it’s not held into a very tight triangle.  The weight of the iPad 2 leaning against it pushes the red cover open a bit, and this makes the iPad 2 lean back further than it does with the Smart Cover.

I also checked the magnetic areas along the metal attachment arm, and I found that both cases seemed to have magnetic areas about the same size and placement.  I did find that the knock-off case doesn’t hold on to the iPad 2 as well as the Smart Cover does.  When I get the attachment arm on the Smart Cover close to the correct side of the iPad 2, they grab together with a loud click.  The red cover didn’t connect quite like the Smart Cover; it didn’t seem to grab as quickly nor as strongly, and the click was not as loud as the Smart Cover connecting.  I had seen someone testing how strong the Smart Cover attachment was by dangling the iPad 2 from the Smart Cover over an Apple store floor.  I mentioned in my review of the iPad 2 that I had tried that test, too, but I had done it over my bed.  I repeated this test, and the Smart Cover required three hard shakes before the iPad 2 dropped to the bed.  The faux cover required one shake.  Strike 2.

Smart cover in the top frame, eBay in the bottom
Smart Cover at top, eBay at bottom

The eBay cover isn’t sized properly.  It’s bigger than the Smart Cover, and it hangs over the sides of the iPad 2.  It doesn’t show up as well as I’d hoped in my picture, but even the plastic tube that connects the metal hinge isn’t cut properly.  It’s just a bit too long, and it’s wrinkled up on one end.  Strike 3, and you’re out!

You can see that the pictures all show an iPad 2 with an uncovered back.  I usually use a back cover on my iPad 2, but I thought maybe the knock-off cover wasn’t fitting properly with the back cover on.  I took it off and discovered the problems had nothing to do with the back cover and everything to do with the cheap cover.

So in conclusion, I can only warn you not to be foolish like me.  Buying the eBay cover didn’t save me almost $20.  It cost me $20, and I have nothing usable to show for it.  There’s nothing wrong with my blue Smart Cover other than the dirt on the microfiber side (and my longing for a red cover), so I’ll continue to use it.  Remember these two words when considering buying knock-off accessories for your electronic devices – caveat emptor!

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23 thoughts on “You Get What You Pay For – Buying Cheap Accessories on eBay Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. The moral is: fortunate folks who can afford the Apple tax on an iPad should be able to afford the Apple tax on an iPad cover as well…

  3. Is it really valid to say there’s an Apple tax on the iPad when most every other tablet enters the market at roughly the same price?

  4. Janet:

    That’s not true. There’s one Ipad (of any current generation) with limited varitions (3g, no 3g, wifi only, 16 GB vs. 32 GB, etc etc etc).

    There are countless other tablets on the market at various points…

    The phrase “apple tax” basically means a premium paid for apple hardware (which is true). If you get non-apple hardware expect it to not be of apple quality/standards. This isn’t always the case, but one should particularly expect it on low-end add-ons.

    I have a few $6 battery packs for my Ipod Touch (4g). They are cheap, plasticy and don’t feel particularly well made. However, they provide my ipod charge enough to go from ~10% to full charge (and still have a little left over). I keep one in my laptop bag and one in my office.

    If I were to buy an “approved” apple charger off of apples website, I’d be paying between $40-$60 for similar performance. City tax pays for road repairs — ‘apple tax’ pays for quality (usually). It’s a fair analogy.

  5. I buy a lot on eBay. At times the bargains have been good and at times were a total rip off. Considering the time and money spent in buying quality vs. junk, I would be farther ahead buying known quality. And on some of the clearly fraudulent offerings, eBay has been less than helpful. If you try to make a claim, expect endless hassle.

  6. @Eric The cover looks really nice, and it’s available in red. But how thick is it? The spine looks pretty wide and the back cover looks like it’s two layers.

  7. I’ve purchased a number of accessories on eBay. A few have been bad, but many have been quite good. The cost savings is huge. I tend to stay away from batteries and chargers as those can harm the device.
    I’ve had my best luck with cases, especially neoprene cases for my iPad, Kindle and Asus Transformer.
    Janet, There are only a few tablets that are offered at the same price point as the iPad. Not many of them are selling. Most, but not all, are priced at least $100 less than the comparable iPad model. It’s still really early in the tablet game though.

  8. @Jerry Danzig
    The connotation of an “Apple Tax” was floated by PC users who think they are paying too much to get an Apple logo on a product that is the same quality as one from another company. Janet’s we”-written and documented article proved that this is a falsehood. You pay more to Apple for superior quality, unavailable, or not guaranteed from other sources. Sure, some cheaper ones may work OK or even as good, but you don’t have the 100% money-back guarantee that you do from Apple. (If you doubt this, take any product you buy at an Apple store back in within two weeks for any reason. Unless you actually damage the product, you’ll walk out with either a new one or your money back on your charge card. No “re-stocking fee”, no hassle, no quibble. Try that with Best Buy, Target, or with any seller on eBay.

    So, it’s not really a “tax” on Apple’s goods, and more than there is a BMW tax, or a Mercedes “tax.” Just people who don’t value quality who are trying to create an artificial class envy for those who spend more money for better products. And that’s pretty sad.

  9. Smitty, I’ve read too many stories of Apple refusing to honor warranties on ipods because of alleged water damage to buy into a claim that all Apple products — or the company’s policies — are superior. They did make an mp3 player with a headphone jack on the top, where joggers’ sweat is likely to enter. People pay the Apple tax in most cases because of first-class design, but I myself don’t think consumers should have to pay extra for good design. No, I don’t own Bang & Olufsen stereo equipment for this very reason, but I warrant that the equipment I do own sounds every bit as good, if not better, than the B&O stuff for much less money. In short, I believe careful shoppers can find solutions as good as Apple’s without paying the status tax. I’ll be interested to check out Amazon’s new Kindle tablet, for example, which they claim will sell for half the price of an equivalent iPad.

  10. Smitty:

    With regards to not having a 100% money back guarantee — I’ve never had any issues returning items to Best Buy, Target, Fry’s — or virtually any big-box store providing the same conditions you stipulate for apple. Ebay is another beast entirely — But I don’t expect to be able to return an item I win from Sothersby’s, either.

    The so-named “apple tax” obviously isn’t a literal tax — and you make my point using BMW and Mercedes as examples… You pay for (1) the logo and (2) the quality (hopefully, number 2 more than 1).

    My counter argument would be that I have a 1988 Toyota that’s served me well for over 20 years that was far less (by an order of magnitude) than a BMW of similar size/features… Why would I consider paying so much more for something that wont last as long? Is it JUST for the BMW logo? If so, calling it a “BMW-tax” is a good analogy, in my opinion. You are paying for an item that wont perform as well or as long so it will say “BMW” rather than “TOYOTA”.

    Electronics don’t really compare in that they are obsolete about the time they hit the market… On top of costing a premium for hardware, Apple does some things which FORCE the item to be either tossed or spend close to replacement value to fix. Such as replacing an Ipod battery… I still have my original zen — no problem with the battery getting replaced on that — I even swapped out the HD. Still serves my house well so many years later…

  11. I have a Cygnett cover for my ipad 2. But it deos not have a magnet to turn on/off the screen. I added a very simple 1cm ( half inch for Americans) stick on magnet to the under side of the cover.
    Works perfectly. I recommend the Cygnett leather case. Sleek compact no flaps and straps and lost of good user positions.

    I am a user not a Cygnett employee!

  12. BTW @ you iHaters, what apple tax?????

    5 years ago I spent 3000€ on a Dell Inspiron 1100, ran hot and heavy and eventually died. Than spent 1000€ on. Siemens Fitjusti and even worse it had vista, took me months to get it functioning properly, including several re-images, today running hot and slow, but a least the operating system is stable.

    For that money I could have gotten a lower end mac.

    Secondly the “BMW” tax is the wrong analogy, better is comparing Toyota to Chrysler, you’ll pay a small premium but get a vastly better car.

    Finally as a long time windows user trust me when I say my next computer will be a Mac, joining a long line of former wintel users.

  13. I would probably hate Wintel too if I bought a Dell Inspiron or used Vista. Instead I’ve been running XP on a Gateway laptop for a few years now and had no problems. I have heard tell that there exist an A team and a B team working on operating systems at MS. The A team was supposed to have worked on XP and 7, which people seem to like. In other words, careful shoppers can have a good experience with PC’s too, which the Wintel 90 percent market share would seem to support. Above all, I like having choices and prefer not getting locked into one vendor who dictates how I may or may not use their products or how much I must pay for the privilege.

  14. Rob:

    I can’t speak to your experience with your hardware as I’ve no idea how you’ve used laptops and in what environments you’ve used them. I’ve got close to 20 years of experience in the IT field and have supported and used virtually every laptop from 386 Compaqs to the latest $4000 HP monsters — including apples.

    I’ve had a Dell D610 for the last 5-6 years. It’s been a nice little laptop and the only issue I’ve had over the years is one of the memory sockets failed — so I’ve got 2 GB max instead of 4 GB and one failed HD. I just donated that to my sister-in-law this last week. And, yes — it runs hot.

    I’ve seen laptops fail most often when they are used like desktops and left turned on 24/7. They really aren’t built for that. Not even apple laptops. If you run it constantly, it will fail sooner rather than later. If you run it in a poorly ventilated area, it will fail sooner rather than later. If you run it in a dusty environment, it will fail sooner rather than later.

    If you think that apple’s laptops are among the most reliable, I would strongly suggest you actually check the statistics. Their failure rate is only slightly lower than Dell — and higher than others like asus and sony.

    If you can justify paying the 2006 starting price of $1100 for an apple laptop for performance and reliability fairly similar to the hardware I had at about $600 (including office and XP and more memory than the lower end package), bully for you. I couldn’t. And wouldn’t. And wont.

    I’ll just respectfully disagree with you in that I consider referring to the “apple tax” an appropriate analogy.

  15. the mere fact that some people do believe that they get better quality and service from apple is the prrof that apple’s marketing did a very good job, and therefore desserves to be paid by that apple tax,

    you do not get anything better from apple than from any other maker, apple’s hardware is made by a few other brands such as ASUS so if we were to make car analogies, we wouldn’t compare toyata (who makes very durable and reliable cars by the way ) and BMW,

    but toyota and lexus , you can pay more to get the badge and the better sound system, but you should know that you won’t get a better engine or chassis

    apple tax is indeed a good analogy, as apple’s products not only have a higher price for the logo, but you can notice that apple still insists on not providing the usual connectivities and features you would find on other machines of the same price range, but apple’s customers are not the kind of people who compare stuff

  16. @Janet, the Switcheasy case does of course make the ipad a bit thicker than without it. But I don’t think it is an unreasonable amount considering that you get complete protection, a cover that let’s you prop the screen and instant on/off like the smartcover. The iPad snaps into a plastic shell which protects the back and sides, with cutouts for the buttons and connectors. The outside is a nylon fabric that feels good to the touch and lets you grip it well. I also find that the wider spine actually makes it more comfortable to hold in my lap.
    Here is a youtube video that presents it well and ultimately sold me when I was thinking about it.

  17. To clean the interior of your ipad2 cover I use FootLocker spray foam they work 100% use a cloth spray the sections you want to clean and just rub the cloth up and down or better circular motion and trust me it works. You can clean the surface as well.

  18. Usually if the deal is TOO good, its not a good deal.

    But Apple takes advantage of the power of the brand and its fans. They product are usually very overpriced for the specs they use.

    You want Apple ios, simply install it on any powerfull windows notebook and you will have the OS you want at a fair price.

    I will not pay twice the price because it has an apple on top… I bought an amazing Ultrabook for half the apple price with twice the performance. Double book windows 7 and IOS, but I stay with Windows 7. 50 times more programs on it, lot of open source free software… Apple is just prision for software, I want to stay free!

    Good luck Apple fans… keep the wheel moving…

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