The Case of the Counterfeit Powerjolt Dual Micro
T he Griffin Powerjolt Dual Micro is reputedly an excellent USB car charger. It outputs the proper 5 volts at 1 amp for an iPhone and it has a breaker-like surge protection feature called the ‘Smartfuse’. It sports two USB ports yet fits almost entirely in the cigarette lighter barrel. Many people have been happy with it, but on Amazon there are some odd reviews of late. People have complained that the quality control has gone downhill or, more surprisingly, that they received a counterfeit product. I would have thought that counterfeit products on Amazon would be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly, given their stern anti-counterfeiting policy, but sometimes things are not as they seem.
Anyhow, I wanted to get a real one with some Amazon credit card points that I’d accrued. There were dozens of listings for this item, and given what I’d read I avoided any of them that had complaints of counterfeiting or poor quality, which seemed present even where the “fulfilled by Amazon” label was found. I looked on the Griffin web site and saw that the unit was apparently sold alone, without a cable, so I avoided vendors that included a cable. About a half hour later (!), I finally came upon one with a good picture, no cable, and a seemingly correct part number in the title. Whew! I was probably being too careful, I thought, but at least I was going to get a legit one.
When I received the item a few days later, it didn’t match the picture. The ‘Griffin’ text was smaller than expected and silver-metallic rather than pastel gray. The orange Griffin G had some slight metallic bleed through under it. Also, the USB ports were misaligned with the holes in the plastic, and the certification/patent text on the other side looked funny and not quite straight. I’d received a counterfeit. Amazing. I contacted Simon at Griffin Tech Support and confirmed this through an exchange of photographs.
When I contacted the seller and told them Griffin had confirmed it was a fake, he seemed genuinely surprised and said he’d gotten his shipment from a big reputable local distributor in NYC and that he’d deal with it. I said I didn’t want to pay return shipping given the situation, but he said I could keep this one and that he’d drop ship me the correct one from another Amazon vendor. Since I had little faith in anyone’s ability to find a legit one on Amazon at this point, I opted for a refund instead.
Simon had had mentioned that Griffin products should come in sealed retail packaging, so I re-checked on Amazon with that mind. Turns out Amazon itself was selling one in a retail package, but with a cable. Suspicious! However, I was then able to confirm that a 30 pin cable had been included with Powerjolt Dual Micros before the iPhone 5 had come out, so this could indeed be the genuine article from last year’s stock.
This time I’d got the right one. Aside from the cosmetic differences, I could peer into the slits beneath the spring bands on the sides and see that, internally, they were quite different. The real one was jam packed with components, including a prominently visible inductor coil, whereas the counterfeit had significantly less stuff inside. The real one’s spring-loaded bottom electrode also felt much sturdier. And on my crude digital postage scale, the fake Powerjolt weighed in at 10grams vs 15grams for the genuine.
Did the counterfeit one work? Functionally, I can’t say; I haven’t tried it. Based on the hundreds of mixed Amazon reviews, it looks like they work for awhile, but I doubt the power regulation is as good as it should be and I’m sure the counterfeiters left out the patented Smartfuse feature – which, incidentally, was the main reason I’d decided upon Griffin to begin with.
It seems the counterfeit certainly worked out for the counterfeiters though, and despite numerous claims of illegitimacy in reviews over several months, Amazon has apparently done nothing to correct the situation. The strategy of the third party vendors (knowing accomplices or not) was to create new listings for the product as soon as claims of poor quality or fakeness began to show up in reviews, which explains the dozens of duplicate listings for the same product. As of this writing, it’s been 2 weeks since Griffin tech support has requested my receipt in order to follow up on the matter with Amazon, but as you can see nothing much has been done. Caveat emptor!
P.S. If you’re interested in getting a real one, which works beautifully btw, you can find a link to it on the iPhone Trappings recommendation page.